Roomful of Teeth to showcase unique vocals at BYU

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Grammy award winning performing group Roomful of Teeth will perform their unique style of techniques at BYU on Sept. 28. (BYU Photo)

Grammy-award winning performing group Roomful of Teeth will bring vocal styles such as death metal singing and yodeling together at its performance Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m. in the Pardoe Theater on the BYU campus.

The group’s songs are composed using many varieties of vocal techniques, including but not limited to Tuvan throat singing, death metal singing, yodeling, Korean folk opera, belt singing, East Indian classical and Inuit throat singing.

Brad Wells created the performing group in 2009. Wells is now the art director of Roomful of Teeth. Wells has received many awards, achievements and degrees in music, including a doctorate in musical arts from Yale University. He teaches music at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Property of Brad Wells
Roomful of Teeth founder and art director Brad Wells talks about the group’s upcoming performance on Sept. 28. (Brad Wells)

“My idea from the beginning was to have this group of very skilled singer-musicians study with singers of different traditions, techniques and backgrounds beyond the obvious western classical,” Wells said.

“I auditioned lots of singers — mostly in the northeast — and settled on eight singers: one bass, two baritones, one tenor, two altos and two sopranos,” he said.

BYU voice professor Gayle Lockwood has been associated with Roomful of Teeth since the beginning.

“(Wells) asked me to come to the first retreat they were having,” Lockwood said. “I think he felt that learning contemporary voice techniques like mixed belt would be instrumental in them being able to do a lot of these other things, much more speech-oriented type styles.”

Lockwood said she has gone to the retreats every year since then to help the performing group brush up on their techniques. Many other specialists have also instructed the group.

Wells said the retreats also involve composers who listen to what is being learned and incorporate the new techniques with mastered techniques to get a tailored piece of music.

The group won the 2014 Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for its debut album “Roomful of Teeth.”

Roomful of Teeth is well-known for a piece entitled “Partita for 8 Voices,” created by group member Caroline Shaw, who received a 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music for the song.

Roomful of Teeth played a Tiny Desk Concert on NPR in November 2014.

Wells said the group will perform 3- to 5-minute pieces in the first half of the show at BYU and two longer pieces during the second half, including a new piece by Bill Patel involving synthesizers and a new piece by Shaw involving Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

“You’ll get to see how (Shaw) imagines or evokes the sounds of that play and of the island using Shakespeare’s language,” Wells said.

Roomful of Teeth bass vocalist Cameron Beauchamp said he didn’t want to “prescribe any expectations for favorite tunes or moments in the show.”

“I want it to be fresh for them and for us,” Beauchamp said. “The audience can expect to hear things they’ve never heard before. They can expect to see eight people having an ecstatic conversation of sounds and bodies.”

The group will hold a free “show and tell” workshop Thursday, Sept. 28, from 11:00 to 11:50 a.m. in the Pardoe Theatre.

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