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Artikel Tagged ‘vokal total’

Vokal Total Concert Festival 2015

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, November 2015

Vokal Total 2015 in Munich – a series of a cappella concerts

Oops, Vocal Blog “Asia” from Vokal Total in Munich??? Yes, it’s me again, traveling around the globe to visit the biggest A Cappella Festival in Germany: Vokal Total. Don’t confuse it with the International A Cappella Competition vokal.total in Graz. Munich’s Vokal Total is a 3-months series of a cappella concerts (October to December) bringing the crème de la crème of vocal bands not only from Germany but from various countries to Munich. It is a pity not living close by, but me coming from Shanghai – there is no excuse for anyone in Europe to not visit this amazing festival. Thanks to the variety of different vocal groups, you will for sure find the right concert and it is also thanks to Romy Schmidt who’s hosting the Vokal Total that every year you can see the top groups and high potential newcomer groups performing in one of the 3 event locations Tonhalle, Freiheiz or Spectaculum Mundi.

Asking Romy about her personal favorite and highlight, she doesn’t know where to start and where to end, her eyes sparkling and you can feel her enthusiasm with which all the audience gets infected sooner or later.

Vokal Total 2015 – that’s 26 concerts, 37 vocal bands:

Maybebop - picture taken by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

Maybebop – picture taken by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

The old stagers of contemporary A Cappella in Germany like the Wise Guys, Six Pack or Maybebop, a huge number of local heroes like La Psychotta, aMuSing, VoiceBreak, One World Project, Terzinfarkt, in-Voice, bar nineteen or Wonnebeats.

Internationally well-known choirs like the Brasilian choir Cantares from Munich, the Jazzchor Freiburg or Voices In Time.

International groups like Cadence and Eh440 from Canada, Rock4, The Junction and iNtrmzzo from the Netherlands, Vocal Six from Sweden, Safer Six and zwo3wir from Austria, INVIVAS from Switzerland, FOOL MOON from Hungary.

Many more stars and rising stars of the a cappella horizon: Viva Voce, Delta Q, basta, ONAIR, Füenf, A Cappella hoch 4, malebox, Vocal Recall, Les Brünettes, str8voices, cash-n-go, Suchtpotential, Elevator Pitch.

What’s so special about Vokal Total and how did a cappella evolve in Germany? – Who knows better than Maybebop, the outstanding vocal band from Northern (!) Germany. Maybebop didn’t miss a single Vokal Total.

 

 

You shouldn’t wait long though to get your tickets. Most of the concerts get sold out very fast and people will queue in front of the entrance hoping to get one of the few remaining tickets.

The 8 last chances, unless you can wait until Vokal Total 2016:

Fri 27.11.2015 – The Junction (Spectaculum Mundi)

Sat 28.11.2015 – Delta Q (Spectaculum Mundi)

Sun 29.11.2015 – Rock4 (Spectaculum Mundi)

Fri 4.12.2015 – basta (Freiheiz)

Sat 5.12.2015 – ONAIR (Freiheiz)

Sun 6.12.2015 – Füenf (Spectaculum Mundi)

Sat 12.12.2015 – A Cappella hoch 4 (Freiheiz)

Sun 13.12.2015 – Voices In Time (Freiheiz)

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of Vokal Total. Like most of the visitors who want to come back every year, I am already looking forward and very curious who will be the newcomers and top groups participating in 2016. Stay tuned!

And The Winner Is: Sonic Suite!

by Sonic Suite (Germany)

 

Back home (meaning Berlin, Münster, Hannover and Weimar), still amazed by what we have experienced in Graz:

 

9 a.m. Münster, Germany. Pouring Rain. Hair looks terrible. We are starting our road trip throughout Germany heading to Graz, Austria, where the vokal.total festival takes place. Most of the time we spend sleeping, while Tilo is driving. The remaining time of the journey consists of oranges, crossword puzzles and nonstop music hits (from the radio, or alternatively directly from us). After a while we enter Austria and our sound technician Kai gets to prove his driving skills. So many mountains and tunnels, not a good time for reading, so we play word games and have intense discussions about the rules (at this point thanks to Nik Grunwald for introducing us to these games).After passing Klaus, Graz can finally be read on the street signs. A little later we are standing in front of a mountain and are happy that the Dom is in and not on top of the mountain! The menu of the restaurant at the bottom of this very mountain has a lot of German words which we have never heard before because it is Austrian German, but in the end we are full and happy.

