“Girl Talk” has always been a source of endless fascination to people, especially those of the male persuasion, for whom it remains a total mystery. (Ex songs by Neil Hefti and Elvis Costello). Less mysterious perhaps, but here’s “Bass Talk”.
Tuukka Haapaniemi (Finland, Club for Five, major-league basso profundo) and Jeff Meshel (Israel, Vocalocity, amateur low baritone) met recently at the London A Cappella Festival. After initially arguing about who knows a certain blonde soprano better, they decided they liked each other and wanted to become friends.
Here are some excerpts from their recent Skype follow-up chat.
Jeff: Club for Five is a full-time gig for you guys?
Tuukka: Club For Five has been a full-time job for all the singers and for our manager since 2005. We also have our own sound engineer with us in all (amplified) gig, no matter the size of the venue.
Jeff: How much do you perform?
Tuukka: About 20-30 concerts or bigger gigs in addition to our annual Christmas concert tour (in Finland), which last year had 20 concerts and about the same amount of TV/Radio performances (we released a new Christmas album, so there were a lot of promo things). And on top of the concert and bigger gigs we also regularly perform in corporate events. So the total amount of performances under the name of Club For Five is roughly somewhere above 100 per year. I’m actually just waiting now for a rehearsal to begin.
Jeff: How often do you rehearse?
Tuukka: It’s periodic. Before a tour or whenever it’s necessary, every day for weeks at a time.
Jeff: Do you have additional gigs personally?
Tuukka: We all have different things we do outside of CFF. Besides the not-so-regular TV/Radio commercial voiceovers, musically I sometimes do a bit of classical singing as well. During the past few years I’ve been a bass soloist on Uri Caine’s Goldberg Variations, Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi and Einojuhani Rautavaara’s All Night Vigil among some minor appearances.
Jeff: How many professional modern a cappella groups are there in Finland.
Jeff: And a wider circle of semi-professional groups, and an even wider circle of amateur groups?
Tuukka: Right. There are lots and lots of choirs everywhere. Even companies have their own choirs.
Jeff: I know the group Ensemble Norma.
Tuukka: Yes, they’re very good. I’m meeting with Ida next week. She’s going to interview me as a professional a cappella singer for a paper she’s writing for her studies.
Jeff: Please give her my very warm regards.
Tuukka: How do you know them?
Tuukka: They’re very good.
Jeff: Yes, very good, and very cute. (Both basses laugh.) Tell me, are there many a cappella jazz choirs in Finland.
Tuukka: (thinking) No, not really. Lots of regular choirs. Even gospel choirs. But not really modern a cappella choirs. By the way, I saw the clip of your group, Vocalocity.
Jeff: Oh, great. How did you like it?
Tuukka: Really excellent. Tight, good groove, intonation…
Jeff: Thanks so much. And do you realize, we’re brand new? That clip was filmed after only about 12 rehearsals.
Tuukka: Really?? That’s very impressive.
Jeff: Thanks. We’re working now on getting ourselves settled, finding our voice, our identity, refining our style. Line Groth is coming next week to rehearse us. I hope she’ll really kick butt.
Tuukka: (deep laugh) Oh, I’m sure she will.
Jeff: It’s not so simple, this question of identity. I like to think of us as a professional choir composed of amateur singers. I don’t think that ‘amateur’ means less good than ‘professional’.
Tuukka: Absolutely. I used to sing in a professional choir, the Finnish Radio Choir. We were 16 paid professionals. And you know, we could sing anything, three rehearsals, no problem. But there was no soul.
Jeff: Exactly. That’s an advantage that amateurs can have over professionals. I used to experience that in the theater. I worked in both, amateur and professional.
Tuukka: I think it has a lot to do with inter-personal relations. In an amateur choir, the social aspect plays a big role. Because it’s social, people get to know each other, care about each other. So the group grows a soul, and from that a musical personality.
Jeff: Well put.
Tuukka: Listen, we’re starting our rehearsal now—
Jeff: Go, have a good one. Good talking to you!
Tuukka: Yes! We’ll do it again soon. Namasta.
He used to read a lot of fiction. Now he’s more interested in good film and television. (FSt: And quite a bit in a cappella music and the vocal music community – and that’s so great!)