Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Silver Lake Chorus: Church Music or Dolphin Skin?

I'm big on confessions more for the shared disarming factor and less because I delude myself that anyone cares. My latest confession is that I can't stop listening to Chorus music. Yep, I said it, Chorus music. But wait....

This is not your grandmother's church chorus. In fact,  The Silver Lake Chorus (TSLC) is ineffable. They have this magical sparkling edginess. I have to say this confession is at least one data point that some people are still making innovative and new music.  Comprised of twenty vocalists, the group ranges from actors, non-for profiteers and all kinds of variants in b between. From what I can gather, that which brings them together is passion. The love of community and musicality is what makes this group harmonious in more ways than my word-count limit would let me explain.  I can't help myself; they make me smile!

Another interesting draw for me is the eclectic lyrical ranges they choose. I happened upon them in iTunes back in April looking for "new music" and figure/d they were just a small folksy small-time experiment. I fell in love with lyrics like these in "Nervous Soul" and "Same Song."

"I don't want to win, just don't want to lose. Too many choices with nothing to choose/ we could collide/ explode in the sun/ burning so bright/ but the damage is done...suspicious of truths/but garbling lies."

" All your diplomas looking down on all my neglected songs."  I relate so much if you insert "unpublished manuscripts"  for "songs."

I googled and YouTubed them to find that they were working with such artists as
Ben Lee, who was so impressed with one of their rehearsal sessions that he presented them with an original song called "Overboard." More on that and it's incredibly moving video created recently from the member's hand-help phones and devices. (So what if I cried?)

I kept nosing around and saw that the list of musicians they work with include Justin Vernon, (Bon Iver) whom I adore and wrote my favorite: "From The Snow-Tipped Hills", Tegan and Sara, Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie), Sia, Aimee Mann, The Bird and the Bee, The New Pornographers, John Roderick (The Long Winters), and The Flaming Lips.

Right, don't be so quick to judge me, hipsters. Like I said, the words "Pornographers" and "Chorus" have never been uttered by Grandma.

I often write or paint to their crooning, feel-good, alternative sound. It lifts me up and is so intrinsically unique. Last month, I was going through my daily routine of gratitude, and listing off things I'm blessed to have before my morning meditation session and the self-titled album was on shuffle. Right as I said (to no one in particular.) "We heal each other with compassion, understanding, gentle kindness, and most of all, love." My little iPhone almost shook from the vocal vibrations of TSLC's crescendo peak in "From The Snow-Tipped Hills" The lyrics: "Love." (repeated) and the  harmonies gave me full body chills to the core.

I reached out for copyright permissions to use the song in a short home video of my son turning three. I expected no response. Usually I am ignored or perhaps just lost in the sea of requests. Instead, I received a same-day response. They were peppy, kind and open.

I didn't have more than a quick and pleasant exchange of permissions but I was able to squeeze a few questions in. asked what was the strangest analogy a member had used to describe their sound, I was told

 "...a founding member once appropriately described the goal of our sound on a particular song as ' dolphin skin'."

I, being quirky and strange enough to spend more time than I will admit trying ot figure out which song sounded like "dolphin skin," I also asked if their motto could only be described as a meal, what would it be: "Sandwiches"is what I was told. These people fascinate me!

So, the "folksy-church-sounding-indie" group I thought was small potatoes, and therefore really cool, actually jumped the charts list on Amazon's "Movers and Shakers" increasing purchases in a quantum leap. Even Wall Street is catching on to the West Coast harmonizers. There isn't much "small potatoes" about that, yet somehow I still feel cool loving them.

Below, I've attached the video for "Overboard" - the stunningly raw and debut song written by Ben Lee. The group used coalesced footage, as if making a moving picture in harmony of their lives, their families, and their collective yet individual journeys.

I'm in shock that the song hasn't yet been sampled or interwoven into a commercial or highlight reel of Cancer-fighting walkers with their fists in air.

Even if you live in this snap-chat,"instant-grat" world of impatience and don't think you have time to take a peek, I beg you to forward to minute "2:38" to witness a beautifully honest and inspiring display of humanity.

Click here to see their new video: Overboard

" is short, so let's go overboard/All I want from you is more."

The Silver Lake Chorus is a joyous and celebratory group that reminds us how incredibly moving it is when we work together, sing together and share together. Ben Lee was quite wise to give the song "Overboard" to them. I'm not sure anyone else would have conveyed it the way these twenty heart-backed love-infused voices could.  If you're even the slightest bit curious if you, too, are hip enough to enjoy choral music with an indie twist,  buy the album or even better, check them out at The Hotel Cafe in LA, where they have an October residency for ten bucks after 9pm.

Recently, the group was featured on NPR's World Cafe Radio, where Mikey Wells was interviewed.

And just saying: If the soprano notes hit in songs like "Home Come Home" or "Snow-tipped Hills" don't give you chills...

... you may have no soul.

"Shimmer with a smile. Life is hard, bloom anyway."

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