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Ward Lamar Swingle

(1927 - 2015) American vocalist and jazz musician

The Swingle Singers rapidly achieved global fame following their establishment in Paris by

Alabama-born Ward Swingle in 1962.

Swingle, an accomplished musician, had married a

fellow music student, Francoise Demorest, in 1952 and moved to France. He became a backing singer and soon hit on the idea of singing the works of J.S. Bach to the scat syllables of jazz.

The Swingle Singers released two albums (Jazz Sebastian Bach and Bach’s Greatest Hits) in 1963 and these and subsequent recordings of works by Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mussorgsky won five Grammy Awards.

Swingle disbanded the original French Swingle Singers in 1973. The English choral tradition had always fascinated him, and in 1974 he and his family moved to Fairwarp, where they lived in The Old Vicarage. He played an active role in the musical life of the village as conductor and arranger.

Swingle formed an English group, which variously had the names Swingle II and the New Swingle Singers, and expanded the group's repertoire to include classical and avant-garde works along with the scat and jazz vocal arrangements.

In 1984, Swingle and Francoise left Fairwarp to live in New Jersey. Though Ward remained musical adviser to his London-based group, he devoted most of his time to workshops, guest conducting and the dissemination of his printed arrangements through his publishing company, Swingle Music.

In 1994, Swingle and Francoise moved back to France, where he continued his work arranging, composing and guest conducting. In 1997 he wrote an autobiography entitled Swingle Singing and in 2004 was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government.

In 2014 the Swingles returned to the UK and in the following year Ward died at Eastbourne. Françoise died in 2017 and both are buried in the Christ Church graveyard.

Ward Swingle’s musical legacy continues and in 2013 The Swingles celebrated their 50th anniversary.


The Swingle Singers (Paris 1962-1973)

Research undertaken by Ian Brown, John Manthorpe and Jan Kemsley

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