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Home > Main > My 10 Favourite Aarhus Moments

My 10 Favourite Aarhus Moments

by Florian Städtler

On a train to Copenhagen Airport I simply wanted to keep some of the exceptional things that happened to me during my three-days stay at the Aarhus Vocal Festival by writing them down. Those who are member of the Vocal Blog group on Facebook or follow me on Twitter already got a slight impression, but here’s a bit more: “My 10 Favourite Aarhus Moments”.

1) Train Ride through Denmark
My trip to Aarhus went as follows: Shuttle bus from my hometown Freiburg (South-West of Germany) to EuroAirport Basel-Freiburg-Mulhouse in 45 minutes, departure 4:30am. Scheduled take-off 6:30am – due to technical problems at our destination Berlin-Tegel Airport, we actually took off at 7:30am. 4 hours changeover in Berlin, with probably the worst WiFi quality ever experienced on a European airport. The Berlin-Copenhagen flight was only slightly delayed so I made it to the 3.5 hours train ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus. And I realized again, that train rides are a nice way to get an impression of a country: You get in touch with people, hear them talking and you see much more of the landscape while you travel. Denmark and its people made a friendly and relaxed impression, just as sunny as the weather on the way.

2) Ridehuset
After having checked in I asked for the way to Ridehuset. The receptionist didn’t understand until I showed him the venue’s name in the printed booklet: “Aaah, Rdddhes(e)”, she replied in a peculiarly nasal tone but with an extraordinarily charming smile…and an extraordinarily pretty nose. I smiled back and never even tried to pronounce it again. What to the unflexible German sounded like a major logopedic incident turned out to be a most amazing room to meet and perform. The Ridehuset was a former hall for horseriding and its nice architecture was the perfect place to get together, to listen to concerts, eat, drink and relax. What makes it even better, is the fact that it is situated very close to the workshop locations, a very important fact for the vibes of any festival.

Jake Moulton, Jonathan Minkoff, Peder Karlsson, Jussi Chydenius

3) The World at One Table
Imagine a football fan sitting at one table with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ronaldinho. After the opening concert I found myself in a similar situation. I joined a table with Clare Wheeler (The Swingle Singers), Peder Karlsson (The Real Academy), Jussi Chydenius (Rajaton), Jonathan Minkoff (, Blue Jupiter), Judy Fontana, Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers), Christine Liu (Vocalasia), Tine Fris (Postyr), Bill Hare (CASA director and recording legend) and Jake Moulton (The Housejacks). One big difference compared to the kickers: all of them are not only great masters of their trade, but intelligent, thoughtful and really cool people.

4) A Triple P from the North

Postyr live!

Papaya, Pust and Postyr – the line-up of Friday night’s opening concert seemed to be selected by some alphabetical logic. The first letter is however their only similarity. Maybe except the fact that this first night perfectly represented the fantastic level that Northern European groups have reached today. Papaya (DK) brought the sound and the motion of African music to Ridehuset, Pust (NOR) presented their unique kind of contemporary folk-based vocal music and Postyr, also from Denmark, launched their new album, new website and new music video. Four of the five singers in the group also being members of AAVF host choir Vocal Line, they presented an amazing fusion of popular songwriting, experimental electronics and no fear of including a cello or an acoustic guitar if they think it fits. Tine, Line, Andreas, Kristoffer and Anders were just following their concept of “singing outside the box.” It became clear again: Future innovation in vocal music will certainly be driven by groups from the Northern European countries.

4) Meeting Jens Johansen

Jens Johansen (Vocal Line), Tine Fris (Postyr, Vocal Line)

Jens is the “spiritus rector” of what we today experience as the Danish school of “rhythmic choir music”. For more than two decades he has worked with students and his choir Vocal Line. Today, groups like The New Voxnorth, Vox 11, Papaya and Postyr represent the second generation of Danish contemporary vocal brilliance. And while these groups shine with flawless blending and a rhythmic precision unheard of in Europe, Jens has remained as calm, moderate and friendly as when I first met him 15 years ago. His personal achievements in vocal music and in setting up the Aarhus Vocal Festival again cannot be praised often enough.

