Chan Centre for the Performing Arts – Bobby McFerrin: Circlesongs


Press Release: 

The Chan Centre Presents the Legendary
Bobby McFerrin,
Unparalleled Jazz Vocalist and
Winner of 10 Grammy Awards

‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ Musician to Perform Completely
Improvised Concert

Vancouver, BC — The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia presents the inimitable, genre-defiant music of Bobby McFerrin on February 17, 2019, at 7pm in the Chan Shun Concert Hall. The concert will feature Gimme5 — McFerrin’s newest band comprised of veterans from his a cappella Voicestra group Joey Blake, Dave Worm, Rhiannon, and Judi Vinar — and local choral ensemble musica intima. The program will be based on Circlesinging, a musical practice and philosophy that McFerrin has been honing since he began as a solo a cappella performer, assigning vocal parts to his onstage collaborators and audience members — transforming sold-out houses into glorious impromptu choirs.

“The music of Bobby McFerrin is rooted in his sheer joy of singing, and the delight he finds in the worlds of sound that exist within the human voice,” says Joyce Hinton, Co-Managing Director of the Chan Centre. “His passion for the art form really shines through in these one-of-a-kind performances that take listeners on an incredible musical journey.”

McFerrin was born to classically trained singers and into a world of music that took him from New York to Hollywood. His father, Robert McFerrin Sr., was the first African-American male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and provided the on-screen singing voice of Sidney Poitier in the 1959 film Porgy and Bess. The younger McFerrin grew up playing piano and clarinet, surrounded by a hodgepodge of genres that ranged from Duke Ellington to George Gershwin, James Brown to Led Zeppelin. It wasn’t until he turned 27 that he discovered a passion for singing — as well as an impressive range and the uncanny ability to transform his voice. As NPR noted: “Listen to Bobby McFerrin and it’s like you’re listening to an entire orchestra bubbling up through one man’s body. He becomes a flute, a violin, a muted trumpet, a percussion instrument, a bird, you name it.”

After moving to San Francisco in 1979, McFerrin met producer Linda Goldstein, who had worked with the likes of Chet Baker, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson. She encouraged his penchant for experimentation and he began to sing while backed with full bands. By 1983, he was touring Europe as a solo artist; as his creative capacity flourished so did his synergistic collaborations. His 1985 release Spontaneous Inventions featured Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, and even comedian Robin Williams. The album’s “Another Night in Tunisia” with Gillespie, Jon Hendricks, and Frank Paparelli earned two Grammy Awards.

McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (1988) became an instant hit and cultural phenomenon, earning Grammy Awards for Song of the Year; Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male; and Record of the Year in 1989. The same night, he also won Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Brothers” in the album Duets with Rob Wasserman. Although McFerrin had already been selling out concerts at venues like Carnegie Hall, the unprecedented success of the reggae and a cappella song launched his name to new echelons of recognition.

Always challenging himself to experiment and discover new ways of music making, McFerrin turned toward conducting. He made his debut with the baton with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and went on to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Throughout this time, however, the vocalist continued to sing and produce. He released two albums with Chick Corea titled Play (1992) and The Mozart Session (1996), and a collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma called Hush (1992). McFerrin also established Voicestra, a group of 12 talented a cappella singers who each brought distinct character and diverse skills to the ensemble. In 1997, McFerrin and Voicestra released Circlesongs, an album based on African and Middle Eastern rhythms but entirely improvised for the studio recording. Subsequent albums include Beyond Words (2002) with Chick Corea, VOCAbuLarieS (2010) with Roger Treece, and spirityouall (2013)—a re-imagining of Americana with beloved spirituals and original songs.

Bobby McFerrin’s latest Circlesongs tour with the vocalists of Gimme5 has centred on an improvised concert format based on McFerrin’s sweeping, soulful vocal language — a wide-open space that welcomes elements from all genres including jazz, pop, R&B, classical, and world music. The style requires an innate sensitivity to surrounding participants and results in a unique and spontaneous sound that is created in the moment. Joined by the Vancouver-based eight-member choral group musica intima, McFerrin and Gimme5 will present an evening of sound that draws in the audience as co-performers. As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Bobby McFerrin’s greatest gift to his audience may be changing them from spectators into celebrants and transforming a concert hall into a playground, a village center, a joyous space.”

About the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC (
Since 1997, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in UBC’s Arts & Culture District has earned an international reputation for its striking design, stellar acoustics, and exceptional programming. Artists, critics, and patrons alike are unanimous in their praise of the facility, winning it a place among North America’s premier performing arts venues. The Chan Centre boasts three unique venues: the superb Chan Shun Concert Hall, the dramatic Telus Studio Theatre, and the intimate Royal Bank Cinema. From classical, jazz, theatre, and opera to world music, the Chan Centre is a vital part of UBC campus life where artistic and academic disciplines merge to inspire new perspectives on life and culture. Past performers and guest speakers include: Wynton Marsalis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Renée Fleming, Dan Savage, Yo-Yo Ma, Buena Vista Social Club, Sigur Rós, Aida Cuevas, Trombone Shorty, Jane Goodall, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Goran Bregović.

Bobby McFerrin: Circlesongs
Date:   Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 7pm
Ticket Prices: SOLD OUT
Address: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
University of British Columbia
6265 Crescent Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Box Office: 604-822-2697 /
In person at the Chan Centre ticket office
Open Tue–Sat, 12pm–5pm

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