 

The place we stay at for the next days is a school located somewhat outside of Graz, which we share with three other a cappella groups. It feels a little bit like taking a school trip and the girls make plans to trick the boys, but we fall asleep too soon. As the next day arrives the school trip is over, it is competition day!

We are leaving for sound check in the morning, everything coming from the speakers to the audience sounds fine. Our monitor sound is not quite perfect yet and once again, we wish for in-ear monitoring (soon, soon!). Afterwards, we take a little siesta, some are reading at the pool, which is followed by ironing, rehearsing and dressing up (in this order) .

 

The evening comes closer. As we arrive at the venue “Hartmuth und die Hitmaschine” are looping themselves right into the heart of the audience and of Sonic Suite. We are impressed and thrilled by all the creativity, talent and enthusiasm in this room!

Our moment is now coming closer, we are walking towards the stage, taking our mics and switching them on. The host of the evening, Fii, is announcing Sonic Suite and we walk on stage. The moment Indra and Frieder get into the groove of “Weren’t You The One” we all stop thinking about this being a competition and just do our very best. Jury member Kim Nazarian (New York Voices) is clapping along, sweat runs down our smiling faces, Victor and Vinh sing the battle of their life over “Best friend’s Blues”  as if they really had a girl to fight about and with the last mellow chord, everything is already over. Now it is time for a beer and enjoying the rest of the evening!

 

There are many great moments later that evening: Musix, The Boxettes from London, MICappella from Singapore, Maytree from Korea and of course the legendary Fii from Austria. Then finally, the moment arrives when the Jury is walking on stage to announce the diplomas (there are bronze, silver and gold diplomas), the audience favourite award plus the ranking for 3rd 2nd and 1st prize. Each group sends one member on stage as a group representative. Sonic Suite is represented by Indra who takes his place besides Neo from the Boxettes. All members of Sonic Suite feel their heartbeat accelerating. After the announcements for bronze and silver diplomas, it becomes clear that we have a realistic chance to get a golden diploma.  Then, for the first time, we have the slight feeling that we might have achieved something. When shortly after that thought we hear “And the winner of this year’s vokal.total 2011 in the pop music category is…-wait for it-…Sonic Suite!”

 

Indra with judge Andrea Figallo

WOW! Really? What is happening? Luckily the adrenalin shoves aside the tiredness and we perform a joy-infused “Hey Now”, with Lena singing her soul out!

The whole evening, it flashes through our minds that we actually won. After hitting the dancefloor with some brandnew moves we head home and the feeling of a school trip crawls back into our thoughts. But again we fall asleep before we can put some toothpaste onto the boys’ doorknobs.

The prize winners’ concerts the next evening are all absolutely awesome and I am very proud to surprise Hi-Five with a “Je kan met mij ook Nederlands praten, hoor”.

 

On our way back to the school/hotel we once again sing hits from the 80´s, 90´s and today loudly in the car in various keys, but always from the bottom of our hearts („and so we goo to the eeend ooof the road“, „Heal the woooorld“ , „part time loveeeer“ , etc. ). Our baritone Vinh is singing us to sleep from the shower room and the next morning our intense short trip and adventure in Graz is already over. 8 a.m. Pouring rain. Hair looks terrible. But this time we got a golden diploma and an award in a frame.

 

Sonic Suite with judge Kim Nazarian (NY Voices) and The Ward Swingle Award

We have met so many fantastic groups and people, a lot of them are visiting vokal.total on a regular basis, because of the atmosphere and the feeling. Thanks to the whole team once again for the perfect organization and a huge thank you to all the groups for inspiring us!

 

Our resumée: vokal.total, it was „legen – wait for it… dary“

 

 

 

Thanks to the winners for this great blog post. And thanks to everybody who makes his or her comment: Because you were in Graz, too. Because you think that Sonic Suite is awesome. Because you want to complain that your group didn’t win. Because you wanted to say something about competitions in general. Because…just go ahead – thanks for joining the conversation.