Céline Morel & Peder Karlsson

5) France exists!
The French don’t use the term a cappella. And despite being one of the biggest countries of the European Union, France has no more than half a dozen contemporary vocal groups. It was a pleasure talking to Céline Morel (CEPRAVOI) and Thierry Lalo (Les Voice Messengers) and learning more about their will to develop new ways of vocal and choral music in France. It would be so great to find people like them in each and every European country and have them exchange ideas on a regular basis.

6) His Bobbyness’ Masterclass

Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers), His Bobbyness

Rarely have I seen 500 people in one room being so focused, so involved, so intently listening. Bobby McFerrin, giving a masterclass to Jim Daus Hjernoe‘s group “The New Vox North”, is personalized inspiration. He knows how to tell a story and he knows how to create music that is never pretentious but always fascinating. He is funny and serious, very direct but never patronizing. And he stayed with us longer than one would have expected, watching workshops and competitions. Bobby McFerrin is the single most influential person in contemporary vocal music. Or – as Peder Karlsson put it: “For me there was life before and life after Bobby.”

7) Learning from a Real Role Model

The jazz choir competition jury: Malene Rigtrup, Tobias Hug, Peder Karlsson

Speaking of luminaries, who would not think of Peder Karlsson? 26 years as baritone with The Real Group and endless experience both in singing and being a teacher give him natural authority. He is a master of combining the challenge of thinking out of the box with pragmatic action. For me, the work with him on a European framework for vocal, a cappella and choral music has been a highly intensive learning process how this art form has evolved from the first pioneer groups to the vocal music movement we see today.

8) 40 Minutes with the Best Rhythmic Choir of the World

Vocal Line with Bobby McFerrin live!

Superlatives are to be treated with care. Not in this case: Vocal Line, the Danish choir conducted by Jens Johansen has reached a level of artistry that is simply outstanding. I must admit, I’m not the one who is getting easily overwhelmed by a concert experience. But the first set of the festival’s main concert (just Vocal Line, without Bobby yet)  moved me to tears. You must see and hear this group of singers. If you don’t have a heart of stone, you will realize that this is what vocal music and music in general is all about. Spiritual moments in Aarhus. Enough said.

9) The European Voices Association (EVA) kickoff meeting

We were there!

For about 18 months seven vocal music activists have worked on a common vision for an organisational structure for European vocal, a cappella and choral music. And on the last day of AAVF the “core team” presented a first rough idea of how this network could be developed. Despite the inhuman timing of the meeting (9am – on the morning after the final festival party) more than 50 participants learnt how the idea came about (Florian Städtler), what European diversity means for us (Tobias Hug), what the higher purpose of EVA could be (Peder Karlsson), what the three content “bubbles” information, networking and education could look like (Volker Bauer), why it is important for all vocal music activists to be part of the team (Tilo Beckmann) and what the next steps towards EVA will be. By the way, the meeting itself started with a collective song directed by AAVF host Jim Daus Hjernoe, also a member of the preliminary team. One more happy moment and hopefully a milestone in the development of European A Cappella.

10) The Vocal Jog #1

7:30am, Hotel Ritz, Aarhus: Feeling lonely...

Being a passionate runner I try to have my running gear with me whenever I’m on the road. There’s no better way to both get an impression of the city you are staying and getting over the side effects of an after show party. Sunday morning, May 8th, was supposed to be the day of the first “Vocal Jog”: A little run around the beautiful city of Aarhus. Friday night, it really seemed as if I had summoned a true dream team featuring Tine Fris, Line Groth (both with Postyr) and my sandbox friend Tobias Hug, who loved the idea of doing the Vocal Jog just before the Morning Singing with Bobby McFerrin. Well, and this was the only very small disappointment at AAFV 2011: Vocal Jog #1, starting at 7:30 on Sunday morning took place – but no one came…excexpt me. Well, even without Line, Tine & Tobi it was wonderful jogging down to the sea, through the forest and on the streets of Aarhus. And they promised to be there next time. You are my witness.

