Sad news: The founding Swingle Singer has died

Sad news: The founding Swingle Singer has died


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2015

Notice from the Swingle Singers:

We are profoundly saddened by the news that our founder, friend and mentor Ward Swingle has passed away at the age of 87. Ward was an inspiration to so many in the vocal community and beyond. As an arranger, composer and vocalist he redefined what singers could do, made us hear music in a new way and brought us so much joy. It has always been an immense honour and privilege to perform under his name. Even long after he retired from the group Ward was incredibly supportive of the current Swingles, always excited to hear about our latest projects and encouraging us to take risks. His passing is a huge loss and our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time. Thank you, Ward, for everything you have given us.

ward swingle


Alabama  born, Ward played in big bands, studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory and went to Paris in the early 1950s as a piano pupil of Walter Gieseking. Then he had the Swingle idea. His lead singer, Christiane Legrand, was sister of the film composer, Michael Legrand. Nobody had tried jazz on Bach. It was a huge hit, very much a soundtrack of the Sixties, of our lives.


UPDATE: First obituary here (Telegraph).


  • Pianomaven says:

    If Ward Swingle went to Paris in the early 1960s to study with Walter Gieseking, he would not have enjoyed any lessons. Walter Gieseking died in October, 1956.

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    Very sad indeed!

  • Maushaus says:

    Perhaps ‘Nobody had tried jazz on Bach’ means vocal jazz. Jacques Loussier Trio’s first Play Bach album was released in 1959, and it may well not have been the first Bach jazz treatment. Ward Swingle will be much missed. He proved over and over again just how catchy ‘classical’ music can be.

  • Marianne says:

    As a young professional soprano soloist I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Swingle personally whilst participating in one of his masterclasses in the Netherlands, in the Eighties. We (my fellow students and me)had a great time. Lots of singing, lots of stories, lots of wonderful arrangements for our classically trained voices. Mr. Swingle cared for the few young conductors as well, with a witty sense of humour and a lot of patience. We sang “All the things you are”, “Pastime with good company”, and several Bach-transcriptions. As you can see, the fond memories of that weekend are still warming my heart. And his lessons laid a foundation for a different style of choral singing, that I still cherish. Thank you, Mr. Swingle.

  • Griff says:

    When I was 16 and only interested in pop groups I worked in a “record bar” a customer ordered “Jazz Sebastian Bach ” from me I listened to it and became a lifelong fan .
    Swingle introduced me to not only Jazz but classical music as well .
    My life has been immensely enriched.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I went to a party at this house in Cuckfield, I think it was, in the late 1970’s. He wasn’t there, but I spent a while playing his grand piano which turned out to be a good move later on that evening…