What is Songbook?

What is the Great American Songbook anyway? It’s generally considered the canon of classic American popular song from the first half of the 20th century, although that time frame is debated and doesn’t encompass some more recent songs that fit the style and spirit of the Songbook.

Read the Wikipedia article on the Songbook here.

We’ve included many of the songs on the above article’s list, as well as a few others that expand and inform the development of the Songbook and American popular music in general: folk songs and spirituals in particular. Stephen Foster composed his songs, but they were so popular and enduring that they’ve become a part of the American folk repertoire. Many of us first experienced Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair and Camptown Races while singing with Chanticleer; it’s a joy to revisit them again with many of the same faces around the arc. Spirituals may not seem like the perfect musical fit for a group of caucasian classical singers, but they are such an important part of America’s musical history, they need to be heard. African American spirituals influenced all of our popular music styles, and indeed, in many instances, have become a cappella or jazz favorites in their own right. Listen to the great Kate Smith and Nina Simone perform Jeanie and Sinner Man in their own inimitable styles.

Barbershop is a style that grew out of these folk traditions, but has also birthed (in part) the current a cappella craze seen in movie musicals like Pitch Perfect and the break out success of groups like the Pentatonix. Deke Sharon, arranger for the Pitch Perfect movies, producer of the Sing Off television show, singer of the House Jacks, and Bay Area native has given us his blessing to perform his version of the Girl from Ipanema. Hear a more classic take below, and then compare it to Deke’s inventive version at our concerts this weekend.