by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog founder
Who is amarcord?
If you are into classical a cappella music and haven’t heard of the German quintet “amarcord”, you must have been living under a rock for almost two decades. This group is probably today’s most successful international pro group from Germany with tours in more than 50 (!) countries since they started in 1992. They have developed a perfection of sound, blending and interpretation that puts them on par with classical superstars as The Kings Singers, The Swingle Singers, The Sixteen to name a few.
Where are they from?
The group was founded by former members of the famous St. Thomas’s Boys Choir in Leipzig (that celebrates it’s 800th Birthday this year), the very spot where Johann Sebastian Bach lived, worked and created most of his countless masterpieces. Born as citizens of the East German GDR, they experienced the Berlin Wall coming down, reunification and learned about the challenges and the opportunities in a reunified country where two systems merge into one. Wolfram Lattke, founding member of the group told me in an interview, how much it meant, and still means, to former GDR citizens to travel to other countries and continents.
How did it all start?
“We just started the group because we loved singing and couldn’t stop after having left the choir but until 1999 it was not clear that amarcord would really become a full-time professional group,” says Wolfram Lattke. “In 1999 we took a sabbatical for half a year to make possible that everybody can finish the individual studies we started - we didn’t do all music, one of us is a doctor, for example, which shows that the group actually didn’t start intentionally as a professional career.” Daniel, one of their basses, is a trained ENT (Ear Nose Throat) physician which is a quite helpful thing for a vocal ensemble.
What does working with the German Goethe-Institut mean for amarcord?
The Goethe-Institut organisation is a federal institution promoting German language and culture abroad. Its headquarters are in Munich, Germany and there are subsidiaries in almost every country in the world. One important part of their activities is to invite German speaking (and singing) artists abroad. And amarcord were among the chosen few, which made them see rather exotic places in Asia, Africa, Central America and Australia.
And then, in 1997, amarcord started their festival…
Maybe amarcord was the first European vocal group who had a festival run by a group. This model which combines high-level curatorship with the wish to cherish the wonderful community of people singing together has later been used by major players on the vocal scene: The Real Group started The Real Group Festival, Hungarian top group Fool Moon runs a the leading event in their home country, Europe’s best “rhythmic choir” Vocal Line landed a smashing success with 2011′s Aarhus Vocal Festival and London A Cappella Festival has become an international vocal music magnet after only three years of existence, founded and curated by The Swingle Singers.
What makes Leipzig’s festival for vocal music special?
From the humble point of view of the author it’s the the fantastic level of musicianship and the amazing openness of amarcord’s programme team to invite groups ranging all the way from medieval music to pop and hiphop. Add to it the spirit of Leipzig and some really outstanding venues and you have a festival that is one of brightest stars on the European vocal music sky. Oh yes, and I almost forgot about the famous festival final party. Don’t miss it if you come to Leipzig 2012! (Note for lovers of the Vocal Jog: This year the opening concert on April 19 will feature amarcord, on April 20 you can see and hear VOCES8 and on April 21 you can run the Leipzig Marathon with a festival running team including myself…#vocaljogXXL)
Who performed at former festivals?
This is NOT a wish list – all these artists performed at Leipzig a cappella festival: Bobby McFerrin, Banchieri Singers, trio medieval, The King’s Singers, Chanticleer, Tam Echo Ta, Huun-Huur-tu, The Hilliard Ensemble, Huelgas Ensemble, basta, Insingizi, Die Singphoniker, The Swingle Singers, The Real Group, Aquabella,, Calmus Ensemble, maybebop, The Clerks’ Group, Tailed Comedians, Niniwe, Camerata, Stouxingers, Orlando Consort, Vocal Sampling, Gothic Voices, Viva Voce, La Venexiana, U-Bahn-Kontrollöre in tiefgefrorenen Frauenkleidern, Ensemble Tavagna, The Idea of North, Singer Pur, Basix, Sheikh Arabi Farag Ensemble, Klangbezirk, I Fagiolini, Ensemble Planeta, Club for Five, Sound Affaire, m-pact, Ensemble Clément Janequin, The House Jacks, Eva Quartet, Take 6, Vocado, Five Gentlemen, Anonymous 4, Jazzation, Rilton’s Vänner, Ommm, BR6, Wishful Singing, Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam, Stile Antico, Luys, Juice Box, Rajaton…I guess this collection of world-class a cappella groups makes this festival one of the leading vocal music events in the world.
What’s the 2012 Leipzig line-up?
- April 20, amarcord (GER), opening concert
- April 21, VOCES8 (UK)
- April 22, LALÁ (AUT), family concert
- April 22, Heinavanker (EST)
- April 23, Nordic Voices (NOR)
- April 24, Kraja (SWE)
- April 25, Cap Pela (ESP)
- April 26, John Potter & Ambrose Field (UK)
- April 27, Audiofeels (POL)
- April 28, Cadence (CAN)
- April 29, Festival Highlights Gala Concert
Having travelled to some of the finest a cappella events of the world, I must say that I’m really looking forward to coming to Leipzig in April. After having written this post, I’m more aware than ever, that amarcord and their very own festival is a true work of art. And it’s a proof that you can combine a fantastic musical level with a financial and organisational infrastructure that makes stars from all over the world come to perform and share their music with the audience and fellow musicians. Can’t wait to experience the Leipzig vibes myself in only two months – see you there!
This is the first of a bi-weekly series of articles about the singers of amarcord, their festival and the team behind two decades of vocal music history. Stay tuned to learn more about this fascinating story.