Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Arthritis Awareness: Music Therapy, Part 4a. Once Upon an Ever After by VoicePlay

I knew when I decided to dedicate August to all things Disney, that it would involve a write-up of VoicePlay's Once Upon an Ever After album. How could it not? It's a wonderful album and one I've been wanting to write about for a while now. Those of you who've read any of my other VoicePlay posts know that they tend to get pretty silly and even downright ridiculous. They just bring that side of my personality out, which is one of the reasons why I love writing about them. 

That said, this time is going to be a little different. This was originally just going to be a typical album write-up. The format will be the same as all my other album write-ups, but I decided to make this the fourth installment of my Music Therapy series. If you're unfamiliar with that series, it's one I started to highlight one of the biggest things that helps me deal with having rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is the first installment that consists of an entire album. The others have been a hodgepodge of songs by various artists. So why dedicate an installment solely to this album? First, because it's impossible for me to feel bad when I listen to it. It takes me to a happy place. 

If you noticed, I have this titled as Part 4a. Why? Because in starting to write about why this album makes me happy, I found myself writing about why VoicePlay makes me happy. That's the second reason why I wanted to feature Once Upon an Ever After in this series. After realizing that the original post was starting to reach novella status, I thought it'd be better to break it up. This part, 4a, is all about the album. The second part, 4b, is going to be about what these guys have become to me and the impact that they've had on me. That's going to be a little more serious and more personal and will be coming very, very soon.

In the meantime, let's talk about Once Upon an Ever After.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Video spotlight: I See the Light double feature starring Evynne Hollens & Peter Hollens

Ladies and gentleman, I am pleased to present the very first Video Spotlight Double Feature. See, I knew that I wanted to feature both Evynne and Peter Hollens at least one more time before Disney month ended. Time was starting to run out and I had some other videos I wanted to include and I worried that I would only be able to feature one of them. Then I remembered that they had sung "I See the Light" from Tangled. Twice. One for her channel and the other for his. But which one would I pick? The answer was obvious. Why pick one when I could very easily do both?

As fabulous as they both are on their own, they are so much more so together. Their voices complement each other so beautifully. So take a moment to get comfy and watch this oh-so-charming husband and wife perform their versions of "I See the Light". You're going to like them. I'm sure of it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Video spotlight: One Man Disney Movie by Nick Pitera

In the mood to watch a Disney movie, but short on time? I got you covered. Or rather, Nick Pitera's got you covered. If you were around during my Phantom of the Opera week back in March, you might recall his "One Man Phantom (medley)". Well, before he did that, he did this. It's a Disney movie performed by one man and one man alone and it all happens in less than 9 minutes. It's kind of like a Disney movie to-go. He takes songs from multiple Disney movies, namely: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Enchanted, Hercules, Mulan, The Jungle Book and Pinocchio. With a little but of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the very end - seriously, it's like two words.

You have the hero and the heroine, the villain and the sidekick and a couple of chorus members. Check it out.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Video spotlight: Let It Go by Rachel Potter

It occurred to me that it's been way too long since I've written about this talented lady. This sent me looking through her YouTube channel. This reminded me of two things. The first is that she has multiple videos that I'm going to need to write about at some point. The other is how effortlessly she hits her big notes. I mean, I listen to her enough to know that. I've now gotten to see her perform twice and she's even better live. But it seems like it's been awhile since I've watched any of her videos. Hearing it is one thing; watching it is another. She makes it look so easy, like hitting notes on a piano. If you've never heard Rachel, I assure you that you're in for a treat. Those of you have heard her know what I'm talking about.

