January 2011 – what a month! Never before have I experienced such intense days meeting musicians, talking to movers and shakers, of watching world-class ensembles live and hanging out with them after workshops, masterclasses and shows. “Vocal Blog on tour”, the face-to-face part of the Vocal Blog project is pure inspiration: You meet the people who sing to make a living and those who would (almost) die to see the best of the best. Compared to events like Sojam (USA), Festival für Vokalmusik Leipzig (GER, hosted by amarcord), Solevoci (ITA), Hannover A Cappella (GER), Vokal.Total (AUT), Voice Mania (AUT), Vokal Total (GER) and The Vocal Jazz Summit (GER), London A Cappella rather is a newbie. Like The Real Festival (hosted by The Real Group/SWE) and Aarhus Vocal Festival (hosted by Vocal Line/DK), London A Cappella is hosted by an international a cappella top act, the Swingle Singers. Here’s a little report of my week-long trip Freiburg-Basel-London-Northampton-London-Cologne-Freiburg.
>> Tuesday, Jan 11
- 6pm: illegally parking my car near Freiburg station, catching the shuttle bus to EuroAirport Basel-Freiburg-Mulhouse
- 6:30pm: trying to eat a yoghurt whilst responding to some e-mails on my iPad and failing at not smearing the touchscreen
- 7:30pm: arriving at Terminal 1, well there is only one, so it’s rather THE terminal, checking in rather my heavy suitcase
- 7:42pm: buying loads of duty-free Swiss chocolate for the Ikon Arts team and the Swingles ladies
- 7:55pm: Working at Gate 29 – a nice little Pages presentation about the future European a cappella infrastructure
- 8:25pm: Presentation almost finished, boarding cattle class EasyJet flight to London, well almost: Gatwick it is
- 8:55pm: Take-off, almost but not quite on time, listening to Mouth-off podcast episodes of the past. #hilarious
- 9:25pm: Touchdown, yeah, England, I love to be back. Wondering about how much international roaming will cost me this time
- 9:44pm: Thanks to foolproof instructions by the wonderful Ikon Arts office team, I’m NOT boarding Gatwick Express but some other train and thus saving truckloads of money, which I can spend in more Swiss duty-free chocolate next time I come to see female a cappella singers
- 10:30pm: Arrival at King’s Cross/St. Pancras, the London’s Northern train station. Haven’t eaten much since I’ve spilled my yoghurt over my iPad, so I’m grabbing some delicious British station snack to prepare myself for the march to the hotel + the welcome beer at a pub “quite close to King’s Cross, down the street to King’s Place”
- 10:50pm: Finally found my hotel, deciding to think of running around the block with my heavy suitcase twice as a deliberate extra workout, taking a speed shower and almost without any detour entering the pub to find a whole bunch of singers, conductors and aca-people: Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers), Jo Eteson (The Swingle Singers), Willy Eteson (former Swingles tenor), Peder Karlsson (former The Real Group baritone), Sara Brimer (The Swingle Singers), Clare Wheeler (The Swingle Singers), Neo Jessica Joshua (The Boxettes), Kevin Fox (The Swingle Singers), Katie Birtill, Oliver Griffiths (The Swingle Singers), Lucy Bailey (The Swingle Singers) and many more friendly folks who keeping me from paying for my drinks until we left. Rumour had it that Clare and Tobi were successful in convincing Jussi Chydenius, bass with Rajaton, to fly in from Helsinki later during the festival.
- 1:15am: Tobi taking Peder to his place, the rest catching the last bus home and me returning to my hotel round the corner, being not particularly drunk.
>> Wednesday, Jan12
- 7:15am: Getting up and ready for a little run around windy, rainy London town. Ended up at Covent Garden, asking for King’s Cross direction only once during my way back.
