by Florian Städtler, London, post-#LACF2014
Many events are good at marketing. Only few really deliver. Rarely has a marketing slogan been so diligently put into practice as during London A Cappella Festival 2014, which has just ended after 4 days of – yes, here comes the LACF marketing department – “Total Immersion”. Immersion into an art form. Immersion into a unique community. Immersion into more and more #LACFextra cult activities. Congratulations to a brilliant team of professional and volunteer festival organizers. Congratulations to all who travelled from Hackney and Denver, from Firenze and Rotterdam, from Singapore and Hannover, from Bersheeba and Los Angeles. To name only a totally random few. You have been part of a festival that has grown from a purely British two-day concert event into a four-day package that includes everything an a cappella enthusiast and a “regular” music lover wishes for.
The concerts featuring The Swingle Singers (UK) as co-hosts, The Real Group (SWE), The Housejacks (USA), Slixs (GER), Vive (UK), The Songmen (UK), The Time Ensemble and many more foyer and workshop acts gave an impression of both the state of the art and of what we can expect of the future of vocal music. The workshops were mostly sold out and featured a great diversity of topics and workshop styles, from impromptu beatbox-along sessions and behind-the-scenes talks to intense collective exercises and valuable insights for up-and-coming groups. All this happens in an extraordinarily inspiring venue, King’s Place and a constant buzz of singers, conductors, organizers, producers, media people and aca-nerds, meeting, talking, discussing, celebrating and enjoying the variety of nationalities and cultures in England’s capital.
There’s nothing like the real thing, which is: Coming to the London A Cappella Festival yourself. “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”, Mick Goodrick rightfully said and the same goes for explaining the unique at vocal music festivals like Aarhus, Stockholm, Leipzig, Hannover, Graz, Hamburg, Tours, Vienna or Munich. Just go to London in January 2015, get “totally immersed” and catch the LACF bug. “Pictures say much more than words” is another truism used too often. Nevertheless, the following 10 snapshots taken by my very old but cherished Vocal Blog Lumix, are my personal memories that have made London A Cappella 2014 unique. And 10 reasons for me to come back.
(1) Trending Beards: Obviously, growing beards is trending in London. Just look at the current male fraction of The Swingle Singers. Why? Is it for practical reasons? Do those guys want to look older than they are? Do their spouses want to keep other women kissing their partners? Is it compensation for losing hair elsewhere? The beard phenomenon will certainly not be a major reason to come back to London. But I predict that this trend will have turned into something new by the time of LACF 2015. The “LACF Beard XXL Competition” was clearly won by an ex-Swingle: Tobias “Tobi” Hug made a spectacular appearance at the festival, presenting himself as the perfect doppelgänger of Fidel Castro Jr. It used to be “Everybody needs a Hug”. Now it’s “Love is in the hair.”
(2) Aca-Family: This festival truly brings together all generations singing and loving vocal music: Vocal music legends in the same way as collegiate a cappella groups. Producer heavy-weights like Bill Hare, Liquid Fifth and Danny Ozment as well as DIY-YouTube creatives in their early twenties. School kids, young parents, grandparents and whole families in the audience. I was particularly happy to see the Ikon Arts‘ founder and LACF producer Costa Peristianis‘ whole family at King’s Place: Holly (who’s also back at the Ikon office working for British jazz-pop-gospel act Vive), Isabella and Leo. You can’t start to totally immerse early enough!
(3) Jessica Hill & the LACF team: Have you ever tried to plan and organize a concert in your local community? It can be quite a challenge. But what about organizing an international festival with participants from all over the world, from top-notch, professional artists to countless of amateur and school ensembles? Jessica Hill, artist manager with Ikon Arts has become “Mama LACF” and like every good mom, she loves her baby – although it can be quite exhausting and capricious. And even a seasoned professional like Jessie couldn’t manage this extravaganza on her own. So our thank yous go out to Sarah Hickling, Nicola Semple, Becky Chilton, Holly Peristiani (whose desk I was allowed to use for a mini-internship during the festival – thanks so much!) and Clarice Goff. Ikon Arts director can be more than proud of that fabulous team.
