by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2016
My journey as a single singer in Asia – Part 2
In August 2016, it is the second time that I join the Vocal Asia Festival (VAF). It takes place in Taitung, a beautiful city in south-west of Taiwan. The highest participant number ever, almost 500 singers, various groups from dozens of different Asian countries are joining – and I came alone.
But at the VAF, nobody is ever alone. And on top, everybody regardless of coming alone or in a group can actively join, sing along and even perform on stage – thanks to the „Single Singers“. While in Europe, Single Singers are mingling at various festivals thanks to the idea of Annemarie Homan and Emily May’t Hoen, Christine Liu (Voco Novo and Director of International Affairs at Vocal Asia) is driving that idea and leading the Single Singers at the Vocal Asia Festivals.
Both, 2015 in Shanghai and this year in Taitung, I joined the Single Singers. At every VAF there are famous international master groups and professional teachers from all over the world and Christine always selected two songs somehow related to the festival. Therefore, we had the big honor to perform a song each from Naturally 7 and DeltaCappella, the master groups of VAF 2015, and a song from Vocal Sampling and one song arranged by Michele Weir at VAF 2016.
Singing with Naturally 7 at the Vocal Asia Festival 2015
Sometimes, the songs can be very challenging, including instrumental sound imitations and rhythms, the majority of the single singers has never done before. And this year even a language nobody could speak: Spanish.
Amongst all of us I think Christine had the most difficult time. She prepared very well, send all those who applied for the single singers the music upfront, assigned to each person the respective voice part and solo part… But things rarely go exactly according to plan. Three times more single singers showed up at the first rehearsal, the majority was not prepared, not even knew the music sheets. At least everyone was motivated to practice for the big concert: Sound of Asia concert on the third evening of the festival. But the first singing was frankly speaking a disaster. I admired Christine for her patience and positiveness: „Not too bad for a beginning, we’ll make it!“
At the second rehearsal the number of single singers was reduced by half, some of the assigned soloists stepped out, nobody among the single singers ever did vocal percussion and time is running. In 2015, we had the great chance to sing along with Naturally 7 (Soldier Down) and DeltaCappella (Easy) and get an intense but short coaching directly from the pro’s and original singers. In 2016, Michele Weir coached us for her arrangement of „One Hand, One Heart“ and Vocal Sampling joined the soundcheck for some last recommendations to their song „Pirim Pin Pin“.
I’m not sure how we made it, but at the end, the single singers performed the two songs, not perfect, but good enough to get a big applause from the audience. Anyway, the main purpose isn’t the quality of the performance.
What counts above all is the experience together, sharing the passion for singing, bridging cultures, having fun and finding a common language and harmony. It is wonderful to see, how everyone contributes and grows together in that short period of time. Haruka Abe from Japan joins the last rehearsal 3 hours before we need to go on stage, and she steps in for a soloist part, learns the Spanish lyrics although she never spoke a single word of Spanish before, coached by Patricio Antonio Liang a Taiwanese Spanish-speaker. 10-year old Haejoon Han from Korea enthusiastically learns the Cuban Maracas sound and proudly gets his own microphone. When anything is unclear, there is some hectic translation in all directions, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, English… and the next chord just sounds awesome.
Of course, everyone wants to do their best and gets really nervous before the big performance. But backstage, the single singers are motivating each other, releasing tension by just having a good time and getting encouragement by the pro’s and coaches.
Single singers is so very different from any choir performance or vocal group performance I ever had before. You have to rely on fellow singers you meet the first time, you have to adjust and learn from each other in a very short time, listening is even more important because you cannot easily anticipate how the others are going to sing and you have to be flexible enough to learn something you’ve never done before and perform it 2 days later in front of hundreds of people and even in front of the original singers or arrangers.
This year, I even had a very special reunion with some fellow single singers from VAF 2015. Derrick Kam and Li Lin Miyu from the Singaporean vocal group Acappuccino asked me, if I would like to join them as a guest singer for one song during the Sound of Asia concert. Although on very short notice, it was such an honor that I couldn’t reject that offer. Further, for me it was the continuation of the single singers’ idea, it was about bridging nations, cultures, distances by doing music together. No better place than this festival to sing a song together.
One Hand, One Heart – Single Singers’ performance at the Vocal Asia Festival 2016
Next year’s Vocal Asia Festival will be in Hongkong. If you can make it, even without your vocal group, come and join the Single Singers! You will have no regrets and return home with a huge number of new friends and an unforgettable experience. Check it out!