Have you been in Aarhus and want to tell the Vocal Blog readers your favourite moment? Post your comment/story/experience here on the blog, the top 3 stories have the chance to win an AAVF artist’s cd of their choice.

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  1. 10. Mai 2011, 22:46 | #1

    I want to correct that Jonathan Minkoff is not the CASA founder – that would be Deke Sharon!

  2. 11. Mai 2011, 07:37 | #2

    Thanks, Amy – I’ve already changed that. Of course I know that it was Deke who “invented music” back then.

  3. 12. Mai 2011, 10:40 | #3

    One: Open singing with Malene and Morten on friday
    Two: Rehearsing Viva la Vida at the morning singing with Jens on saturday
    Three: The first Workshop rhythm & groove with Jim on saturday
    Four: The sign “Fruit for you” next to the check-in counter
    Five: Bobby lying on the stage floor talking to a lady in the first row on saturday
    Six: Singing Viva la Vida during the Vocal Line conocert on saturday
    Seven: The funny faces during the warmup on sunday morning
    Eight: Meeting Basix and their german fans on sunday night
    Nine: The night stage jam with Jake Moulton on sunday night – I could hardly leave the session
    Ten: Meeting a very relieved Jens Johannsen at the closing ceremony on monday

  4. 12. Mai 2011, 11:17 | #4

    It’s difficult to put into mortal words the very moving moments I experienced in Aarhus last weekend. It also feels like lightyears away, even though it’s only Thursday. Back at work; chasing numbers and writing reports in a business suit; preparing rehearsals; dealing with choir politicsl doing grocery shopping and living in the mundane world. Recalling the words of Peder Karlsson: “there are two worlds – the world of economics and politics on the one hand and the otherworldly world of music” to which Joep Hopstaken replied “we need to build a bridge between these two worlds”. Agreed! To have to choose one moment as the definitive “favorite” moment would be like choosing the best chocolate out of 30 different brands; all wonderful and all sweet and just a little different from each other. It is impossible. And even if I could choose one – and I will try – and wrote about it – these mortal words would not do it justice. Having said that, I would have to say that my personal moment of epiphany was the Vocal Line performance with Bobby. This has probably as many reasons for being my favorite moment as number of moments I COULD have chosen. Let’s begin with the captain of this amazing team: the extremely gifted Jens Johansen. To watch him “at play”, which is what it looks like to me because he is having so much FUN doing it, is such an inspiration. His conducting of Vocal Line, the percussionists AND Bobby was like watching an intricate pas de trois en pointe at the Bolshoi. Sublime timing and exuding pride from every pore – Jens is absolutely one of the most inspiring conductors I have ever seen and I wish I had enough years in my conducting life left to even be half of his greatness. After that, let’s look at his “material”. Being a singer for most of my life and having gotten a degree in vocal music performance, I have sang in and heard hundreds of choirs but never have I heard vocal perfection like I heard on Saturday night. Hearing Vocal Line’s supernatural blending, timing, intonation and expression made me immediately make a mental checklist for my choirs and vocal groups when I got home. A plan. “How to aspire to greatness and try to achieve something even close to the Vocal Line Sound Experience”. The fact that a lot of these singers have been with Jens for two decades or more bears witness to his prowess and vision. That, and the second (and third? :-)) generation Vocal Line-like groups that amazed me as well with their sound. THE sound to have in contemporary vocal music at this moment. In addition to these two aspects, there were moving moments like a completely packed house singing Viva La Vida for Jens. This brought tears to my eyes as did the joy I saw on Bobby’s face when he figured out that the two (amazing) sopranos were REALLY singing Vocabularies LIVE and belting their little hearts out. He was like “DUDE… !!! You guys ROCK”! That was precious. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that I have been duly inspired and hope to put some of what I saw, heard, learned and discussed into practice in my own life – musical or otherwise.

