London A Cappella: Soundscapes and Miracles
Last weekend those who were lucky lived to see the birth of another great a cappella festival in Europe: London A Cappella took off at an impressive new location, King’s Place, close to King’s Cross in the centre of the British capital.
I was lucky to be guest at the opening concert, a show by the Swingle Singers who had the idea of a London festival for vocal and a cappella music. The group had recognized how such festivals as the German Vocal Jazz Summit, the Real Group’s Real Festival, Italy’s Solevoci or the Aarhus Vocal Festival can inspire the national and international scene.
The Swingles’ concert was another proof that this group, which was founded in 1963 (!), has re-invented itself and now has a strong profile as well as an stunning repertoire ranging from Bach classics to Björk soundscapes. It seems as if after a period of soulsearching the current line-up is determined to contribute something very special to their group’s history. The Swingles were the hippest act around back when they invented crossover in 1963. Now they’re in the process of getting even hipper when connecting their unique style and sound with 21st century pop and songwriter repertoire.
In addition to this insight, I was lucky to spend the time in London with two real a cappella luminaries of our time: Peder Karlsson (The Real Group) and Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers). Tobi’s place in Hackney Wick, one of the most exciting parts of East London is a former warehouse with a view on the future sites of the Olympic Games.
A highly inspiring place for spending some time with two guys like Peder and Tobi.
My stay itself started with a miracle. After a delayed flight from Basel, a train ride from Gatwick to London Victoria, the successful purchase of an Oyster card (a kind of credit card for London public transport), one of these strange slushy creations the English call sandwich, a ride on the Victoria line to Islington, a closed-down Overground line, an alternative bus ride to Hackney Wick and an iPhone powered walk/search around the block I finally saw the sign of Prince Edward Road. As I walked around one more corner – it was already a quarter to midnight – I saw a man getting out of a taxi. It was…I couldn’t believe it…Peder Karlsson!
I knew he planned to arrive with a late flight, too. But can you figure out the probability of him starting from Stockholm and me from Basel at different hours of the day, both flights delayed etc. and arriving at the same place exactly at the same minute?
We celebrated this miracle with a truly international late night dinner: Swedish cheese, pickled fish, herb schnaps and Knäcke bread, Tannenzäpfle Pils and ham from the Black Forest, British tea and Crème fraiche. We left the Norwegian goat cheese, tubed Swedish caviar and Swiss chocolate for later and went to bed after a miraculous experience of travel, food and talk about European cultural variety.
P.S. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see all the London A Cappella concerts. If some of you were there and would like to write about it, feel free to send me your reviews or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.