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A Cappella Hit Machines, Adrenaline & a Lonely Jogger

by Florian Städtler

Me and Jamie...ehm...Hartmuth...well...Patrick Oliver (muSix)

Dear readers,

this time I wanted to write a little tour report about a trip to Graz.
If you have never heard about this medium-sized Austrian (Styrian) town, you are probably not alone. Especially if you’re based outside Europe. But on planet a cappella, big things are not always happening in metropolitan areas.

OK, we have Los Angeles A Cappella, London A Cappella, Vocal Nation in New York, Festival für Vokalmusik Leipzig, Voice Mania in Vienna and the Hongkong A Cappella Festival to name a few of the big city festivals.
But who of us would ever have heard of places like Raleigh/USA (SoJam), Aarhus/DK (Aarhus Vocal Festival), Lörrach/GER (Stimmen Festival) or Varese/ITA (Solevoci Festival)? And where the hell is Graz?

Graz (293.ooo inhabitants) is the second-largest Austrian town, situated in Styria, the region next to Slovenia. It was given the title of World Cultural Heritage, has an opera house and many small and medium-sized cultural venues and events. With it’s beautiful surroundings, its old city center and the Schlossberg mountain that offers a wonderful overview over Styria (die Steiermark) it’s also a European tourist attraction.

If you arrive in Graz and see all the restaurants serving these tasty Austrian dishes (pork leg soup, Tafelspitz, Kaiserschmarrn and other specialties), see the architecture which is partly ugly 60s post-war style, partly neo-classicist pomp, you would expect everything there but a vocal music festival.

The jury (from right to left): Matthias Becker, Anders Jalkeus, Kim Nazarian, Andrea Figallo

But that’s what Graz has: One of the leading European vocal music events.
And it’s not a line-up of stars that makes “vokal.total” one of the hidden champions of a cappella and beatboxing. It’s the fact that for more than a decade, the vokal.total a cappella competition (founded by the late Baldur Heckel, a long-time chairman of the Styrian Choral Association) presents the future of international a cappella by giving golden, silver and bronze diplomas to the most promising newcomers taking part in the competition.

As I might have written here before: I have my doubts regarding making music “against each other”. Our beatboxer friends, who always kick off vokal.total with a four-hour beatboxing marathon entitled “Emperor of the Mic”, are even “battling” each other. Although most reasonable (and grown-up) people would question martial rhetoric when making music, this all is surely not as dangerous as it sounds.  When you see those youngster producing the most incredible beats and sounds, it turns out to be more like a battle of testosterone than a real fight.

Talking of hormones brings me back to the three competitions, classical, jazz and pop (The “comedy” category had to be cancelled because of a lack of applicants): There are good things about competitions and one very important thing is the adrenaline involved. This hormone makes people get into a state of complete concentration and helps to bring out the best out of each and every group or individual singer. The 20 minutes before a highly interested and knowledgeable audience and four internationally renowned judges are the ultimate test for all of the participating groups. And both things that don’t work as planned and things that are performed perfectly help the groups to learn and get a new perspective on their music. The judges, Kim Nazarian (The New York Voices), Anders Jalkeus (The Real Group), Andrea Figallo (The Flying Pickets, The Ghost Files) and German choral and arranging guru Matthias Becker not only listened carefully to all the vocal groups but coached each of them individually. For many of the participants, this was probably the most valuable part of the Graz trip.

Music-wise, I have to add. Because – as in most of these a cappella events – there is this unbelievable spirit of community and communication, this high level of positive energy despite of a growing sleep deficit and  despite the 1,2,3, many beers at the legendary after-competition party on Wednesday.

If you come to Graz and plan to see the whole (!) competition, you face an a cappella marathon. Just check out the list of all the participating ensembles:

Emperor of The Mic
Alem (FRA), Babell (GER), Ball-Zee (UK), Dharni (SNG), Heartgray (CAN), KrnFx (CRO), Primitiv (BEL) and Slizzer (LUX); WINNER: Dharni (SNG)

Classical Category
Vocalica (LAT), Jazz & Gospel Company (ITA), Latvian Voices (LAT), Octavians (GER), Himmelstöchter (GER), Cuesta Chamber Singers (USA); WINNER: Latvian Voices (LAT)