Here's Rachel with her beautiful cover of "Let It Go" from Frozen.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Video spotlight: Cruella de Vil by VoicePlay

Reasons why this video was a given for this week of villains:
1) It's VoicePlay.
2) As said in my ACA-Disney write-up, VoicePlay singing Disney is magical. 
3) It's VoicePlay.
4) It's one of the most iconic villain songs.
5) It's VoicePlay.
6) It features their cutest guest star to date. Not knocking any of their other guest stars, but I mean, come on. Just look at that face in the thumbnail. How can you not love that face?
7) Come on, again. It's VoicePlay singing Disney and there's a dog in the video. It's a trifecta of goodness! 

Fun fact: dogs make everything better. The video could've been terrible (it isn't), but throw a dog in there and I'll watch it. And if the video is great (it is), a dog'll still make it better. Guaranteed. 

Clearly, I had no choice but to feature this one. It would have been wrong not to. Especially considering that Disney had them do this in honor of the Blu-ray release of 101 Dalmatians. It's on the Disney YouTube channel even. So, if they're good enough for Disney, who am I to argue? 

Besides, let me remind you...
8) It's VoicePlay! 

Watch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Video spotlight: Villains Medley by the Aladdin on Broadway - Disney Sessions

This week is all about the villains so it seems rather appropriate to include a villain medley. Not just any villain medley, but one that is performed by the incredible Jonathan Freeman. You know, the voice of Jafar from Aladdin. He's now playing the part in the Broadway show. I'm not going to lie, watching him do this kind of makes me want to hear him take on even more of the villain songs. This medley starts of with the "Prince Ali (Reprise)" from Aladdin, goes into "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid, "Cruella de Vil" from 101 Dalmatians, "Oogie Boogie's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas and then go back to the "Prince Ali (Reprise)".

Though before we get to the video itself, there's something else I'd like for you to watch first. I promise that it's related.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video spotlight: Poor Unfortunate Souls by Jonathan Young

Okay, we're going to continue the month of Disney and the week of the villains with something, well, a bit different. It's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid like you've never heard it before. It's not just a regular cover; it's a metal cover. I'm going to be honest and admit that I'm surprised by how much I like this. Talk about a style of music that I really never listen to. I think I first came across Jonathan Young when one of his videos was recommended to me on YouTube. I want to say it was his cover of "In the Dark of the Night" from Anastasia and I actually really liked it. It's a great cover. It's also not Disney or I would've included it. Maybe it'll get its own video spotlight somewhere down the road. But it got me watching some of his other covers. He was an easy choice to include during villains choice. I actually thought I'd pick another of his villain songs, but as soon as I heard this, I knew it had to be this one.

Check it out.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Video spotlight: I Put A Spell On You by ECHO

Pop quiz: what is one of the best ways to find out about new artists? Pay attention to who your favorite ones talk about. I found out about ECHO through Geoff Castellucci of VoicePlay. As it happens, some of the guys from ECHO have filled in for VoicePlay as needed and that already starts them off on the right foot, in my book. Anyway, my point was to always check out the artists that people you like talk about. Always. It might lead you to great acts that you may not have heard about otherwise.

As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to see if they had any music out and they do. They released a self-titled album earlier this year and it's really good, so definitely check that out and see what you think. They're another a cappella group based out of Orlando - I seem to be developing quite a weakness for those. This aca-addiction is getting more serious all the time, but I'm good with it. ECHO is made up of Bryce Larsen, Antonio Fernandez, E.J. Cardona, Erik Winger, Deejay Young and Dan Reynolds.

Now, if you've been hanging around here this month than you already know that I've declared this to be the month of Disney. Everything I write about this month has, and will, be somehow related to Disney. So far, we've have some of the princess songs, some of the love songs, a medley honoring the Disney musicals  and a few instrumental covers. But you know what we haven't had too much of? The villains, There was a snippet of this song in Todrick Hall's "Evolution of Disney" (write up about that one here), but I think that's been it for the villains and I decided that that had to change. Because there's some great villain songs and some great covers of those songs. And so, I've decided to dedicate a week to the bad guys. I mean, what would a Disney movie be without the villains? Boring, that's what.

