Swingle Singers founder, Ward Swingle, has died at the age of 87.
Known for founding the popular scat vocals ensemble, Ward Swingle’s career has not only challenged the common perception of a capella, but also reintroduced scat singing into contemporary classical music performance.
Swingle’s love for jazz was evident from a young age. He was involved with big band music at high school and after graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory, he moved to Paris to study with pianist Walter Gieseking, alongside which his a capella career began.
The first ensemble, Les Doubles Six, found moderate success but Swingle soon disbanded it in favour of The Swingle Singers, which introduced scat singing to core classical repertoire. With his versions of Bach’s Air on the G String and Prelude in F minor, Swingle quickly gained a reputation as a unique arranger and composer and his group went on to win several Grammy awards.
Despite retiring from the group in 1984, Swingle remained committed to The Swingles, supporting and advising them through his last moments. Returning to the US with his wife, he spent the last twenty years of his life composing, conducting and writing his autobiography, Swingle Singing, which reveals the technique behind his singing, composing and arranging.
In 2004, Swingle was made An Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.