Jazz Category
Jazz & Gospel Community (ITA), HiFive (NED), Cuesta Voce (USA), Rave Vocal Band (NED), MayTree (KOR), Juicy Blue, BIT (SLO), Singer Street (HUN), Moment Singers (TWN); WINNER: Singer Street  (HUN); AUDIENCE PRIZE: MayTree (KOR)

Pop Category
Non Stop Vokal (HUN), Latvian Voices (LAT), audio quattro (AUT), Hartmuth und die Hitmaschine (GER), Rave Vocal Band (NED), Quattro Pro (AUT), HiFive (NED), MayTree (KOR), Sonic Suite (GER), muSix (GER), The Boxettes (UK), MICappella (SNG); WINNER: Sonic Suite (GER); AUDIENCE PRIZES: Hartmuth und die Hitmaschine (GER), The Boxettes (UK)

Indra (Sonic Suite) receiving the 1st prize (pop) on stage

Highlights? A great many, I can only name a few: The Latvian Voices, winners of the jazz category teamed up with two beatboxers at the winners’ concert +++ Anders Jalkeus multi-lingual (“Wie sagt man, Matthias?”) co-mceeing with Matthias Becker +++ Reinhard Pongratz‘ (the heart and soul and co-founder of the festival) last time on stage as head of the festival +++ meeting Ray Yl Chu and Christine Liu, the movers and shakers of Asian a cappella +++ two unbelievably groovy, though completely different German vocal acts: loopmachine duo Hartmuth und die Hitmaschine (feat. Berlin sandbox friends Lukas/maybebop and Patrick/muSix) and the phenomenal pop category winners Sonic Suite.

Sonic Suite certainly deserve a special mention: The winner of the pop category made the biggest progress of any a cappella group I’ve ever heard, since I had seen them a few months ago. Congratulations to Tilo Beckmann, the man behind Sonic Suite! Promoters call him now, if you want a top-notch international class, innovative and super-listenable pop a cappella act on your stage. (Go to www.leading-voices.com to book the group).

Servus, Graz. Servus, Reinhard. Danke, vokal.total.

P.S.
Needless to say that nobody joined me when doing the Vocal Jogs no. 3 & 4…unfortunately I didn’t know that HiFive member Pablo is also a runner, I put him on the list like Sofie (HiFive), Peter Martin Jacob (Magenta), Kate Brown (the new Boxette), Sander Gieling (Rave Vocal Band & Vocal Jazz and Pop Days) and the other potential Vocal Joggers not present in Graz (Tine Fris and Line Groth Riis/Postyr Project), Paul & Barney Smith (VOCES8), Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers)

Can these shoes be wrong, Alyusha Chagrin (The Boxettes)?

I won’t lose faith in you, my friends, I’m looking forward to the day of the first collective singing, drinking AND running event. You won’t disappoint me.


Have you been attending vokal.total? Do you like or dislike competitions? What do you think about competitive music events in general? Do you know other competitions you can recommend? And why that?

You see, this blog needs your feedback, so feel free to use the comment function of Vocal Blog to serve the ultimate purpose of this global a cappella communication baby: Share good ideas about vocal, a cappella and choral music. Thanks for joining the conversation!

vokal.total 2011 – Europe’s top a cappella competition

30. Mai 2011 Keine Kommentare

Reinhard Pongratz (director vokal.total) interviewed by Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog)

The heat is almost on: From July 26 to 29 the best newcomers of Europe will compete at vokal.total 2011. This is an exclusive interview with the co-founder and director of Europe’s to talent showcase for vocal groups, Reinhard Pongratz.

Reinhard, the vokal.total festival has been around for quite a while. Tell our readers how it all began.

The Festival was founded by the Steirischer Sängerbund (Styrian Singers Association) in 1999 as a choir festival. The decision to become the first European competition event in the vocal music genre has made it as well-known and successful as it is today. Well, to be the first in a certain domain certainly helps.

As of today, the vocal.total competition is still working from the Styrian Singers Association headquarters building, but is an independent organisation with a unique profile and separate administration.

The competition is one of Europe’s most  renowned vocal, a cappella and beatbox events. Where exactly does it take place?

vokal total’s home is the city of Graz, Austria. The venue and central location of the festival is a cathredal built into a mountain. This “cave” of 20m x 12m x 28m garantuees both a fascinating atmosphere and an extraordinary acoustic situation.

