A Cappella’s For Sharing – The Heathrow Vocal Flashmob
by Florian Städtler
>> including an interview with artistic director Shai Fishman (www.fish-i.com) <<
Some say the art of the flash mob (people gathering “spontaneously” in public places and suddenly doing something more or less spectacular) is dead, as marketing specialists of global companies have started to use this kind of event for their marketing. Others say flash mobs are the natural consequence of trends like advertising reactance, the power of YouTube and general mobility. Speaking of mobility, it might not be pure coincidence, that T-Mobile, who already successfully used a flash mob performed by hundreds of dancers at London Liverpool Street station, chose Terminal 5 of London Heathrow airport to stage for their brandnew “Welcome Home” advert.
The reason why I’m writing about it on Vocal Blog is simple: This time, the responsible advertising agency decided to start the 3-minute commercial with a sentence that sounds quite familiar to a cappella fans: “No instruments were used in this film.” So this time the marketers had the idea of using only human voices to express the slogan of the telecommunication giant’s campaign, “Life’s For Sharing”.
Logistics were impressive, considering the fact that this shooting took place in a high security environment of an international airport. 18 hidden cameras had to be installed and a system of communication connecting the director, the film team, the singers and actors set up. After three weeks of arranging, casting and rehearsing at David Beckham’s football school, the London Soccerdome, the production included almost 300 singers and extras performing at the arrival section of Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The shootings lasted from 6am to 9pm with one hour break for the team and included the repeated performance of the following songs:
1. Etta James – At Last
2. Mel Tormé – Comin’ Home Baby
3. Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack
4. Iggy Pop – The Passenger
5. Thin Lizzy – Boys are Back In Town
6. Kaiser Chiefs – Oh My_ God
7. George Michael & Aretha Franklin – I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
8. Peters And Lee – Welcome Home
The ad was launched on Friday, October 29th 2010, only few days after the 15-hours shooting. And as I’m writing this, it has been online for only 3 days…and already more than 800.000 views on YouTube.
The idea for an a cappella flash mob was created by T-Mobile and their advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Shai Fishman, L.A.-based Israeli studio wizard and creator of the a cappella extravaganza The Voca People, was hired by the production company (Smuggler) and developed the idea to find as many singers as possible who can either contribute instrumental sounds or who perfectly fit one of the lead vocals parts of the songs mentioned above. He finally found himself with the cream of the crop of English contemporary vocal music, from professional session singers to members of the best UK a cappella groups and beatboxing virtuosos.
To give you an idea, there are some of the artists who were involved: Florence Andrews, Sophia Behn, Katie Birtill, Noa Bodner, Billy Boothroyd, Beverly Brown, Rachel Cameron, Bryan Chambers, Alyusha Chagrin, Fraser Collins (The Magnets), Dean Collinson, David Combes, Belle “Bellatrix” Ehresmann (The Boxettes), Matt Elson, Kineret Erez, Jo Eteson (The Swingle Singers), Willy Eteson (Ex-Swingle Singers), Tanya Fear, Joanna Forbes-L’Estrange (Ex-Swingle Singers), Kevin Fox (Swingle Singers, Ex-Cadence), Andy Frost (The Magnets), Jo Gibb, Jonathan Glew, Shimi Goodman, Simon Grant, Helen Hobson, Rachel Mary Holbrook, Timothy Howar, Tobias Hug (Swingle Singers), George Ikediashi, Lydia Jenkins, Alison Jiear, Neo Jessica Joshua (The Boxettes), Paul Kissaun, Alexander L’Estrange, Shona Lindsay, Iain Mackenzie, Yoga Manickam, Callum McIntosh, Emer McParland, Anouska Mond, Jake Moulton (The Housejacks), Christopher Jay (Swingle Singers), Philip Nicholl, Gemma O’Duffy, Andrew Playfoot, Lucy Bailey (Swingle Singers), Janet Ramus, Errol Reid, Yvette Riby-Williams (The Boxettes), Johanna Marshall (Ex-Swingle Singers), Jo Servi, Olive Simpson, Patrick Smyth, Laura Tebbutt, Charlie Tighe, Nebulus Tommatron, Steve Trowell (The Magnets), Clare Wheeler (Swingle Singers), Hannah Wilding Whittingham, Mark Wilshire….looking forward to your comments as this is probably only the tip of the vocal iceberg.
