HomeHarmony 101: A pop pianist recruits college singers for a new album of a cappella songs

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With witty lyrics, hook-filled piano rock and a handful of hits since the 1990s, singer Ben Folds has carved out a comfortable niche in pop music. In the world of collegiate a cappella singing, however, Mr. Folds is unrivaled.

"If I had to name one artist who is done universally in a cappella, it would be Ben Folds," says Dave Sperandio, a board member of the Contemporary A Cappella Society, an association that promotes the performance style, which began spreading on U.S. college campuses a century ago. Other favored artists include the rock band Coldplay, with its crowdpleasing hits, and R. Kelly, whose lusty ballads often get the ironic treatment.

Mr. Folds didn't discover his standing among vocal groups like the Yale Spizzwinks(?) -- the (?) is part of the name -- and the Columbia Clefhangers until about two years ago, when a friend sent him a YouTube link to one of his songs, rendered in a snappy multipart student harmony. That clip led Mr. Folds to dozens more -- and to the concept for his next album.

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--Dave Brown

now: Mouth Off host | ICCA & CARA Judge

then: CASA president, CASAcademy director, CASA Bd of Directors | BYU Vocal Point | Noteworthy co-foun

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