Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 3
Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015
by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015
And here comes part 3 of my first-hand impressions on last month’s Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) in Shanghai:
Day 3: His soul was reaching directly to my heart
Friday morning (Aug 7) „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu from Taiwan gave us a fun warm-up session including some body percussion and tai chi exercise.
Then, it was time to learn about the secret how to become an instrument. In their second workshop „How to do your vocal play“ Naturally 7 taught different techniques to imitate drums, harmonica or even DJ scratching sounds. The participants could try their vocal play together with N7. Hilarious was the performance of „DJ scratcher“ Rod Eldridge from N7 together with “Fishball”, the talented VP of the Taiwanese group Mixter.
In the afternoon, again a lot of workshops in parallel, some groups received professional coaching from Naturally 7 or Deke Sharon. Deke also gave some deeper insight of how to produce a cappella for major media in his workshop „Behind the Scene: Aca in media“. And Ray Chu, the pop and artistic director of the Taiwan Choral Music Center, together with Christine Liu (musical director of Voco Novo) talked about how the western sound of a cappella meets the eastern image of poems in their workshop „Poetic A Cappella“.
I had a talk with Ray on how A Cappella developed in Taiwan.
|Interview with „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu from Taiwan
Juliana: Ray Chu, you are the „Aca Papa“ of Taiwan or even Asia. Everyone who knows you simply loves you! What have you done, what is your secret…?
Ray: I love them too, that’s simple.
Juliana: (laugh) A Cappella in Taiwan is becoming more and more popular and Taiwanese a cappella groups are increasingly successful all around Asia. The Wanted, a Taiwanese group of six high school students, won the 2015 China Competition as well as the Asia Cup Competition a few days ago. How would you describe the development of a cappella in Taiwan?
Ray: In Taiwan, what we did is we invited a lot of European groups coming to Taiwan to have „tour concerts“. Every group who came had about 10 to 12 concerts all over Taiwan in different cities. We did that since 2005 until now, so it’s been many years by now. So, many cities, many places, many groups have seen good groups from Europe. So, they have opened their eyes and their ears. I think, that is the most important contribution to their improvement. They can hear a good sound, so they can imitate or have a good choice of repertoire. I think it is a very good method to let them learn. Actually, Taiwanese a cappella started really late, about 15 years later than Japan, Korea and also Singapore. But now, we catch up. I think, this is all thanks to the many international groups visiting us. And we have a lot of international events in Taiwan. I think, our competitions are the most significant competitions in whole Asia, because we invite all the champions and winners from all over the world to compete in Taiwan. So, our competitions become really high standard.
Juliana: Would you say that A Cappella in Taiwan is more developing and copying Western styles or do they develop their own style.
Ray: At the beginning it was more like Western styles. We learnt a lot from them. And then we were thinking, what do we have ourselves. So, what Christine (Liu) and I am doing, we are doing a lot of poem rearrangements in Taiwan that we use a lot of oriental or Chinese elements into rearrange or compose these poems and rearrange by foreigners like some Chinese arrangers like Christine. So we did a lot of oriental things now. And I think it is very successful. West and East, the combination of melody and western language, music language, pop language, jazz language… It is suitable, a very good combination.
Juliana: What is your impression about the Asia Cup winners „The Wanted“?
Ray: Well, of course, they are very good. But they are still high school or just graduated. I am waiting for them if they can still continue at college time. And they have to go through military service and all these things. So, looking at their future, of course … We will see.
Juliana: Deke Sharon said, they have the potential to become the Pentatonix of Asia.
Ray: Well, that must be after college, after military service. They have to be stable in life first. They are still students. I don’t want them to be professional in college time, they have to finish their studies. They have to grow up also mentally and they have to be mature before doing these things. This is better for them (laugh)
Juliana: I am really interested in your special method of teaching without scores, the chord singing. You are even teaching a choir of blind singers.
Ray: Yes, I do. Of course, they have to learn by listening. So, actually I use a software called Vocaloid, a singing voice synthesizer which can read out the lyrics, even the Chinese lyrics. So I can divide the parts for them with lyrics. So with this software it is easier now. But still,every time, every song that I use Vocaloid, I need 3 to 4 hours to finish all the individual parts for them to practice.
Juliana: How do you approach your choir of blind people? Is there anything special you have to prepare or consider?
Ray: Actually, I treat them like anybody else. That’s the right way. Don’t treat them like they are blind. Sometimes, I even say: „Look at that“ – They will say „you know I can’t see“ – „Oh, I’m sorry!“ (laugh). You know, just purposely treat them like ordinary people. That’s the way.
Juliana: I wish you great success in the future, continue your fantastic contribution to choir music and a cappella! We love you all! (laugh)
Ray: I love you all!
Just 4 hours before the VAF Concert and our opening performance, we had our second and last 90-minutes-class of Single Singers. Since last rehearsal we lost about 20 people, maybe they were too scared to perform. But we won Kaichiro Kitamura, a brilliant vocal percussionist from Japan, who would support us on stage. I forgot to mention that the two songs we were intending to sing were arrangements from DeltaCappella, the special guests from Memphis, Tennessee, and from Naturally 7, the master group of this festival.
I don’t know if the idea of singing „Easy“ in front of DeltaCappella and singing „Soldier Down“ in front of Naturally 7 was more exciting or more frightening, especially at that level of practice. Never ever have I been so ill-prepared before going on stage. But the rehearsal turned out to be my favorite moment of the day. None of us expected this big surprise: both groups DeltaCappella and Naturally 7 joined our last rehearsal, practiced and sang with us. Standing next to Garfield Buckley and singing my Solo of Soldier Down with him – it is hard to describe, but it felt just like his soul was reaching directly to my heart and without any words he was teaching me how to sing and feel this song. Vocal music is indeed strong and intimate. This was absolutely my moment of the day! Thank you, Garfield!
A snapshot of Single Singers’ rehearsal with Naturally 7.