I had the pleasure to do an interview with the mastermind behind the creation and production of this extraordinary a cappella event, Shai Fishman.
T-mobile wanted to up the ante on their “Life’s for Sharing” campaign, after the huge success of the “Dance” video. They decided to top it with this one by adding singing to the dancing and performing it live, A Capella. They saw the VocaPeople’s “History of music in 3 minutes” video and seeing that I am the arranger and music director of the vocapeople, they decided to have me musically direct and arrange this campaign, in my style, with people actually being a full human orchestra, no instruments, no sound effect, all live, unprocessed, human vocals. I met Henry Alex Rubin, the genius director of this commercial, in LA and we discussed bringing me to London to audition 300 of the best singers in the business and then staying for another 2 weeks, actually teaching them, as I did with the vocapeople, how to actually produce these instrument voices, in my own “special” way.
This production is part of a corporate marketing campaing. Has it been an issue to be part of a corporate marketing campaign for some of the singers?
Initially they were all made aware of the outlets for this campaign and since we have half the swingle singers, half the magnets and most of the boxettes, I’m sure they all did their homework and discussed this with their management prior to agreeing. Plus, on a personal note, I think that what we did here definitely helps all the people involved, and promotes the groups they belong to, as well as them personally, as this was done with the at most regard to the art of A Cappella, which we all love so much.
I sure hope so. Plus, judging by about 10 million viewers we have for the vocapeople and around a million for “welcome back” already, i think it speaks for it self, doesn’t it? This was a labor of love for everyone, from the client T-mobile, to the agency Saatchi & Saatchi and the production company Smuggler films to Henry and myself. It was clear to everyone, doing this, how much we loved creating this and how respectful we were of the incredible amount of talent we had to work with.
This is a very real part of what they do with their groups everyday, on stage.
Well, Good luck trying to arrange and perform a live A Capella arrangement for 225 singers….!! The simple logistics of it are staggering, but more than that, it’s trying to make everyone visible, audible, actually letting all this talent shine through the arrangement and still being able to have my personal trademark sound be heard and recognized.
What was the most thrilling moment of the production?
For me it was the first rehearsal. I knew I had unbelievable amounts of talent to work with, but only had a chance to see a few at a time, while auditioning them and later, during my group workshops. As soon as I handed them the original arrangement and actually heard it performed by my initial group of 25 core singers, it was clear to me that something incredible is happening here. From that point it just got better with each rehearsal. A few other moments come to mind: First rehearsal with the second, larger group of 75 people (which brought the amount of singers to 100) and then incorporating the 3rd group, adding 125 people, which was a huge thrill for me, conducting 225 people singing my arrangement. Seeing it all take place in T5 and watching the people react to all this being performed live, was also a very memorable moment. This production did bring a lot of excitement to everyone. I’m sure a few records have been broken, doing this.
Anything more you would like the Vocal Blog readers to know about the happening?
I would like to thank my team from Fish-i (http://www.fish-i.com): Yossi Joseph Cohen and Kostya Vasilkov and all the people who continue to support the A Cappella community and the genre of Vocal music and thus, my work. I think that this event shows that this genre if far from being predictable or old fashioned. I promise that, in my work, I’ll continue to surprise and create new sounds and new concepts in vocal music and continue to bring the most unexpected arrangements and song choices, performed by A Cappella artists from all over the world. I hope more companies, clients and audiences will continue to vote by clicking, coming to see shows and spreading the word about Vocal and A Cappella music.
Thanks, Shai for having you on the blog.
This is a extraordinarily long blog post – but I think the event itself deserves this exception to the “1-page rule” of blogging. If you’ve been around at Heathrow as a singer, spectator or a (real) passenger, let us know about your personal experience. If you have an opionion on a cappella pr and marketing in general, let the Vocal Blog readers know about it. And please add links and photos if you’ve got interesting footage of the London vocal flash mob.
We’ll certainly add more links, pictures and interviews with The Magnets, The Swingle Singers and The Boxettes in the days to come.