So to kick it off, here's ECHO doing their rendition of "I Put A Spell On You" from Hocus Pocus. You're going to like this one.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Video spotlight: Disney Love Medley by Voctave featuring Kirstin Maldonado & Jeremy Michael Lewis

That's it. I seriously need to go back to Orlando at some point. Orlando, Florida is a hotbed for a cappella music. From what I can tell, it's kind of like what Nashville is for country music. It's a treasure trove for harmonies down there. The last time I was in Orlando was during a band/chorus trip as part of the women's choir when I was in high school. Meaning that I haven't been there this millenium. This, my friends, is a problem. I must go back at some point.

I've written a ton about one Orlando based a cappella group, my beloved VoicePlay. Now it's time to write about another: Voctave. As of right now, they only have a few videos on their YouTube channel, but if you've never heard them, I've got you covered. Let's start with a run down of the line up.There's the sopranos - Kate Lott and Tiffany Coburn. Alto/soprano Ashley Espinoza and alto Sarah Whittemore. There's the tenors - E.J. Cardona, Tony de Rosa  (who also serves as their director) and James Ray (their arranger). Last, but certainly not last, there's baritone Kurt von Schmittou and bass JC Fullerton. Their "Disney Love Medley" made the rounds on social media earlier this year and features Kirstin Maldonado of Pentatonix and her then boyfriend and now fiance Jeremy Michael Lewis. 

Don't ask me how, but I remember seeing people sharing this and yet somehow never watched it until I was prepping for this month of Disney. And I fell in love, which is rather appropriate seeing as how it's the "Disney Love Medley". I'm not exaggerating when I say that this has to be the most beautiful thing I've heard in a while. It's so wonderfully done. I'm very happy to finally be featuring it. So let's get to it. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Video spotlight: You'll Be In My Heart by Peter Hollens and Bryan Lanning

Peter Hollens gives me the exact same problem that his wife does: all of his Disney covers are great, so trying to pick one? So difficult for me. Times when a cloning device would come in handy, I tell you what. That way I could just assign a clone that strictly designed to write about each of them so I could gets posts done for each of them. It would speed up the process, that's for sure. But alas, no cloning device here, just me. I'm still on a mission to write about all of their videos, it's just going to take some time is all.I'm pretty sure I must have changed my mind about 8 times about which of Peter's Disney video I was going to write about next. But as you can see, "You'll Be In My Heart" came out on top.

It's from Tarzan, another underrated Disney movie, in my opinion. Lots of great songs in that one. I mean, Phil Collins was involved, of course the music is good. At the end of the video, you'll see Peter talking about how this was one of his most requested songs. That's one of the things that's so fantastic about Peter. He really does listen to his fans and take our opinions into consideration in regards to choosing which songs he covers. I feel like I've said this about Peter before, but he really makes you feel like you're a part of the process and that's special. I'm so happy that he decided to do this one; he did say that it was one he'd wanted to do for a long time. I love that he made it a duet and Bryan Lanning was a wonderful choice of duet partner. I really like the way their voices sound together. "You'll Be In My Heart"is such a beautiful song and they definitely did it justice.

Check it out.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Video spotlight: Almost There by Evynne Hollens

As I said at the beginning of Disney month, I feel like I could have done a month of the Disney videos by Evynne Hollens and her husband Peter Hollens alone. So it was really only a matter of time before featuring one of them again. I kicked off the month with Evynne's fabulous "Evolution of the Disney Princess" and have been in a quandary about which of her other terrific Disney covers should be highlighted next. I love that it was hard to choose - I know that no matter which one I went with, there was no way I could possibly go wrong.

Ultimately, as you can see, I decided to go with her version of "Almost There" from The Princess and The Frog. While Evynne is the special kind of singer than can pull off any song she wanted, I really feel like her voice was made for this song. She gives such a wonderful performance in this. A performance that was made so much better by the backup band and all the extras. It's so well done.

