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Archiv für Oktober, 2010

The Real Role Model – Thoughts on Peder Karlsson’s Very Last Concert

25. Oktober 2010 4 Kommentare

by Florian Städtler from Stockholm/Sweden

If you’ve ever played or sung in a band yourself, you certainly know how difficult it is, to keep a group together over the years. People change, personal goals differ, members start to miss family life. Constant touring, recording and trying to make ends meet without losing artistic integrity take their toll.

Groups that are exceptionally talented and able to manage the challenge of functioning as an effective social system over decades are rare. But those who make this kind of socio-musical miracle happen, often turn into unique artistic phenomenons.

In the world of vocal and a cappella music, I’m thinking of pioneering icons like Take6, The Swingle Singers, The King’s Singers, Rajaton, Rockapella and the Swedish vocal music miracle, The Real Group.

The Real Group featuring new baritone Morten Vinther Sorensen

Founded 26 years ago by music students Anders Edenroth, Anders Jalkeus and Peder Karlsson, they have developed into a role model for countless young a cappella ensembles from Europe and all over the world. As every long-term musical project, they had line-up changes, they had fantastic times and average years, sometimes they probably had to struggle to keep the project on track. But eventually, they managed to subordinate their egos to a common musical goal: A work of art called the The Real Group.

Today, the group keeps on surprising and innovating the scene. Last year, they launched The Real Community, a social network for vocal groups and singers. And very soon they will present the first a cappella online school, The Real Academy.

The Way to The Real Academy?

Which brings me to my first ever trip to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm: After 26 years as a baritone with The Real Group, Peder Karlsson decided to leave the group. If you ever had the privilege to meet Peder in person, I probably don’t have to tell you that he is a wonderful singer, an outstanding composer/arranger and a truly hilarious guy. He loves to teach and has passed on his experience and know-how to endless numbers of young, talented singers. Time spent with Peder is rewarding, inspiring and certainly good fun. And here’s the good news: Peder’s place on stage will be taken by Danish baritone Morten Vinther Sorensen. But Peder will stay on the scene, as he himself announced in his parting speech at Fasching Jazz Club last Sunday night: “I will become headmaster of a new music school, The Real Academy.” Peder, this sounds like another exciting, new chapter in your life.

Peder says goodbye.

Needless to say, the private farewell concert in Stockholm was a once-in-a-lifetime event, hard to describe by a humble blogger. Similar to the London Leaving Do of Swingles tenor Willy Eteson the week before, it was a family and industry meeting alike, full of musical surprises, special guests and vocal music of the highest imaginable level. The Real Group presented a repertoire of classics and current arrangements, bringing back former soprano Margareta Bengtson and featuring new baritone Morten Vinther Sorensen. When Margareta sang the original “En Sommar”, both singers and audience couldn’t hold back the tears and shortly afterwards, they let out all the tension in a stunning version of the Basie swing classic “Splanky”.

Margareta Bengtson

As if this wasn’t enough, the final set of the concert brought on another Nordic a cappella sensation, Rajaton from Finland. 13 world-class vocalists on the small Fasching stage, expressing sheer joy for and love to what they do, was more than touching. It was one of these rare moments, when you suddenly seem to realize that everything we do in writing, arranging, singind and organizing music makes perfect sense. Simply magic!

Rajaton & The Real Group with guests

To get a little impression of this atmosphere, I’ve added an audio track to this post: “Chili con Carne“, one of The Real Group’s biggest hits. Even though it’s not the sound you are used to when talking of Rajaton and The Real Group: You can feel the good vibes of that special night. More music from this event might be available soon: I was told there will be video footage of one real camera and up to 30 iPhones at soon.

Enough said.

Farewell Peder Karlsson.

A role model in vocal music.

Tack. Thank you. Danke.

P.S.  Peder wrote a touching message at his blog in The Real Community. To read it, click here.

You can find more pictures of the event at the Vocal Blog group on Facebook. If you’re not a member yet, join right now!

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A Decade of Swingledom – Willy Eteson Says Goodbye

23. Oktober 2010 11 Kommentare

Kineret Erez (Ex-Swingles alto), Florian Städtler, Jo Riley (Ex-Swingles alto)

Willy Eteson & The Swingles Choir

Ward Swingle conducting 50% of all Swingle Singers ever

by Florian Städtler

Last Tuesday I caught a glimpse of a cappella history. After more than ten years of being the high tenor (and business director) of the London based Swingle Singers, Richard James “Willy” Eteson had his leaving do: He said farewell and goodbye with an extraordinary concert and an after-show party that was both a Swingles family meeting and a summit of UK and EU a cappella luminaries. Ward Swingle himself was attending the event and conducted an amazing encore: 35 (!) Swingle and Ex-Swingle Singers sang his arrangement of “Country Dances” – the crowd went wild and will never forget this special night in a small theatre in Holborn/London.