The festival has grown throughout the years. Who are the people behind vokal.total?

Actually, there are still no full-time employees working for the festival. I’ve been working for vokal.total since 2000, when the actual competition was founded and I’m still working as a an IT teacher and part-time for the festival. And I’m still singing in a vocal group, vocal music is my love and my hobby.

But you are right, the workload is growing with every year of the festival. And in the weeks before the festival I’m working with a team that includes up to 20 colleagues when the festival goes ahead. And none of us is in it for the money, believe me!

Who had the idea of focussing on an all-competition event – did the Association ask you to do that?

No, it was mainly the idea of my predecessor, the late Baldur Heckel. I took over the organisation of vokal.total one year later, in 2001. In 2000 it was really small with just 8 groups taking part. But even then there were some great groups, for example the German maybebop, who were just starting their career back then.

Today the number of high-quality vocal groups is growing steadily. Are there groups who have won the competition and are still doing great?

Some groups have prevailed, other do not exist anymore. For those who are interested, you can look up the winners at our website www.vokal.at.

Tell us more about the competition itself – how does it work?

In the beginning there was only one category, but this was changed very soon. Currently the competition consists of four categories: jazz, pop, classical and comedy. The jury evaluates the performances according to clear rules and the three best groups are awarded with money and other prizes.

The contemporary vocal, a cappella and choral scene prides itself for being open and communicative, the singers love to share their music and their experience. How does this go with the character of a competition?

Our experience of more than ten years shows that a competitive event can be characterized by a friendly, cooperative and open atmosphere. In fact I found the event itself rather relaxed without any animosity. I think the very unusual venue, the hall in the Grazer Schlossberg, plays an important role in creating this harmonic and positive mood.

The winners are given the “Ward Swingle Award”, a tribute to the founder of the legendary Swingle Singers – how did that come about?

My former boss, the late Baldur Heckel came to know Ward when he was giving a workshop in Graz and took part in another workshop with his own group. From that time on, Baldur and Ward were in touch on a regular basis and when the competition took off in 2000, Baldur Heckel asked Ward Swingle to give his name to the prize of the competition – and the maestro said yes.

Now that more and more contemporary jazz & pop groups are looking for opportunities to present themselves to the public – what are the prerequisites to enter the vokal.total competition?

Many people think, only amateur groups can participate, which is not the case: Pro groups are allowed to enter the competition, too. However, there’s a limit to the numbers of singers in one group, which is 12. We decided so, because we want vokal.total to be a competition for vocal groups, not for jazz and pop choirs.

Of course, the quality of the musical performance is a criterion, when we choose the participants. And sometimes it’s difficult to assign a group to a certain category as not every style in vocal music and music in general is easily and clearly identifiable. It often turned out that it often were exactly these groups, that are very special. So we will probably never solve the “category problem” completely.

So we’re all looking forward to vokal.total 2011 – it’s an event worth attending for both singers and lovers of great music. Is there anything else, Reinhard, you want our readers to know?

Maybe it’s interesting that on the last day of the event, every participating group will get a free “feedback workshop” by a member of the jury, which most of the groups really appreciate.

For all vocal percussionists there’s one event , that’s a real must-attend: The “Emperor of the Mic” beatbox battle. For this event, our host Ivory Parker, invites the best European beatboxers to show their skills. Those artists receive personal invitations, the competition is not public.

One last little vokal.total story?

There are many wonderful stories, it’s hard to pick one out of more than a decade. Well, there’s actually one moment that has shivers running down my spine every time it happens: At the final party the participants gather at an elevator lifting hole that runs all through the mountain and sing together “spontaneously”. That’s a real highlight on the final day of the competition and an open-ended party.

You haven’t been to Graz yet? So it’s time to book your tickets now for a trip to the wonderful Steiermark region. You’re going to see the most talented young a cappella groups from all over Europe and meet the movers and shakers of the European a cappella scene. Well, yes, OK…most of them are very important.   (I’m going to be there, too… ;-)

If you want to tell the readers of Vocal Blog about your experiences with vokal.total or other competitions or want to write a blog post of your own, make your comment or send your article to info@vocal-blog.net. Thanks for joining the conversation!