American singer, jazz musician and pioneer of new choral techniqes, Ward Swingle, was born in Mobile, Alabama on 21 September 1927, and began to study music (and especially jazz) when very young. He studied clarinet, oboe and piano as a child. He graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1950 then studied piano on a Fulbright scholarship with Walter Gieseking in France.
He was one of the founder members of Les Double Six, from 1959, a group which applied scat singing to jazz standards, and he later applied the same techniques to music by J S Bach, founding the Swingle Singers, which released their first albums - Jazz Sebastian Bach and Bach's Greatest Hits in 1963. He disbanded this group in 1973 and moved to London, forming a new group with expanded repertoire which was often called Swingle II or the New Swingle Singers.
He returned to the USA in 1984, remaining musical advisor to his London-based group, holding workshops and running his publishing company, Swingle Music. He was invited to conduct various choirs in different countries. In 1994 he moved back to France, continuing the same work.
He died in Eastbourne, UK, on 19 January 2015, aged eighty-seven.
A selection of M&V articles about Ward Swingle
Ensemble. Nicely Varied - A seasonal programme from the Derwent Singers, heard by Mike Wheeler