- 8:15am: Breakfast, unfortunately continental breakfast, unfortunately rather bad continental breakfast, unfortunately in an overheated, overcrowded cellar room with no daylight and a waitress yelling at clients “Toast? Two slices!?” #quickbreakfast
- 9:45am: Trying to find out how to get to a Tube station called Rotherhithe (that’s where Swingles tenor CJ lives). Clerk neither being able to pronounce it nor to find it on the map. Eventually finding it myself and explaining it to her. #service
- 11am: Meeting with The Swingle Singers – discussing future plans and strategy. So interesting to get direct feedback from the eight of them. Very helpful, thank you! By the way: Since I’ve been working for the group they were always good, but the group of today is fantastic, full of energy, determination and creativity. #proudagent
- 1:35pm: Back on the Tube. After changing trains I’m seeing a woman that looks almost exactly like Lucy. Same hair, same shoes, same jacket, same make-up, same bag, it’s amazing.
- 1:36pm: Saying hello to Lucy. And goodbye having to get out of that train at King’s Cross. Taking the completely wrong way out (again).
- 1:51pm: Starving. Regretting not to having eaten from the infamous Swingles #morningditty cookie box at CJ’s place.
- 1:53pm: Last resort King’s Cross station supermarket. While I’m trying to not throw down two apples, a banana, my credit card and two pseudo-healthy muesli bars, my mobile is ringing. It’s Peder Karlsson. He’s calling from Islington and can’t find the Business Design Center: “Florian, have you got the adress?”
- 1:55pm: Dropping one apple, two muesli bars and an iPhone, the latter surviving the crash. Telling Peder the adress and agreeing on meeting at Ikon Arts/Swingles office at 3pm.
- 3pm: Discussing world domination with Peder. Costa Peristianis, Swingles agent, and his three lovely ladies are taking care of the duty- but not exactly calories free gifts from Basel Airport.
- 4:25pm: World domination is imminent. Very important result of our very heated discussion: They serve excellent tea at the Business Design Center and we of course we have to to it all much better, quicker and more successful than the Americans. #topsecret
- 5:25pm: Departing to King’s Place, getting excited and in festival mood. #vocalblogontour
- 5:55pm: Entering the lobby of King’s Place. Bumping into dozens of singers, aca-vips, old and not-so-old friends. Happiness, fun, pleasure!
- 7:30pm: The Oxford Gargoyles open the evening after some superman-ish announcement and tongue-in-cheek welcome to London A Cappella No.2 brought to Hall 1 by CJ and Kevin of the curating Swingle Singers. (Again the college group’s name is reminding me of the galactic hitchhiker’s favourite drink, the Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster…#veryverycareful)
- 8:00pm: The Real Group live in London. I will later learn that this was actually the first gig with that particular programme featuring the new line-up: Morten Vinther Sorensen (replacing Peder Karlsson as baritone) and Emma Nielsdotter (returning from maternity leave). This concert will result in a phenomenal review by The Times. 80 minutes of top-notch a cappella originals and covers, TRG is a unique work of vocal music art. Thank you for the music!
- 10pm: After three encores, including the hilarious “Cocktails for Two” and the epic Peder Karlsson composition “Gota”, Anders Edenroth temporarily cannot find his suit (which Emma took to the hotel), legends meet in the lobby and the Swingles crew is announcing the name of the pub, where the after show party will take place.
- 10:35pm: Everybody’s there, it’s amazing. Almost as amazing as the fact that again, I’m not able to pay for one single drink or at least a package of peanuts. #freeloader
- 0:00am: We have to move to another room at the same pub. #british
- can’t remember am: Going home, respectively the hotel. Remembering that we will go to Northampton tomorrow, on my first tour with The Real Group. #excited
- zzz, zzz… (to be continued soon)
Have you been to London A Cappella, too? Let me know what you liked best, who you met and which concerts you won’t forget.
Or maybe write a blog post about your favourite festival experience, no matter where or when? Go ahead, looking forward to your articles!
And don’t forget: The next “vocal summit”, the place to be for everybody who really is into vocal, a cappella and rhythmic choral music is Aarhus Vocal Festival, May 6-9 in Aarhus, Denmark. Check out all the details and the fantastic line-up featuring Bobby McFerrin + Vocal Line, Basix, Pust and many more at www.aavf.dk. This will also be a unique opportunity to meet movers, shakers and acastars like Jens Johansen, Jim Daus Hjernoe, Holger Wittgen, Peter Martin Jacob, Jake Moulton and many more. Vocal Blog will be on tour and on a very special European networking mission, more details soon to come. So make sure you’re going to make it to Aarhus in May, it will be a blast!