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At first glance, the Gunter Kallmann Chorus looks like a German version of the Ray Conniff Singers, all clean cut and smiling as they heartily sing out their phonetically precise English lyrics to international pop hits ("Moore then the grate-hest laaf I giff to Hugh"). Then you notice something odd, some annoying, persistent ambient noise. Like some leftover from a bad dub. You check the stereo. Still there. What the hell is that? It never goes away. God, it's irritating. So much for this record. As you slip it back into the sleeve your eye catches some fine print beneath the words, "Gunter Kallmann Chorus": "with Orchestra and Bells."
Yes, Gunter Kallmann has the bright idea to accompany his cheery singers with a string orchestra and an ensemble of bell ringers. Throughout every number, the bells tinkle away in harmony to the melody. They never go away. It is possibly the most consistently irritating sound in the archives of space age pop, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear. Thousands of listeners in Germany and America must have liked it, because Gunter and his gang had several Top 10 hits in Germany, most notably "Elizabeth Serenade," also known as "Serenade for Elizabeth."
Hot on the heels of Horst Jankowski's international success with "A Walk in the Black Forest," Kapp Records when looking for a Horst sound-alike and snatched up the next German choral/instrumental group that was lying around without an American distribution contract. They didn't have quite the same level of success as Mercury did with Jankowski, but somebody must have bought the records, because Kapp went on to release at least nine albums between 1965 and 1970.
I have little background information on Gunter or his singers and ringers. Gunter is retired and still living in Berlin. I have, however, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense to attempt to confirm the rumor that the Army experimented with Gunter's version of "Lollipops and Roses" as an interrogation tool back in the 1960s.
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