Entertainment » Music

Octavians

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Monday Sep 23, 2013
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Thanks to movies such as "Pitch Perfect" and the television show "Glee," a capella music has acquired a mainstream awareness and has become commonplace, particularly amongst the collegiate demographic. Back in the 1920’s, one of the most popular groups in this genre was the Comedian Harmonists, an all-male ensemble from Germany. Known for their close harmonies and diverse repertoire, they achieved tremendous popularity in the hedonistic days of the Weimar Republic. In this style have emerged The Octavians, an octet of men based in Jena, in central Germany, who have been practicing this style of performance for the past five years, and have released their second collection of melodies, "Goldene Zwanziger: The Roaring Twenties."

The group pays extensive homage to the Harmonists, opening their set with several of their inspirations’ classics, including "Wochenend und Sonnenschein" ("Weekend and Sunshine"), "Schöne Isabella von Kastilien" ("Beautiful Isabella of Castile") and "In der Bar zum Krokodil" ("The Bar for Crocodile"). The music is light, the harmonies are tight, throughout this 75-minute set that also includes several English standards, from the entertaining "Chili Con Carne" to the 1980’s hit, "Africa" and the Irving Berlin standard, "Puttin on the Ritz." Arrangements of several traditionally instrumental compositions are also contained, as opportunities to feature the group’s ability to improvise and imitate orchestral pieces, such as the jazzy "Take 5" and Rossini’s overture to "The Barber of Seville."

The enclosed booklet provides information about the group (in both German and English) and, in several instances, the arrangers of certain selections. They’re a young ensemble, and similar to the college rosters here in the U.S., maintain despite member turnover. A playful recording taken seriously by the performers, this set is a pleasant background to any daytime cocktail gathering in the parlor or by the pool.

"Goldene Zwanziger: The Roaring Twenties"
Octavians
CD and digital formats
Rondeau Productions

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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