The Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers (1964)

The Swingles are a vocal group, originally formed in 1962 in Paris, France by Ward Swingle with Anne Germain, Jeanette Baucomont, Jean Cussac, Christiane Legrand and other singers.

Until 2011, the group consisted of eight voices: two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses. The French group performed and recorded typically with only a double bass and drums as accompaniment. The current group performs primarily a cappella. In 1973, the original French group disbanded and Ward Swingle moved to London and recruited all new members who debuted as Swingle II.

The group later performed and recorded under the name The Swingles and then, The New Swingle Singers then simply, The Swingle Singers. Recently, the group began once again operating under the name The Swingles. Since the London group's incarnation, the group has never disbanded. As individual members have left the group, the remaining members have held auditions for replacements.


  • History 1
  • Notable performances 2
  • Present 3
  • Discography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The group, directed originally by Ward Swingle (who once belonged to Mimi Perrin's French vocal group Les Double Six), began as session singers mainly doing background vocals for singers such as Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. Christiane Legrand, sister of Michel Legrand, was the original lead soprano with the group until 1972. The ensemble sang some jazz vocals for Michel Legrand. The eight session singers sang through Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier as a sight-reading exercise and found the music to have a natural swing.

They recorded their first album Jazz Sébastien Bach as a present for friends and relatives. Many radio stations picked it up and this led to the group recording more albums and winning a total of five Grammy Awards.[1]

Notable performances

An early hit for the group was Bach's "Air on the G String", recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet. This is also the theme tune to a popular Italian TV Show Superquark. Luciano Berio wrote his postmodern symphony Sinfonia for eight voices and orchestra in 1968 with the Swingle Singers in mind (appearing on the original premier recording with the New York Philharmonic). They also premiered Berio's A-Ronne in 1974, which they later recorded. They also recorded Ben Johnston's "Sonnets of Desolation" in 1984.

In 2005, their recording of Bach's Prelude in F Minor was incorporated into the hit single "They", by Jem Griffiths; the piece was also used in the 2006 film The Gigolos. The group's music has a trademark sound and is used frequently on television (The West Wing, Sex in the City, Miami Vice, Glee),[2] in movies (Bach's Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) in Thank You for Smoking, Mozart's "Horn Concerto No. 4" in Wedding Crashers, Bach's "Prelude No.7 in E flat [The Well Tempered Clavier - Book 2 BWV 876]" in Milk).

The London group sang with French pop star Étienne Daho on his songs "Timide intimité" and "Soudain" from his 1996 album Eden, and with the Style Council on their song "The Story of Someone's Shoe" from the 1988 album Confessions of a Pop Group. They appeared several times on the BBC Television sketch show The Two Ronnies in the early 1970s.


The Swingle Singers produce jazz harmonies and stylings.

The Swingle Singers are curators of the London A Cappella Festival, based at Kings Place.

The current members are:

  • Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson (soprano, UK)
  • Sara Brimer (soprano, US)
  • Clare Wheeler (alto, UK)
  • Oliver Griffiths (tenor, UK) (Replaced Richard Eteson mid-2010)[3]
  • Christopher Jay (tenor, UK)
  • Kevin Fox (baritone, Canada)
  • Edward Randell (bass, UK)
  • Sound engineer: Hugh Walker (UK)

In September 2011, Lucy Bailey (alto) left the group and the Swingle Singers announced the decision not to replace her, but to continue as a seven-person line-up.[4] [5]

On 1 November 2011, both Christiane Legrand and Swingles composer André Hodeir died.[6][7]

In September 2014, the French blog Dans l'ombre des studios published Swingle Singers' Pavane for a Dead Princess (Maurice Ravel), a previously unreleased 1967 recording.[8]

Ward Swingle, who formed the group, died at the age of 87 on January 19, 2015.


The Paris-based Swingle Singers recorded regularly for Philips in the 1960s and early 1970s. The successor group continued to record, after the move to London, for Columbia / CBS, Virgin Classics and other record labels from 1974 to the present.


  1. ^ LA Times Awards Database
  2. ^ New Hit Show "Glee" Goes A Cappella
  4. ^ "Swingle Singers Become Seven" 31 August 2011 Accessed 13 September 2011.
  5. ^ "A New Adventure Starting for Lucy" Accessed 13 September 2011.
  6. ^ Max Dembo (2011-11-09). "Christiane Legrand est morte". Qobuz. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  7. ^ Francis Mermande (2011-11-08). "André Hodeir, musicien, compositeur, écrivain, théoricien du jazz". Le Monde. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  8. ^ Rémi C., "Unreleased recording: "Pavane for a dead Princess" (Ravel) by The Swingle Singers (1967)", Dans l'ombre des studios, September 28, 2014.

External links

  • The Swingle Singers web site
  • The Swingle Singers discography at
  • The Swingle Singers profile at
  • The Swingle Singers discography & sheet music listing at
  • Interviews of Swingle Singers Anne Germain and Claudine Meunier (French)
  • BACH & friends Documentary