2 months ago we got the mission to assemble an 18-headed choir for a concert at the “Solidarity of Arts Festival” in Gdansk (Poland). This choir should contest one part of the three hour programme with Bobby McFerrin . The music was a mixture of different songs from the “Master of Vocal Art” plus circlesong – improvisations. The highlight were musical pieces from VOCAbuLaries that came up in 2010 – wonderful compositions and arrangements by Roger Treece. The bases were McFerrin-motifs which Treece had found in Bobby’s sound archive.
Time was short, even more fantastic was the result. Without any reason we feared that we can’t get together enough colleagues of choice on a short-term basis. Due to the circumstance that everybody wanted and could take time off for this special concert, we didn’t have to compromise in choosing the best singers.
We all met on a sunny Sunday in the castle Baumersroda. The lord and the lady of the castle, Marschel Schöne and Garnet Meiß, along with their beautiful daughter Capaldi opened the gates and their hearts and prepared a classy home for the rehearsals for 4 days. In the ballroom of the castle we could begin to put the pieces of the concert together. On the second day Karen Goldfelder from New York City consorted with us. Karen is responsible for Bobby McFerrin’s concert programme in the agency „Original Artists“. Since she is a singer as well, we incorporated her in the choir as an additional alto singer. From the beginning, the collaboration with her has been pleasantly relaxing and extremely productive. In general, we realized that we showed a lucky hand in the assembly of voices, not only in connection with the consonance. Also the characters of the singers seemed to have a perfectly balanced and harmonic sound. All in all it was the ideal precondition for a successful project. All the participants were highly motivated and only focused on the common performance with „the voice“.
The musical work happened fast because everybody was very well prepared. Soon after, an euphoria started to spread due to the wonderfully homogenous and the enormously powerful sound that was rounded off by a clean intonation. Awareness grew that we were part of an unique ensemble of soloists and by courtesy of the sensitivity of each individual, no loner detuned the instrument “choir”.
All this happened in the marvellous ambience of the tenderly refurbished castle. We constantly caught ourselves saying: „Oh, how beautiful“. It got almost cheesy when a voice group assembled at the well to sing to the three peacocks of the house. We generally sang and practiced permanently and it wasn’t over after the rehearsals. It was then, during the jam-sessions, when it became clear what great artists were brought here together. The lord and the lady of the castle (we tenderly called them king and queen) cared for us discreetly but impressively, with an open fire, sauna, and good talks… The crowning glory of our stay was a trout meal, individually prepared by the king himself, at a festively decorated table with wines from the region.
With all our hearts we hit the road to Poland on Thursday morning at 4am. We went by plane from Berlin to Gdansk where we arrived tired out at about noon. But we didn’t have time to relax. The close-knit schedule instructed us to do the first rehearsal after two hours. And this rehearsal should have been our baptism of fire. It was the first time that the entire organizational staff along with the management, the sound engineering team, and of course Bobby McFerrin himself listened to the choir. You could sense the excitement among us (but luckily invisible for the eye). Especially Karen was nervous about the reactions. We were prepared for the possibility that Bobby could listen to our work without comment, give thanks, and leave – since he has also been distinctly exhausted after the long flight. However, all of these worries vanished when Bobby joined in the song “Come To Me” after the first beat and sang with us visibly impressed. His reaction afterwards was joy and relief for all of us: „I’ve never heard this tune so funky. Thank you so much. I was very tired, but now I’m revived “. But things turned out even better: Against all expectations he insisted to guide the 23rd psalm himself. This was a magical moment for all the persons present in the room. He said a big thank you to everyone for this beautiful moment and was profoundly touched. You could even see tears of emotion shine in some of the attendant listener’s eyes. After some circlesong-improvisations and the common singing of “Wailers” and “The Garden” from VOCAbuLaries, everyone was so enthusiastic about the power of voices that we spontaneously arrived at an unprecedented decision: For the first time in the history of VOCAbuLaries the musical pieces should be performed without the usually inevitable “backup tracks”. After this promising beginning we had a little time to explore the marvellous city centre of Gdansk.
On Friday, sound check and final rehearsal were on the schedule. Everything went well thanks to the impressive competence of the sound engineering crew around Daniel F. Vicari, who has been Bobby’s sound man for many years.
From then on everyone has been waiting for the big performance. The open-air-concert started at 9pm in the centre of Gdansk. Bobby’s backing musicians took turns on three stages that were located next to each other, while he attended the particular parts. The Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra that was conducted by Bobby started the evening off. The next part was the Polish jazz legend Urszula Dudziak.
Then it was up to us to give everything! The feedback of the approximately 35000 visitors to our “Come To Me” was overwhelming. And this even increased until our last song. Obviously, Bobby had as much fun as we had, and therefore it was a real treat to sing his songs with him. When we sang “Wailers” you could literally take hold of the energy between singers and the audience. This feeling changed into a pure euphoria on both sides. Fabulous – what a feeling!
But the night was still young, even though the majority of our work was done. At first, Slixs consorted with the Polish fusion band Laboratorium and Bobby for an interpretation of “Freedom Is A Voice”. After the Bulgarian choir The Bulgarian Voices – Angelite, the Atom String Quartet and the fantastic SpiritYOUall Part, all of the artists assembled around Bobby for the great final with the song “Glory”. That piece of music was acclaimed with a never-ending applause for a magnificent evening.
What should we say? Of course, there was an after show party suitable to the occasion with many good talks, fraternizations, bright faces of the artists, the organizers, and the management. And there was vodka, lots of vodka, until the new day dawned.
Was that it? No, this wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. On Sunday, just before our departure, we received the message from Bobby and the management that Slixs and friends are going to accompany the VOCAbuLaries tour in Europe next year in exactly the same ensemble. Somehow it was the only logical conclusion to this unbelievable week. Thanks to Karen Goldfeder, Maike Lindemann, Maria Sonnica Yepes Gutierrez, Sophie Grobler, Minerva Díaz Pérez, Jane Maturell, Irene Latzko, Christoph Mangel, Tim Ludwig, Stephan Eisenmann, Christian Nolte, Arno Brechmann and of cause to Bobby McFerrin!!!
Find more info at http://www.slixs.info/en/bobby-mcferrin-slixs-friends/