When the Madrigal program at Palisades High School evaporated a couple of years ago, a small group who had grown close through their singing gigs felt the loss. “We love each other and we love singing in a group,” said Sarah Figoten, who along with six of her fellow former Madrigals started the Absolutfunk a cappella group in November. They include recent Pali graduates Sarah Figoten, Jamie Perez, Eddie Castuera, Kendall Day, Josh Siegel, B.J. Baclawski and Miranda Kerr, a senior at Pali. The name describes them so well, they say, because “We wanted something with funk in it.” They’re right; their arrangements of their favorite songs combine colorful harmonies syncopated with vocal percussion. In addition, each of the seven singers has a different sound and because of their experience with the Madrigals, all are comfortable with classical as well as jazz arrangements. The group stopped by the annual Palisadian-Post Christmas party last Thursday and opened the program with “Danos Su Paz” (Give Us Peace), a beautiful sentiment for this season, followed by “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” Looking at the group, one wondered just where the drum and brushes were coming from, and discovered a virtual percussion kit deep inside member Eddie Castuera. Vocal percussion (or mouth drumming) is the production of percussive sounds using only the speech apparatus. For the past three years, Castuera has been perfecting the techniques, which require good breath, control and practice practice practice. Absolutfunk rehearse Sunday afternoons, when they work on arrangements. Their method is democratic, as each member takes over directing the piece he or she has arranged. While all of them read music, they often depend on Siegel, who plays piano, or Baclawski, who plays guitar, to set the melody. “We perfect each song over weeks,” says Baclawski. “Some of these, like ‘Carol of the Bells’ are quite complicated and can’t be done in just one sitting.” While Kerr is the lone highschooler, the group has stayed pretty close to home. Siegel is an opera major at Cal State Northridge; Castuera is a music and sociology major at Santa Monica College, where Day, Perez and Figoten are also students. Baclawski teaches music at Gorman School, a small homeschool in the Palisades. Busy during the holidays, the group performs for private parties, and promotes themselves by singing gratis in public spaces like Third Street Promenade. “We sang at the Promenade, but weren’t allow to ask for money because we don’t have a license,” said Perez. “But, we did end up with $6.” For more information, contact B.J. at 428-0252 or Jamie at 367-1090.
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