(4) The Single Singers: Annemarie Homann, Dutch ex-pat in Italy and her singing buddy Emily May t’Hoen have created a wonderful work of non-profit, make-it-happen, feel good work-of-art. Up to 40 singers traveling to different international a cappella festivals without their groups prepare a couple of songs that – after 2 rehearsals – are performed at the festivals’ main venue. This has become one of the true cult activities at festivals in Aarhus, Stockholm and London. And seeing these people meeting, reuniting and simply enjoying the collective singing simply makes you happy.
(5) The LACF 2014 Live Album: Yes, we did it, last-minute, including the typical allnighter getting the vocal music online shop Acappellazone ready for pre-orders of the first live album including all professional acts that have performed at King’s Place this year. Yes, I’m not kidding, by early March there will be an album that includes The Real Group, The Swingle Singers, The Housejacks, Slixs and Vive. The album (limited edition of 200 CDs or mp3) can be pre-ordered at a special festival price until 30th of January and will then be available at the regular price. So if you couldn’t make it to LACF 2014, here’s your chance to get an impression of the vocal magic happening at King’s Place. And if you were there, that’s the perfect souvenir, Christmas present or collector’s item.
(6) The Vocal Jog: This is probably something that most of my readers and especially those who have been to aca-festivals, cannot even imagine: Going for a collective morning run after very little sleep and before another day jam-packed with workshops and concerts. Believe it or not, we’re doing this on an annual basis, a chosen few who make it up to Primrose Hill, close to Regent’s Park. Learn more about it at the Vocal Jog fan page and join if you want to get to a completely different level of festival energy. And nerdiness. (For the record: This year there were 6 of us, 2 groups of three each, who unfortunately missed each other on Primrose Hill. 4 Dutch – more on that later -, on Scotsman and one German).
(7) Willy Eteson: Former Swingles business director Richard “Willy” Eteson has a favourite pastime, which has become an exclusive LACFextra activity. Willy is a fantastic chef and creator of self-made meat products. This year again, he brought his latest creations to the King’s Place foyer: Self-made grilled sausages and (here we go, my dear vegetarian friends!) delicious brawn. Southern Belle Sara Brimer and her boyfriend, conductor James Davey were absolutely delighted as the picture can tell.
(8) Full English Breakfast. The hotel some of us stayed at was – to describe it carefully – not a hotbed of customer service. However, we tried to enjoy the traditional English breakfast (scrambled eggs, toast, tomatoes, baked beans, bacon, sausage (worlds apart from Willy’s self-made treats). And you can’t imagine how good this fireworks of British cuisine tastes after 7.7 kilometres of running.
(9) Vive & Slixs: My personal discoveries (thanks, Costa Peristianis and Tobias Hug!) of the festival were the two groups that were new to most of the audience, too: Local heroes Vive with their artful and clever mix of jazz, pop and gospel as well German “hidden champions” Slixs (formerly known as Stouxingers), who in a irresistible way refuted the cliché that German groups never really groove or can be funny in an intelligent way . Both Vive and Slixs have two things in common: They consist of five male and one female member, and – more important – of 6 equally strong characters that make their concerts performances in the literal sense of the word. My prediction here: If those not-so-newcomers will live up to their own potential, they will be the headliners and trendsetters of tomorrow.
(10) The Dutchies: Like most neighbors, the Dutch and the Germans have their mutual stereotypes, small and not-so-small rivalries and frictions. I love my Dutch friends, a whole traveling party of good-humored and witty people. Thanks for candle light dinners, breakfast chats, great snapshots and greater after parties. See you soon, somewhere in Acappelland. Or at LACF 2015, at the very latest!
I’m Florian Städtler, blogger, a cappella agent, event director and learner of Mandarin. Vocal Blog is my global vocal music communication baby. If you want to be a part of that great community and dive into a stream of related news, links, tips, videos, pictures etc., follow me on Twitter, like the Vocal Blog Facebook fan page, join the Facebook group, subscribe to the Acappellazone YouTube channel and hit me up, when you are going to be present at a cappella events. And if you are interested in becoming a Vocal Co-Blogger, send your (not-so-promotional) articles and pictures and I’m happy to feature them on the blog. If you like what you read and watch, and want Vocal Blog going, buy CDs, DVDs, sheet music and more Cool Stuff at my vocal music online shop www.acappellazone.com.