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Home > Main > A Summit of Inspiration

A Summit of Inspiration

By Florian Städtler, SpielPlanVier

Expectations were high: The first Vocal Jazz Summit in 2005 was a spectacular event and a pioneering work. This festival was one of the first of its kind and set an outstanding benchmark with a unique line-up: Take Six, The New York Voices and The Real Group.

Soon after that, the vocal festival virus spread around Europe. In addition to the longtime a cappella Meccas “Solevoci” (, Voice Mania (, Leipzig A Cappella ( and Vokal Total ( some fantastic new events emerged. The Real Group invited 42 international groups to The Real Festival (, Vocal Line’s Jens Johansen founded the Aarhus Vocal Festival ( and more a cappella festivals are being planned in Soesterberg/NL, London/UK, Trondheim/NO and elsewhere.

Holger Wittgen, festival organizer for the German “Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz”, nevertheless worked hard to make a second edition of THE Summit possible. And he and his team succeeded. They put together a festival that no one, who took part will easily forget: A three-days beatbox masterclass with mouth percussion genius Roxorloops, coachings by Steve Zegree and members of the headlining ensembles, half a dozen highly talented young groups (Pust, Vocado, Touché, Vocaloca, Witloof Bay, Vocal Journey) and – of course – the stars: The Manhattan Transfer, The Swingle Singers and The Real Group.

If you thought this line-up with two living legends would be less hip and energetic than that of four years ago, the singers easily proved you wrong: ManTran presented a show that made clear that they are still the kings (and queens) of the Vocalese, four-part harmony jungle. The Swingles surprised many a listener with a singer-songwriter repertoire mixed very cleverly with only a few of the all-time classics (you know those      “Swingles ringtones” like Bach’s “Badinerie”). The Real Group, well, they are no less than a perfect work of art. Not even the fact, that one of their members had serious problems with her vocal chords which allowed them to do a 45 minute set only, could lessen the sheer joy you feel when listening to them.

The concerts were amazing, the audience – including lots of singers and hardcore a cappella fans – was enthusiastic. But even more impressive was the general mood during the whole festival. In workshops, coachings, masterclasses, at the cafeteria, the canteen or at the first-time ever Vocal Blog Market Place (the place where online contacts become offline friends) and in two public panels, the a cappella family met, talked, networked and learnt from each other.

To sum it up: These were days of pure inspiration, exhausting but wonderful. Let’s hope that we will all meet again soon, work on common ideas, give common concerts and create great music and better opportunities for all who love vocal music.

To stay in touch, I’m going to invite all the performing ensembles, the coaches and the organizers of the Vocal Jazz Summit 2009 to guest-blog a few lines on what they loved most at this very special festival. Of course it would also be interesting to learn more about their vision of a vocal and a cappella music in general and what they want to achieve with their groups. I’m really looking forward to the input of those who made the Summit an unforgettable event and the international a cappella scene so incredibly colourful, alive and kicking.

Freiburg, October 06, 2009

Florian Städtler

P.S. Vocal Blog plans to be present with its Live Market Place at the European top a cappella events of the future. If you have any suggestions in addition to those named above, feel free to get in touch with us or post them right here.

  1. Deborah
    6. Oktober 2009, 16:36 | #1

    I really enjoyed my day at the Vocal Summit…Vocal Journey, Swingle Singers, Touché….great music but am I the only one with the impression that the a cappella fans did not turn out as forcefully as they could have? …especially with that line up? Maybe Friday and Saturday picked up but I would love to see more of the young up- and -coming ensembles and choirs represented and furthering their horizons especially when these great musicians are at their doorstep!

  2. 6. Oktober 2009, 22:43 | #2

    Deborah, you’re so right. And that’s why we at Vocal Blog want to work hard for the goal of getting more attention for vocal and a cappella music. This community of acappellamaniacs must convince more people of how great and colourful this music is. Thanks for joining us – let’s meet at the Vocal Blog group at facebook, for example.
    Best, FSt/F L O R I A N

  3. 11. Oktober 2009, 16:04 | #3

    This was my first a cappella festival, so for me this was just :-o
    I will try to get the beatboxscene to get more interest in these kind of events as well! They can learn a lot, as did I ;-)

  4. 11. Oktober 2009, 18:45 | #4

    Although I’ve been an A Cappella lover for quite some time now I had not managed to see The Real Group or the Swingle Singers on stage before. So those two well-known names plus Manhattan Transfer caught my eye when I saw the flyer for the VJS. Immediately I decided that I HAVE to go to Mainz.

    The term “A Cappella heaven” really fits. It was so inspiring to be around all these great musicians all day, to have the opportunity to talk to them, to learn from them in workshops (I never imagined I would beatbox some day!), to meet people I had only known as profile photos before, to conspire with A Cappella activists, to sing with a spontaneously formed choir, to meet legend Ward Swingle and of course to see all these fantastic bands on stage. These days were just overwhelming. In my former job I was unhappy and ill. I’m thrilled and grateful that my business trips now are like that ;)

  5. 20. Oktober 2009, 16:42 | #5

    Hey Florian!

    Say, I heard that the Vocal Blog Marketplace is gonna take place at the Kulturbörse Freiburg. There´s certainly a lot of groups meeting there, how could one get to know the exact time and place?
    Best wishes,


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