Feels like heaven
by Tobias Hug, the Swingle Singers
Take 6, The New York Voices, The Real Group, Rhiannon, Rajaton, Vocal Line, Jazzchor Freiburg, Gene Puerling, Phil Mattson…If you were to draw a picture of an cappella paradise, a vocal jazz heaven, that would come pretty close to it! And yet, this was the line-up of an actual festival that triggered and inspired a series of new festivals all over Europe, yes all around the world.. It was the line-up of the 1st Vocal Jazz Summit! But not only were these groups performing, but they were actually staying in Mainz .. and they were teaching! A masterclass with Marc Kibble coaching with Peder Karlson, a scat lesson with Darmon Meader.. and then listening to the grandseigneurs of vocal jazz bantering on stage in the evening followed by a concert of Montezumas Revenge.. This festival was one of a kind. dozens of groups from all over Europe came to stay, to listen, to learn, to sing.. and to enjoy the company of the greatest groups on this planet.
I think everyone went away transformed.. and took the idea to their homelands.. the Real Group started their very own, wonderful Real Festival in Sweden and Amazing Voice in South Korea, Jens Johanson from Vocal Line initiated the Aarhus Vocal Festival (the first edition was actually before the 1st VJS), Cosmos took the spirit to the Baltics… Other, already established festivals thrived: The german festivals in Leipzig and in Hannover, Vokal Total in Austria and Solevoci in Italy – they have all have come to age and matured into prestigious, established festivals, developed their core audiences, grabbed a fair bit of media attention.. and ultimately spread the word of a cappella to the common man… many more festivals are springing up all over the place – and of course I haven’t even mentioned yet the homeland of contemporary a cappella, the USA.
We all know that cappella is cool – and fortunately, this has finally caught on. One of the reasons is that a cappella has finally come out of its niche.
An important step was to bridge the gap between contemporary a cappella and the choral scene. The two didn’t really connect until a few years ago (if you ignore the more choral a cappella groups like the Kings Singers).. Now contemporary a cappella groups are featured at every larger choral festival, be it Rajaton at Europa Cantat and the World Choir Symposium. Thus a large market has opened for a cappella groups.
Another avenue, another aspect of vocal music, that has boomed beyond belief in recent years, is the beatbox scene. Initially, beatboxing was purely a solo exercise, a way to show off how many crazy sounds and beats one could fit into 90 seconds… because the platform to perform these were the battles. The last decade has seen beatboxing going mainstream in pop music, but also a new generation of beatboxers has emerged: They can not only can drop amazing beats, but have a lot of other skills: they can sing, perform like a stand-up comedian.. and they are working together with other musicians ! UK beatboxers have been at the forefront of this: Killa Kela creating his R&B crew “Spitkingdom” which included MCs, DJs and singers, Beardyman working together with “Flutebox” Nathan Lee and including visual artists like Mr. Hopkinson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fC65sy9tzY), Shlomo creating his “Vocal Orchestra” with the Swingle Singers and collaborating with anyone from Bjoerk to Jarvis Cocker.. A cappella obviously has picked up on beatboxing.. Vocal Percussion is something featured now in most groups, but a cappella and “beatbox” as such hadn’t really embraced each other..yet!
So this is partly what this Vocal Jazz Summit is about – vocal percussion and beatboxing are a major focus. And the person who has been blending these two the most seemlessly is a humble bloke from Liedekerke, Belgium called Roxorloops. He also happens to be Belgian Beatbox Champion, came 2nd in the World Championships and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential beatboxers worldwide. (Ask any beatboxer – he will have memorized several of Roxorloops’ routines. Ask the godfather of beatbox, Rahzel and he will tell you how he learnt from this young chap coming onto stage - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R-5VnZkoY4&feature=related)
Apart from pursuing his solo carreer, Roxorloops is also providing sound effects for a theatre company – and he beatboxes with a tremendous a cappella group called “Whitloof Bay”. Whitloof Bay’s sound has the warmth of the Real Group, their arrangements are uniquely original (you’ll hear a lot of french and quebecois songs) – and Roxorloops’ beatbox gives it a subtle yet driving rhythmical foundation that is unrivalled. It is to this date the best attempt to incorporate a beatboxer into an a cappella group. Roxorloops will also feature in the opening concert of the Swingle Singers. The Swingles have been working regularly in the UK with Shlomo but have also forged a close relationship with Roxorloops, who brings not only his beats but also his tremendous musicality to the groups classical as well as the more contemporary repertoire that is featured on the new release of “Ferris Wheels”.
So here are four reasons to attend the Vocal Jazz Summit:
The line-up: The Real Group, Manhattan Transfer, The Swingle Singers..
A stellar line-up that you won’t easily catch anywhere else. In addition you’ll see some of the most promising up-and-coming groups: norwegian “Pust” is one of the most original a cappella groups you’ll have heard in many years, Whitloof Bay personally blew me away when I heard them for the first time ! The last VJS was a major milestone/breakthrough for groups like Rajaton .. discover the next rising star..
The Summit will feature afternoon concerts, a market place to meet other groups and professionals, the coachings.. You’ll have a chance to hang out with the performing groups, get their advice and meet like-minded groups and singers. The atmosphere is about sharing, learning and making music together. Listen to the Manhattan Transfer share their secrets as they let you in one of their rehearsals!
In the 3-day workshop “Beatbox and Beyond” you’ll have the chance to work with four unique creative vocalists on beatboxing, vocal percussion, rhythm skills, on improvisation, on exploring the sheer limitless possibilities of the human voice, as well as how to use those skills in a group context. (Roxorloops, Kevin Fox, Tobias Hug and french vocal enfant terrible Jerome Colloud will be teaching). Roxorloops will also perform his a cappella group “Whitloof Bay” and have a guest appearance with the Swingle Singers.
For three days, you’ll be able to get coaching with all of these amazing groups: Janis Siegel (ManTran), Anders Jalkeus (TRG), Kevin Fox from the Swingles (ex-Cadence).. a unique possibility to learn the tricks of the trade from some of the most experienced and insightful folks around ! Your group will improve immensely!
I will certainly be there :-)