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My journey as a “single singer” in Asia – Part 2

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2016

My journey as a single singer in Asia – Part 2

Christine Liu leading the Single Singers at VAF 2016

Christine Liu leading the Single Singers at VAF 2016

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.

Single Singers at VAF 2015

Single Singers at the Vocal Asia Festival 2015 in Shanghai

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

Christine Liu with the Single Singers at VAF 2016

Christine Liu with the Single Singers at VAF 2016

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!“

Michele Weir coaching the Single Singers

Michele Weir coaching the Single Singers

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.

Single Singers helping each other

Single Singers helping each other

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.

Single Singers Backstage

Single Singers Backstage

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.

Single Singers Performance at VAF 2016

Single Singers Performance at the Sound of Asia Concert, Vocal Asia Festival 2016

VAF 2016: Juliana and Li Lin from Acappuccino

VAF 2016: Juliana and Li Lin from Acappuccino

VAF 2015: Juliana and Li Lin, Single Singers

VAF 2015: Juliana and Li Lin, Single Singers

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!

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My journey as a „single singer“ in Asia – Part 1

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2016

My journey as a single singer in Asia – Part 1

Two years ago, I moved from a comparatively small town in Germany to the 20-million-metropolis Shanghai. To continue my passion for singing and at the same time making some Chinese friends, I wanted to join some local singing group. But how to find it?

Saturday's Single Singers in Shanghai

Saturday’s Single Singers in Shanghai

I was in the lucky situation to know Christine Liu (雙雙 Shuāng Shuāng) from Voco Novo and the Director of International Affairs at Vocal Asia. Vocal Asia is the biggest association of a cappella singers and initiatives in Asia. Although Christine lives in Taiwan, she happened to be in Shanghai in my first week and she introduced me to a key person of a cappella in Shanghai: Bud Jan (詹子贤 Zhān Zi Xián). And this was the start of my journey as a „single singer“ – not at all a lonely journey as the wording might make you believe.

Single Singers in Shanghai

Single Singers in Shanghai

If it’s about a cappella in Shanghai, I would say even in whole China, there is nobody who doesn’t know Bud, and Bud seems to know every single person related to a cappella in Greater China. He organizes the so-called Single Singers in Shanghai and spread this idea to a lot of other cities in China.

The roots of „Single Singers“ is known from the Dutch singers Annemarie Homan and Emily May’t Hoen who came up with this idea at the London A Cappella Festival. Not only vocal groups are joining such festivals but also a lot of singers are coming alone. For them to actively join, to sing along in a group and perform together, they formed the „Single Singers“.

In a similar sense, the Single Singers in Shanghai are formed, but it goes even far beyond. Born from the idea to popularize and spread A Cappella several singers gathered every Saturday in the Shanghai Mass Arts Center and invited all interested single singers to join, to learn and to sing together. In China there is less of a choir culture than for example in Germany. Many of those gathering every Saturday have no musical background, can’t read music or are not used to match harmonies but all of them are curious and love to sing.

Saturday Rehearsal with the Single Singers

Saturday Rehearsal with the Single Singers

When I joined the Shanghai Single Singers in summer 2014, it was still a very young community, just founded a few months before. In only a few cities in China similar organizations were about to start, most copying the example of Shanghai.

Teaching the Cup Song

Teaching the Cup Song

Every Saturday, new single singers would join. Life is incredibly busy in Shanghai and there is a high fluctuation. Nevertheless, over a certain period of time, more and more participants would become frequent visitors. It was not easy to teach and balance the different levels, so after several months we split the group into experienced and beginners. While the beginners were taught basics of singing techniques, rhythms and the beauty of singing in harmony, the more experienced single singers would learn advanced singing and vocal percussion techniques, music theory, arranging, stage performance and choreography. The a cappella community is growing and during the last two years, we gained more than thousand followers, either actively joining the single singers or at least following the activities of the single singers, coming to the concerts or just spreading the word and letting people know about a cappella.

born out of Single Singers: Knowhow Vocal Group

born out of Single Singers: Knowhow Vocal Group

The single singers in China are extremely eager to learn. Although I am no professional, I got the chance to share and teach warm-up methods, rhythm exercises, circle-singing and different choir practices which I know from Europe. We had guest teachers and professors in a rotating mode, local professors as well as famous teachers from abroad like professor Liu (劉靜諭 Liú Jìng Yù) from Taiwan. I am extremely thankful to the lead teacher Hao Hao (董文昊 Dǒng Wén Hào) who dedicates countless hours to develop a teaching concept, to arrange songs for the single singers, to teach almost every single Saturday and to coach newly formed a cappella groups. For me the Single Singers classes were at the same time Chinese language lessons and everyone took care that I understood, that I was integrated and part of the family.

