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Archiv

Archiv für Januar, 2010

Tilo Beckmann – How to coach a vocal group from an audience perspective

29. Januar 2010 Keine Kommentare

by Florian Städtler

While doing the network thing at the Kulturbörse Freiburg for three exhausting and inspiring days, I met a living legend of German a cappella, Tilo Beckmann. Founder and ex-member of the first German vocal group 6-Zylinder, he is currently working on his new ambitious project Sonic Suite, an a cappella group in which he acts as mentor, director and singer.

“Besides being a singer, I always loved to work with vocal ensembles to pass on the experience of more than 30 years of singing, arranging and organzing.” Asked what makes his coaching special, Tilo replied: “If there’s anything, I’m really trying to be good at, it’s my ability to listen and watch from the perspective of any regular guy in the audience.”

We agreed, that many groups tend to work on details of intonation, blending and sound, without really having got the basics right. But exactly what are the basics from the perspective of the regular, non-expert listener?

Tilo summed up his coaching concept in four main areas of work:

  1. Impact: What general impression does the group make towards the audience?
  2. Clarity: Is the group able to convey a clear message, musically as well as in terms of performance?
  3. Rhythm: “A wrong note in the right place is better than a right note in the wrong place”, says Tilo. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to work on intonation and don’t have to know your part. But, as Tilo added “Most of traditional vocal education emphasizes on sounding great. But what makes contemporary vocal music unique is its rhythm.”
  4. Hierarchy: Social structure is an issue in every team. As a coach, Tilo prefers straight talk, unaffected by the traditional roles of group members. “Critizising singers in a constructive way is very important. But even if the coaching causes discussions inside the group, the singers must value those things they have achieved and contributed in the past.”

No.3, “rhythm”, reminded me of Denmark and its fantastic scene of “Rhythmic Choirs”. As many small ensembles emerge as extracts of jazz, pop and gospel choirs, choirs like Jens Johansen’s Vocal Line and educational institutions like The Complete Vocal Institute seem to show the way for contemporary vocal education.

If you or your vocal group is interested in a coaching session with Tilo, these are two opportunities in the not so far future:

Are you interested in educational topics like that? If yes, post comments, ideas and concepts or send an email to info@vocal-blog.net. If you think you can contribute something the vocal and a cappella scene should really know about, you can also be a Vocal Blog author. I’m looking forward to your feedback, links and inspiration.

Don’t forget to follow Vocal Blog on Twitter (username: vocalblog) and join our Facebook group to meet more than 350 international a cappella activists.

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Vocal Blog Interview Series “3 Questions, 3 Answers, 1 Song”

27. Januar 2010 Keine Kommentare

Video Interview with Swiss-Columbian Beatboxer Camero

Hi everybody,

this is the first in a series of short video portraits of great vocal an a cappella groups. At Europe’s hub of culture marketing, the Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg we had the pleasure of seeing a showcase of another rising star in the growing European beatbox community, Swiss-Colombian beatbox and comedy virtuoso Camero.

If you know great singers, vocal groups or choirs, make a comment, send a mail so that we can get in touch for a another volume of “3 Questions, 3 Answers, 1 Song”. And if you think you have something to say (and to sing) what the Vocal Blog community should know about – send us an e-mail to info@vocal-blog.net.

If you want to share great ideas, concepts or offer practical help to other singers, arrangers, composers, producers and promoters, post it at our facebook group Vocal Blog and become a member.

And if you can’t get enough and are already using twitter, you can find us there, too: www.twitter.com/vocalblog. We’re happy about so much positive feedback, so many great artist joining the network. Thanks for your contributions!

Florian Städtler

Vocal Blog evangelist

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Why A Cappella Singer Can’t Be Bastards

27. Januar 2010 1 Kommentar

In my post of last week I told you that I had the immense pleasure of meeting The Real Group’s Peder Karlsson before and during the London A Cappella Festival.

It’s amazing to talk to someone so deeply immersed in vocal music. As a long time member of THE European cult group he has gathered endless experience and gained a fantastic reputation as composer, teacher and mentor for young singers in vocal groups.

This blog is not the place for white-paper-length essays. So I will not even try to sum up the countless things I learnt from our London conversations. But I’d love to pass on to you one wonderful piece of insight. Something that really made me happy.