Watch.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Video spotlight: aca-DISNEY by VoicePlay

VoicePlay + Disney? Magical.
VoicePlay + Broadway? Equally magical.
VoicePlay + Disney on Broadway? Extra magical!

Or, to quote Igor from Young Frankenstein (the musical), it's "Right up there with the world's greatest pairs! Like Laurel and Hardy/Like Coke and Bacardi/ Like Juliet and Romeo/ Ebb and flow/ To and fro...destined to be a great pair!" Sidenote #1: I cut out a good chunk of the lyrics from fro to destined, but you get the idea. Sidenote #2: VoicePlay + Young Frankenstein? Oh, the hilarity that could bring. But back to the issue at hand. VoicePlay's aca-DISNEY.

What, you thought I was going to dedicate a month to Disney and not feature VoicePlay at some point? Have you met me? Actually, it occurs to me that maybe you haven't. If that's the case, let me introduce myself. My name is Kim and I am a VoicePlayaholic. I've long accepted the fact that there's no help for it. It's no one's fault. Actually, scratch that. It's VoicePlay's fault for always coming up with new music for me and my fellow VoicePlayaholics to love. Because they all appear to be in just as deep as I am. We're, well, we're really just a group of enablers, to be honest. We all feel the need to share their videos on the regular. Or a screenshot. If you see one, you then gotta go watch it. You just do. I didn't make the rule, I just follow it.

Actually, to be serious, I've had some bad experiences with fan groups over the years to the point that I've become very hesitant to reach out other fans. But from all I've seen, VoicePlay fans are special. I don't know a ton of them, but the ones that I've come across? So nice and fun. I've never seen a VoicePlay fan insult another artist or a fellow fan. It's the type of group that would rather spend their time loving on the guys than hate on anyone else. It's about what VoicePlay does and the music that they create, first and foremost. Then, it's about seeing them as real people and genuinely caring about them as such. I believe that fans often reflect the artists they like. After all, it's the artist who sets the tone. These guys are all about love, music, fun and perhaps a Twinkie or two. It's one of the main reasons why being one of their fans is so great.

That and their medleys  - I do so love their medleys. I think this one may just be the most endearing of them all. It's one of my favorites and one of their best. Check it out and try to resist the overwhelming urge to groove along. I dare ya.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Video spotlight: Circle of Life by Taylor Davis

There's something about the violin that takes a song and makes it even more timeless than it may have been previously. I'd say that "Circle of Life" is one of the most iconic Disney songs. Especially among people like me who remember when The Lion King first came out. Still one of my favorite Disney movies and the musical version is easily one of my favorite musicals. Seeing the movie is one thing; watching it play out onstage is quite another. That's one of those shows that I'll always want to see if an opportunity to do so comes up.

Of course, this post isn't about the musical or even the movie. It's about an iconic Disney song being beautifully played on violin. Taylor Davis is so talented and she manages to make songs her own while staying true to the original.

So here it is. Her take on "Circle of Life".

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Video spotlight: Let It Go / Vivaldi's Winter by The Piano Guys

Going in a different direction with this one. If you've never heard of The Piano Guys, you're in for a treat. Well, it's a treat for all of us. There's four of them: producer/videographer Paul Anderson, pianist/songwriter Jon Schmidt, cellist/songwriter Steven Sharp Nelson and music producer/songwriter Al van der Beek. What I love about these guys is that they take modern hits and pair them with classical pieces of music with gorgeous results. It's a great way to bridge two different styles. I've loved everything I've heard from them and would love to catch a show of theirs at some point.

I did another video spotlight on them in May that you can find here and have been wanting to write about them again ever since. Safe to assume that these guys will be featured in many other video spotlights down the road. But seeing as how I've deemed August to be the month of Disney, I clearly had to go with this one. It's "Let It Go" like you've most likely never heard it before. They combine it, rather appropriately, with themes from Vivaldi's "Winter". Worth mentioning that this is Demi Lovato's version of "Let It Go" that played during the credits of Frozen and not the version sung by Elsa during the movie.