For many people this was a night of mixed emotions: For Willy himself, who is going to run a British deli shop after the end of his pro singing career. For Jo Goldsmith-Eteson, his wife and Swingles soprano, who had her last concert with her husband and the first with his successor, new Swingles tenor Oliver Griffiths. For the six other members of the group, who will miss Willy’s experience both as a performer and as business advisor. And of course for all the people who love this wonderful chap, his wit, his humour and his friendship. Willy, we all will miss you and you are one more reason to come to London on a regular basis (even if I will never get used to lukewarm beer without bubbles).

Thinking about it from the business side of things, changes in professional a cappella groups (and in amateur groups as well) are both a natural process and maybe the biggest challenge for a musical project. How to keep the spirit, the uniqueness alive, how to follow a long-term artistic strategy, how to keep the everyday business going when long-time members say goodbye? Ask Rockapella, where Kevin Wright left after almost a decade. Ask The King’s Singers who had to replace Stephen Connolly. Ask the a cappella miracle Naturally 7, where Jamal Reed called it a day. Or what about the icon of Scandinavian a cappella, The Real Group, who will say goodbye to Peder Karlsson after 25 (!!) years?

Costa Peristianis (Swingles Agent Worldwide), Alex Godfree (Voices Festival UK), FSt

Life will go on. Because the outstanding groups have such strength and spirit (and professional organisation), that the core of what makes them unique will remain. New, talented singers will come and replace their predecessors, bringing the freshness and excitement that every running system needs from time to time. And if leaving means such fantastic events as last Tuesday’s in London, saying goodbye becomes a bit easier. By the way: I will test this kind of experience again next Sunday, flights are booked to Stockholm. For a double concert of Rajaton and The Real Group plus what seems to be a Nordic A Cappella Summit Party. I looking forward to meeting my yet virtual a cappella friends Joakim Skog, Jussi Chydenius (Rajaton) and Sebastian Rilton (Ex-Rilton’s Vänner) together with Emma, Katarina, Anders, Jalkan and (of course) Peder of the one and only Real Group. Peder Karlsson, a living legend of a cappella and a role model in music education will celebrate his career…and his birthday!

Roxorloops (Beatbox Vice World Champion, BEL), FSt (Vocal Blog, GER), Jes Sadler (Ex-Swingles baritone, UK), Michele Manzotti (Swingles biographer, ITA)

I will certainly post a little ditty about my first trip to Sweden, but before that send you some of the snapshots from Willy Eteson’s Leaving Do. Feel free to post your comments and let me know what you think about line-up changes in a cappella groups.

Last Woman Standing: Wendy Nieper (Ex-Swingles alto)

You can leave your hat on...Tobias Hug and Kevin Fox (The Swingles rhythm section)

A time (and party) to remember: FSt (Vocal Blog), Jo Eteson (Swingles soprano), CJ Neale (Swingles tenor), Kevin Fox (Swingles bass), Joanna Forbes-L'Estrange (Ex-Swingles soprano), Sara Brimer (Swingles soprano), Lucy Bailey (Swingles alto)

Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog/SpielPlanVier) with DaSwinglesBoss #goodtimes

Sara Brimer (Swingles soprano) - Happy Birthday!! (with Swiss Chocolate powered by Vocal Blog)

My favourite pic: Oliver Griffiths (new wingles tenor), Willy Eteson (Ex-Swingles tenor), Jo Eteson (Swingles soprano)

Passing on the (Chorizo) sausage: From Willy (Ex-tenor) to Oli (Oliver Griffiths, new tenor)

Tobias Hug (Swingles Bass, MC with a whig) and Julie Kench (Ex-Swingles soprano) reading a self-written poem for Willy

Clare Wheeler, Twitter Princess aka @dinkyswingle and Swingles alto & arranger

Melancholy Willy

She's got the look(s)! Lucy Bailey aka @pottylean, Swingles alto

The Music of Bach – an inspiration to us all?

8. Oktober 2010 Keine Kommentare

Paul Smith VOCES8by Paul Smith, VOCES8

The sun sets early over Jerusalem at the moment.  The clocks went back last week in Israel so that (according to our hotel receptionist) dusk would come and go earlier, which is good news for those celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles and thus feeling a little hungry towards the end of the day.  I’m here with VOCES8 to perform at the Abu Gosh festival, and our second performance coincides with the actual festival day itself.  The church is packed for the concert, high on a hilltop overlooking Jerusalem, and this seems an appropriate place for our first performance of Bach’s motet, ‘Der Geist Hilft’. The text for this wonderful motet, which finishes our new album of the Bach Motets, ends with a plea that we might strive through death and life to reach God’s presence.  These words, alongside the sublime music of Bach, seem beautifully poignant for our first visit to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

VOCES8 began its journey with the Bach motets nearly 18 months ago.  Since then, we’ve been working to interpret, memorise, record and perform the six masterpieces.  Our recording of the motets has just been released on the Signum Label, and the performance in Israel marked the fifth of the six motets that we have now performed from memory on stage.  While many of the group had performed some of the motets before, this project has given us a huge challenge, and with each motet gradually coming to rest in our collective memory, we feel a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved.  Learning and performing music from memory is something that will be familiar to most a cappella singers, but this challenge has been one that certainly stands out for me as the most difficult, and rewarding, of my career to date.