Acaism, the first group to drive and grow the Single Singers

Acaism driving and growing the Single Singers

What makes me extremely happy is the bunch of new a cappella groups forming out of single singers. Every year, at least 5 new vocal groups were born. Me too, I founded a group in 2014 called KnowHow (in Chinese characters 侬好 „nonghao“ which means „hello“ in Shanghainese dialect).

And I am very proud I was invited to join Acaism Vocal Group 阿卡主义人声乐团 for the last 2 years, actually the first and the driving group of Single Singers in Shanghai and Bud being the founder of Acaism.

And all these groups together with the single singers will perform in several concerts throughout the year. Flash mobs in shopping malls, street music, a cappella concerts and as opening acts for successful professional vocal groups visiting Shanghai.

Single Singers Concert

Single Singers Concert

Meanwhile, single singers like in Shanghai are founded in twelve more cities in China: Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Guilin, Harbin, Luoyang, Xi’an, Tianjin, Lanzhou, Changchun, Nanjing. They started to gather once a year in a nationwide single singers forum to exchange, sing together and give free concerts to a growing audience. If one of the cities has a bigger event, representatives from the other cities will support and join. As the lead city’s main organizer Bud Jan supports if a new single singers group wants to form and keeps the network together.

Acaism and Single Singers Concert

Acaism and Single Singers Concert

I am so proud and grateful that I could be part of this single singers development and that I could witness the childhood of a great a cappella future in China.

Here you can watch some videos of Single Singers activities in Shanghai:

Single Singers Flashmob in Kunshan
A-Cappella Concert in Shanghai
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 1
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 2
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 3

LMA Vocal Music Summer Course 2016: Amarcord

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog founder, who interviewed Rolf Ehlers, Director of Landesmusik-Akademie Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

About our interview guest:

Rolf Ehlers Rolf Ehlers is fascinated of vocal music since his childhood. Even his parents met in a choir, so he grew up with choral music. He studied musicology, German and Italian language in Freiburg and developed a singing career which lead him to small professional vocal ensembles. At the same time he was member of some professional choirs (some German Radio Choirs, Balthasar-Neumann-Chor, Amsterdam Baroque Choir, Swiss Chamber Choir etc.). His main epoch is the early baroque and renaissance music, where he can exploit his high and light tenor voice. This is illustrated by many recordings with Dufay Ensemble, La Chapelle Rhénane, Musica Fiata and others. As “second job” he was always managing vocal groups, choirs, orchestras and other musical institutions. Until 2010 he managed the chamber choir “Camerata Vocale Freiburg” and brought this group to international reputation, from 2010 until 2013 he was General Manager of Thomas Hengelbrock’s Balthasar-Neumann-groups and in 2014 he was elected to be the new director of the State Music Academy of Rheinland-Pfalz (Landesmusikakademie Rheinland-Pfalz).

The State Music Academy of Rheinland-Pfalz (LMA) offers about 60 courses for professional musicians as well as for amateurs and young people. Another function of the academy is to bring impulses to music teachers for all types of school. The academy is located directly at the Rhine ca. 12km north of Koblenz in two buildings and offers more than 80 beds with additional capacities in the Schloss (castle) of Engers, where all meals are provided. Many regional choirs, orchestras and other music groups are taking advantage of this infrastructure for their rehearsal weekends.

 

Digital StillCameraLMA offers all kinds of educational programmes. Who started the vocal music summer courses and how did it develop until today?

The first vocal summer classes took place 2000 and 2001 with the Hilliard Ensemble as cooperation between “Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz”, the foundation “Villa musica” and LMA. The moving spirit of these years had been Willi Becker, the coordinator of Vocal Music at Kultursommer. Some years later the King’s Singers passed by for another vocal summer class, but then other aspects became more important for LMA and the vocal music turned in the background. From this year on we try to restart the vocal summer classes and hope to begin a new brilliant tradition, and I am very happy that Willi Becker will be here again as connection between Kultursommer and LMA.

What makes the LMA summer courses different from other masterclasses?

The great charm of our summer course is the location at the riverside, the prettiness of our buildings and places, including the castle and the fact, that we are spending one week together with the coaching ensemble and all participants. Another quality are the concerts that are flanking the course with many possibilities to check the results in public. I am sure that we can transport the “Spirit of Engers” – being together with great people and not to forget celebrating ourselves…

Amarcord Gruppenfoto 2016-swAmarcord is another big name that will come to your beautiful academy. Why did you choose them for this year’s course?