Brace yourselves. It's about to get a little chilly up in here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Video spotlight: The Evolution of Disney by Todrick Hall

Disney Month continues with "The Evolution of Disney" by Todrick Hall. No way could I have not left out this one. I've watched a lot of great Disney videos, but this one might win for the most comprehensive Disney video ever. Not only does Todrick cover most of the animated movies, he also has songs from song of the live-action movies - including some of the Disney Channel Original Movies. Plus some theme songs of a few Disney Channel shows. He really covered all the bases and it's truly something to watch.

If you've never seen any of Todrick's videos, you're really in for a treat. The key word to describe Todrick, in my opinion? Fun. Talented, certainly. A great performer, absolutely. But he is so much fun to watch. He's one who can always make me smile.

With no further ado, here's "The Evolution of Disney".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Video spotlight: Epic Disney Medley by Peter Hollens and Alex G

Seeing as how I started Disney month with his wife, it felt appropriate to feature Peter next. Well, Peter and his duet partner Alex G. This is an a cappella medley, so everything you hear is coming from Peter and Alex. I really enjoy the way their voices sound together and they play off each other very well too. That makes it more fun to watch.

But did they live up to the epic part of the title? I'd say so. From the costuming to the filming locations to the boxes featuring their harmonizing selves, it's very appealing, visually speaking. They picked a great group of songs so it's a treat for the ears as well. Watch.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Video spotlight: The Evolution of the Disney Princess by Evynne Hollens

A while back I said that I would be devoting a week to all things Disney. Upon trying to decide what all I wanted to include, I determined that a week or even two weeks wouldn't be enough. See, I love Disney. Like I imagine was the case for many of you, I was raised on Disney. We had all the movies, a fair amount of Disney related toys and videos. We had a bunch of the old Disney Sing-along Songs videos (we're talking VHS here, people) and I think I about wore them out. "Part of Your World" was my favorite; I'd say "Part of Your World" was the "Let It Go" of its day.

Anyway, my parents took us to see some of the Disney on Ice shows and even a Disney cruise when we were growing up. The only cruise I've ever been on and it was a blast. And then, I've seen a few of the Disney musicals live and even did one of the songs from Beauty and the Beast musical ("Home") at the junior high talent show when I was in 8th grade.

The Disney love has never stopped. And so, I've decided that instead of a Disney week or two Disney weeks, I'm having a Disney August. That's right. Everything posted in the month of August will be somehow related to Disney. I figure it'll be mostly video spotlights, but there's at least one Disney themed album I'll be doing a review of sorts on. Maybe more than one. The crazy thing is that there's so many great Disney covers out there, that I just know I can't possibly get to them all. So who knows? This may be the first of multiple Disney themed months. We'll see.

This time around, I'll be focusing my attention primarily on Disney videos by some of my favorite artists. I could do an entire Disney month based on the Disney videos from Evynne and Peter Hollens alone. You'll be seeing a fair amount of them this month; in fact, they'll most likely dominate this month, but there'll be some VoicePlay mixed in too. Maybe a couple of others as well. To that end, if there's any Disney covers or albums or whatever that you love, leave me a comment below or hit me up on Twitter @countrymusicatk.

I may not have everything completely planned out for the month, but once I decided I would do what was then a Disney week, I knew exactly which video would kick it off. Because much like Evynne Hollens, I too have dreamed of being a Disney princess. Belle's always been my favorite. But Evynne? Well, as the title says, this is "The Evolution of the Disney Princess". Starting with Snow White and ending with Elsa, this video features 14  Disney princesses. Why be one Disney princess when you could be every Disney princess? Because I've seen people arguing over characters that got left out: not every lead female character is a princess. And Anastasia? Not a Disney character.

Now that that's out of the way, I invite you to watch "The Evolution of the Disney Princess".