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Manginah hits right ‘Notes’ with new CD

By Sean Fabery

Section: Arts

April 16, 2010

Four years after the release of their last album, Brandeis a cappella group Manginah has released its latest CD, “Notes in the Wall,” a collection of the group’s most popular songs from its present repertoire.

The album serves as a good representation of the group’s live performances, mixing classic Israeli pop with a very modern, hip sensibility. Though a cappella albums in general risk losing some of the energy that characterizes live performances, “Notes” retains all the spirit and enthusiasm of the group’s concerts.

The CD, the group’s fourth album since its creation in 1994, is the culmination of more than a year of work which they began in January 2009.

“It was really exciting, because, for most of us, it was the first time going into a real professional recording studio,” Manginah’s business manager Jaclyn Frankel ’11 said. She also noted that this was the first album to feature the group’s present members.

The group attended recording sessions once to twice a week at producer John Clark’s production facilities. Each of the group’s members recorded their portions separately while the others did homework together at Clark’s studio.

Musical director Harrison Bannett ’11 experienced all the technical aspects of the album’s production firsthand. “I got to see the behind-the-scenes stuff and [also saw] how our recordings got turned into the final product. I learned a lot about sound engineering and general musical recording techniques that I never would have thought of had I not been involved with this,” he said.

Manginah recorded approximately six songs both during the spring and fall 2009 semesters. Work on the album continued through February as the group put the finishing touches on the CD and procured additional financing for the release.

For the group’s members, the album represented an opportunity to solidify the new identity it has tried to cultivate over the last few years.

“We changed from a group of choral singers who happen to sing solos to a group of soloists who can also perform as a group,” Bannett said. “Overall the performance quality has gotten better through our energy level and general musical ability.”

“Last year, we had to pick between going on-tour and recording another CD,” Frankel said .” We decided it was more important to make a new and fresh CD. Our reputation has grown so much over the past couple of years and we have a totally different sound now. We want to show it off.”

Group members also emphasized the collaborative nature of the album recording.

“Most people don’t realize how much thought is involved in singing the background parts. It’s not just up to the soloist to tell a story or to get a message across in a song—it’s really about the whole group working together as a unit,” Bannett said.

“There were people here and there who had titles, but it was really a joint effort. It wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s efforts,” Frankel said.

Along with becoming more cohesive as a group, attention was placed on including songs with modern sensibilities and upbeat tones. In addition to its use of Israeli pop songs, the group incorporated a song sung originally by Mika—“Happy Ending”—and infused it with what Frankel called a “Jewish twist” by using a phrase from a Hebrew text as the song’s first verse.

“Notes in the Wall,” which is a reference to both musical notes and notes left in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, indeed proves to be an album that will satisfy the group’s many fans, including old devotees and new adherents.

The album features a variety of the group’s most frequently performed songs. Most of the songs featured were introduced into Manginah’s repertoire in the past year, so fans of the group who have attended their various concerts will recognize most of the songs included.

Standouts include “Adam Tzoer Zichronot,” “Jerusalem” and “Yoshvim B’Beit Café,” all of which make engaging listens. The album ends with two favorites from the Manginah catalogue, with “Latet,” which explores the nuances of giving, and the aforementioned “Happy Ending,” a sad pop song mourning a life with “no hope or love or glory.”

Though the song’s subject finds no happy ending, the song does mark a happy ending for an album that captures the dynamics of one of Brandeis’ most popular a cappella groups.

Members of the group certainly have good reason to be proud of the album, which will officially debut at a release party on the 22nd and will be followed by the group’s spring concert at the Rose Art Museum on the 25th.

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