Amarcord is one of the most famous and expert vocal group of the present. They are very good in ensemble coaching and they made it easy to connect with music festivals nearby. In some of these concerts, especially in the last night “Amarcord and friends” at the “Mosel Musik Festival” even the participating vocal groups will have the opportunity to sing at a well-known festival. For me it seemed logical to restart our summer class series with one of the most famous groups, and to begin with a focus on the traditional  repertoire in order to open to Jazz and Pop in the following years.

Can you describe the experience for the participating group? What did former participants say about their time at Schloss (Castle) Engers?

All participating groups of the past Vocal Summer Classes were extremely happy when they left. Some of them started an international career, like the Norwegian “Trio Medieval”. All of them enjoyed the community of staying together and making music together with like-minded people. Sharing experiences on social media is very interesting, but sharing the common interest of putting into practice vocal music, making new friends and enjoying a great summer time with a warm-hearted organization – this can be something real special!

This is a masterclass with one of the most prestigious vocal music ensembles in the world – who do you address with your summer course offer?

The participating vocal ensembles should be a little settled and should have already concert experience. This is the perfect stage for Amarcord to start their coaching. We expect vocal groups from 3 up to 8 singers (even more, if they keep ensemble-singing as principle and not being a small choir). Due to our function as Music Academy for Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate), we are glad about the application of some regional groups, but we are equally happy for every international application. And we are extremely  happy to be able to offer the course for only accommodation and full board costs. There is no course fee!

20150320_151931_BSo there’s only one question remaining: How and until when can groups apply?

You find the summer class on our website: http://landesmusikakademie.de/index.php?id=217&c=431 Before every member makes an own registration, we would like to talk to your group in order to avoid misunderstandings. Just write an email to info@landesmusikakademie.de or call us: +49 2622 90520. There is no deadline. When our capacity is exhausted, we have to deny other applications.

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Africappella – German eye- and ear-witness report

Michel Peters - Acappellazone

Michel Peters – Acappellazone

by Michel Peters, booker at Acappellazone Freiburg, February 19, 2016

It was almost over before it had even started. When reading all the e-mails concerning visa issues and travel preparations between Josh Pule (Africappella’s founder and band leader) and Florian Städtler (Acappellazone CEO) nobody would have thought that in about two weeks’ time a memorable journey between two cultures would take place. Let alone, that within this trip the South African perspective of Germans and also the German perspective of South Africans would be fundamentally changed to the both side’s astonishment.

In many aspects the arrival of Africappella must have been a shocking experience. In – for South African terms – freezing cold 10°C the six members disembarked in Frankfurt after a 16-hours flight. Acappellazone’s booker and artist manager Oliver Adamczyk picked the group up at Frankfurt Airport and brought them down to Freiburg. The German “Autobahn” probably was the next shocking experience. Two of the group had to take the German high speed train ICE (Intercity Express) which brought the next shock for our South African friends: German train ticket prices.

With Cluster after the Freiburg showcase

With Cluster after the Freiburg showcase

While the rest of the Acappellazone team was preparing for the “Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg 2016” one of the biggest promoter and artist fairs in Germany the group arrived. The first gig on this fair was already scheduled on the next day. This is possibly the toughest crowd in whole Germany (70% promoters and other music business professionals) – so the pressure was on right from the beginning. In a double show of roughly 30 minutes Africappella were the first to perform before the second act of the day came on: Italy’s vocal music stars Cluster from Genova. It was a remarkable double bill under challenging conditions in which a first glimpse of that unique African vocal music spirit started to spread.

Later that day the whole team was scheduled to have a first get-to-know dinner at a close by restaurant. It became clear very quickly that this special group of people fit in perfectly with our team.  Within two hours the remaining days of the group’s stay was planned out in detail. The program included travels through the world famous Black Forest, sightseeing tours through Freiburg and dinner parties.

However, even though the group looked desperately for their first ever snow experience they couldn’t make out one bit of white landscape. Germany was enduring one of the warmest winters of the last decade. It wasn’t until their next concert in Herdwangen when they finally saw and touched snow for the very first time. And it wasn’t just snow. Robert Franz, tour manager and sound engineer with Acappellazone drove the group into the heart of the Black Forest when a sudden snow storm hit South-West Germany. But while Robert was freaking out and desperately tried to get the group to their destination in one piece, Africappella had a very different perspective on the situation. The results were several snowball fights and giant snow angel marks on the side of the road. Clearly, it’s all a matter of perspective.

When they had arrived in the small town of Herdwangen, all thoughts of the winterly cold were melted away by the warmth and hearty atmosphere that arose between the audience and Africappella. In the end, several cheering spectators climbed the stage, gave hugs to the band members and handed over flowers. For sure one of the lasting memories of Africappella’s first trip to Germany, just as special as discovering Feierling’s “Brunhilde” dark beer and enjoying delicious homemade Mexican food.