After meeting a whole lot of great vocal group members at London A Cappella’s kick-off at King’s Place, I mentioned to Peder, how inspiring it is to work with all these fantastic musicians and fine people. Shortly after Peder agreed, it came across my mind that this is probably just a stroke of luck: Among hundreds and thousands of members of a cappella and vocal groups, I guessed, there must be some buggers, some two-faced guys, well…some bastards.

“Not true”, said Peder. “They wouldn’t survive.”

“Why that?” I asked and he replied: “It’s very simple: You can’t sing together, if you think this guy next to you is an a**hole.”

That’s was one of these rare moments of insight: Heureka, as the Old Greeks would have said. The moment when our synapses link and this amazing biological process in our brains leads to this “Yes-of-course-this-makes-perfect-sense”-feeling.

Isn’t it wonderful to turn this insight around? Singing in a group, creating and experiencing music as a common process simply does not allow you to be an idiot: Singing and music improves people’s social abilities. People open up, develop basic social skills like empathy, cooperation, the ability to listen.

Working as an agent for some of the best a cappella groups of the world has always been an honour. Thanks to Peder Karlsson, my job now has a whole new dimension. We should try to help as many people as possible to get the vocal/a cappella experience and make them  sing in an a cappella group. This could be much more than a purely musical project: This is a wonderful social project.

Is my experience similar to what you experienced as a singer, promoter, arranger etc.? Don’t keep it to yourself: Write to me at info@vocal-blog.net or post a comment right here at Vocal Blog! I’m looking forward to you contributing to Vocal Blog.

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London A Cappella: Soundscapes and Miracles

19. Januar 2010 Keine Kommentare

Last weekend those who were lucky lived to see the birth of another great a cappella festival in Europe: London A Cappella took off at an impressive new location, King’s Place, close to King’s Cross in the centre of the British capital.

I was lucky to be guest at the opening concert, a show by the Swingle Singers who had the idea of a London festival for vocal and a cappella music. The group had recognized how such festivals as the German Vocal Jazz Summit, the Real Group’s Real Festival, Italy’s Solevoci or the Aarhus Vocal Festival can inspire the national and international scene.

The Swingles’ concert was another proof that this group, which was founded in 1963 (!), has re-invented itself and now has a strong profile as well as an stunning repertoire ranging from Bach classics to Björk soundscapes. It seems as if after a period of soulsearching the current line-up is determined to contribute something very special to their group’s history. The Swingles were the hippest act around back when they invented crossover in 1963. Now they’re in the process of getting even hipper when connecting their unique style and sound with 21st century pop and songwriter repertoire.

In addition to this insight, I was lucky to spend the time in London with two real a cappella luminaries of our time: Peder Karlsson (The Real Group) and Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers). Tobi’s place in Hackney Wick, one of the most exciting parts of East London is a former warehouse with a view on the future sites of the Olympic Games.

A highly inspiring place for spending some time with two guys like Peder and Tobi.

My stay itself started with a miracle. After a delayed flight from Basel, a train ride from Gatwick to London Victoria, the successful purchase of an Oyster card (a kind of credit card for London public transport), one of these strange slushy creations the English call sandwich, a ride on the Victoria line to Islington, a closed-down Overground line, an alternative bus ride to Hackney Wick and an iPhone powered walk/search around the block I finally saw the sign of Prince Edward Road. As I walked around one more corner – it was already a quarter to midnight – I saw a man getting out of a taxi. It was…I couldn’t believe it…Peder Karlsson!

I knew he planned to arrive with a late flight, too. But can you figure out the probability of him starting from Stockholm and me from Basel at different hours of the day, both flights delayed etc. and arriving at the same place exactly at the same minute?

We celebrated this miracle with a truly international late night dinner: Swedish cheese, pickled fish, herb schnaps and Knäcke bread, Tannenzäpfle Pils and ham from the Black Forest, British tea and Crème fraiche. We left the Norwegian goat cheese, tubed Swedish caviar and Swiss chocolate for later and went to bed after a miraculous experience of travel, food and talk about European cultural variety.

P.S. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see all the London A Cappella concerts. If some of you were there and would like to write about it, feel free to send me your reviews or comments to info@vocal-blog.net.

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