We’ve been very lucky to have input from numerous sources along the way, and I can’t emphasise strongly enough how important outside advice is for an a cappella group.  From technical aspects of singing this repertoire; performance thoughts; much needed German coaching; discussions on artistic interpretation and then in the recording studio with a great production team, we’ve been very lucky.  Advice has come from interesting places - a group you may know called the King’s Singers, the hugely influential Masaaki Suzuki, our great production team led by Nick Parker, to whom words cannot express our thanks, and our ever-patient German coach, Alexandra Rawohl…. ‘No… no, no! More consonants in the text!!’

As a cappella singers, you will appreciate the importance of teamwork, of shared ideas and of commitment and passion for the music that you perform.  This project has given us a chance to create a concert performance, and an album, which we believe has great integrity and showcases the stunning music of JS Bach,  with singing done not just by 8 individual singers, but as a team, as an ensemble.  Discussions concerning part hierarchy throughout each of the motets have moved on to a new level with this brilliantly complex music.

In VOCES8, we try to remember that as singers in this repertoire, we are a medium through which audiences can experience great works of the past.  Each of us tries to use our musical skill to interpret the music of Bach as we think it was originally intended, but it’s important that we are also able to bring a musical and a contextual understanding to his work that comes from a few hundred years of musical advancement and historical analysis.  Every musician today can appreciate the merits of Bach in a world where it is possible to place him alongside music and composers written since his death, and this gives us a different perspective of hindsight and interpretation with which to assess his work.  I can assure you that, behind the onstage performance, we argue and debate constantly about how we interpret this music.  I hope we never stop doing that. It’s this passion, this desire to bring to life, which can be used to ignite such dazzling music and lift it from the page and onto the stage.

As a performer, you are often treading a fine line between ‘authentic performance’ and interpretation.  Let’s not forget that a multitude of music historians have argued, and will continue to do so, about what may or may not be accepted as legitimately ’authentic’. Source material, particularly in the case of the Bach Motets, has been an area of ferocious debate.  You may see pictures of us on Facebook deep in discussion, arguing (not too violently!) or simply flat out on the floor with fatigue! Sometimes the wonder of Facebook can capture our joy, opinions and moment of frustration in a single visual image. The Bach Motets project has undoubtedly exhilarated and exhausted us all, but it’s worth it.

In the past three days, I’ve experienced the various religious quarters of Jerusalem and been astounded by the fervour and belief of the people who live in or visit this place.  It’s a powerfully moving yet simple thought that, whether religious or not, I’ve been standing on the place talked about in the scriptures which form the cornerstone of the most dominant global religions; stretch back millenia; and have influenced the history of mankind perhaps more than any other books ever written. Today, by contrast, I’ve watched Jeremy Paxman interview the self-confessed celebrity, Russell Brand. The interview covers what the BBC terms the ‘cult of celebrity’.  Regardless of how you view Russell Brand, it’s hard to deny that he and Paxman cover some very interesting ground.

Would Bach, a passionate Lutheran, have something to say about the dangers of societies in which God (in whatever form) faces subjugation at the hands of Celebrity? I don’t doubt it.  The comparison between our 21st century society in Britain and the one that I witnessed this week in Israel certainly seems to offer stark contrasts.  A member of the Pope’s entourage recently talked about the godless, ‘aggressively’ atheist society in Britain.  Although David Cameron was quick to disagree, perhaps Cardinal Walter Kasper was partially fair in his assessment, perhaps considerably more than that. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Ed Miliband, the new Leader of the Opposition both openly proclaim a lack of belief in God.  Brand though, for one, shares his belief in God when talking with Paxman in the interview, and there are many who would stand alongside him.  The music of Bach is a powerful, beautiful and wonderful thing, an example of a musical master at his absolute best.  It is also music written for religious purpose, for God, and for people who believe in God.  But is a belief in God necessary to understand and appreciate the music in these motets? I don’t think so, though it would surely help.

VOCES8 Bach MotetsEven though Brand now lives in a world in which his thoughts and actions could influence millions of people who don’t agree with his religious belief or philosophies, he seems some way from using this persuasive power.  At least he can find a companion to share his religious belief in Bach.  Brand talks with Paxman about wanting to create something of complete artistic beauty.  Perhaps in this too he could look towards Bach.

Dr Lewis Thomas certainly places Bach above most earthly things, as he suggests using his glorious music for initiating intergalactic communication: ‘I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course but it is surely excusable to put the best possible
face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance.
We can tell the harder truths later.’

What luck those extra terrestrials have in store.

VOCES8: Bach Motets is out now on CD

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