Saying goodbye with souvenirs and a gift for the soon-to-be-born Africappella baby

Saying goodbye with souvenirs and a gift for the soon-to-be-born Africappella baby

The farewells were spoken with the certainty that this must not be the last time that we welcomed these great singers and wonderful people here in Germany. As a special souvenir they got something for their playful spirits and their children back at home as well.

Farewell, Africappella. And see you soon in Germany and many other European countries.

Michel Peters is a booker and project manager at the Acappellazone headquarters in Freiburg, Germany. He has sung with Jazzchor Freiburg, is a big football fan and a “totally together guy”. (Florian Städtler)

You can book Africappella for future tours via Acappellazone, Oliver Adamczyk, oliver@acappellazone.com, phone +49 621 40 76 01. You can find more information about the group by clicking on this link or going to their website www.africappella.com.

 

LACF2016 Vocal Jog

Always on the run…

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Jog evangelist

Those of you who are new to Vocal Blog or have not been to an international a cappella festival (yet) might think it’s a typo. No, it isn’t: Besides the Vocal Blog (your favourite online vocal music magazine) there is the Vocal JOG. What the FORK is this? It all began with realizing that being on tour often means the following: Take a plane or train to some airport, drive to a hotel, hurry to the venue, soundcheck, concert, after show party, sleep (a bit), have breakfast at hotel, drive to train station or airport and be gone. Gone without the slightest idea about the place you just “visited”. On top of that rather frustrating kind of spending time in probably nice places, life on tour is not particularly healthy: either too little or too much or too fast food, alcohol, little sleep and constant rushing from one place to the other.

So could there be anything better than physical activity to get the stress out? And wouldn’t it be nice to see a bit more than another run-of-the-mill hotel room and the backstage areas of the world? I realized that if you have your running shoes and suitable clothes with you all the time, there is almost always a half hour and a shower, that gives you that wonderful feeling of fresh air in your lungs and a perspective on the city or landscape you are at the moment. To motivate more people at vocal music festival to join me, I gave this “project” the name Vocal Jog and after a lot of unsuccessful efforts to find running mates, I finally had the first group Vocal Jog at London A Cappella Festival 2012. The six of us went up Primrose Hill (a proper British “mountain”…) and down in vocal music and sports history. 2013, 2014 and 2015 we did it again: Despite of after show parties the night before and rather cold London mornings, some brave Vocal Joggers made it up the Hill and back to more LACF activities right after the Vocal Jog challenge.

John (on the very left) with Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Claudia Appel, Nicholas Girard and Annemarie Homan on Primrose Hill, 2012

So here’s the next opportunity for all of you who are in London on Saturday, 30th of January! Join us for the Fifth More Or Less Official LACF 2016 Vocal Jog, here is the schedule and the most important details:

    • 08:15am – meeting and start at The Premier Inn (26-30 York Way, London N1 9AA) for those who want to do a relaxing run of about 50-60 minutes
    • 08:35am – next meeting point is the Chester Gate entrance of Regent’s Park (tube station: Regent’s Park, follow the Outer Circle counterclockwise = Northbound and meet us at the gate opposite of the road called Chester Gate; this is recommended for Vocal Joggers who would like to run approximately 30 minutes
Vocal Jog 2013 heroes: Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Christopher Sutton, Liz Swain, John Lau

Vocal Jog 2013 heroes: Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Christopher Sutton, Liz Swain, John Lau

    • 08:45am - meeting point for the “Nordic Talkers”, those who only want to talk a walk of about 15 minutes to the top of Primrose Hill is the crossing of Prince Albert Road and Albert Terrace
    • 09:00am – For those who just want to watch and cheer at the VocalJoggers (= fans, groupies, tweeps), wait for us on top of Primrose Hill, you won’t be able to miss us. Depending on the weather you will be rewarded by a wonderful view over the city including the London Eye and all.
    • 09:30am – return to the Premier Inn, feel free to welcome the Vocal Jog heroes!

 

Here’s the link to the complete route on Google Maps. Find updates at the Vocal Jog Facebook fan page and if you want to be part of this fantastic #LACFextra #VocalJog experience, don’t miss it and join us along the way. The current world record of participants is 6 runners – London, I know we can beat this! For urgent questions, call the Vocal Jog hotline at +49 171 201 50 66.

Größere Kartenansicht

Meet you on the LACF2016 track on Saturday morning – can’t wait!


I’m Florian Städtler, an amateur-runner, an ex-singer and – before the Vocal Jog took off – had to learn about “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” the hard way. Like music, workout is a highly social activity. I think running after an after-show party is simply the best. At least when it’s over.

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