  5. 12. Mai 2011, 11:18 | #5

    @Barbara Schirmer
    Seeing Bobby lying on the stage was one of my faves as well, Barbara!!!

  6. 12. Mai 2011, 22:53 | #6

    Jim Daus Hjernoe (The New Vox North/Aarhus Vocal Festival director) gave permission to copy his “AAVF Moment” status update, here it is:

    “Last weekend was one of the best in my entire life! Aarhus Vocal Festival featured so many wonderful experiences that even half of it had been enough! So many wonderful people from many parts of the world at the same place at the same time! And I couldn’t be more happy when Bobby McFerrin attended my workshop and improvised over Circlesong 3! That was it for me, really :-) “

  7. 18. Mai 2011, 13:20 | #7

    Having participated in the Aarhus Vocal Festival 2009, nothing was going to stop me from being there this time so my first favourite Aarhus moment came before the Festival when it was announced at choir practice that BJC ( Bonner Jazzchor) had qualified to participate in the Choir Competion ;-)
    2) Pre- Festival Concert from SONO – the winners of AAVF 2009 and second generation Vocal Line-like ensemble. Timing, blending, dynamics, choral pop phrasing..they set the tone for the standard to be expected and we were all in awe!
    3) Opening concert with Papaya, PUST and POSTYR…Diversity in perfection, so different and each so uplifting and inspiring!
    4) Warm -Up and learning Viva la Vida with Jens Johansen and Vocal Line (a dream come true!)
    5) Workshop with PUST on Saturday morning…infectious energy and groove!
    6) Jin Daus Hjernoe’s white glove Impro conducting during the New Vox North Master Class Presentation. We were all so in sync!
    7) Bobby lying on the stage two rows in front of me almost close enough to touch talking to the lady in the front row
    8)Singing Viva la Vida with Vocal line during the concert on Saturday and Ave Maria with Bobby…so special!
    9) VOCAbuLArieS live with the phänomenal Vocal Line and Bobby McFerrin ” He ran to the train” and “Wailers” Good Heavens!I wish that all contemporary Vocal Groups and singers could experience Vocal Line live. My knees were weak at the end of the concert…there were not enough superlatives in my German or English to describe how I felt.
    10) Singing a wonderful set at the competion, BJC’s impromptu dance session afterwards and the announcement that we had won the second prize!!! Unbelievable, we were so honored, proud and extremely happy! ;-)
    There were so many more moments and I am still on a cappella Cloud Nine( ein bischen weiter als Wolke 7) and hope to let the inspiration and good vibes flow into my music over the next months. Thank you Jens, Thank you AAVF Team.

  8. Iris
    18. Mai 2011, 16:04 | #8

    There are of course many special momants I will never forget, but I will particularly treausre 3 in my heart:
    1. The concert of Papaya moved my to tears. I always thought I am not a big fan of African choral music, but they proved me wrong. I was also amazed by Pust and Postyr, but as I said, they moved me and had such a power and authenticity on stage.
    2. I met Gert, a blind member of Vocal line, outside. When we talked he said “For me it is not important if I can see or not, for me it is important that I have a good life!” And he is so damn right. I admire the strength of those people. So he cannot see Jens conducting, he feels it.
    3. and yes,…of course Bobby McFerrin. I haven´t dealt that much with his music before, but now I am a fan. What an amazing man with wisdom and so laid back.

    Thanks a lot for that. I will come back for sure.

  9. Emily May
    18. Mai 2011, 19:16 | #9

    My top 10 best memories of AAVF 2011:
    1. Getting my daily hug from Jens Johansen
    2. Finally having the nerve to sit down next to Bobby Mc Ferrin to take our picture and then being to shy to say something (and so was he) and then only saying stupid things.
    3. Meeting new friends I only new from twitter and facebook
    4. Meeting and laughing with old friends from all over Europe
    5. Getting goose-bumbs at Vocallines and Bobby’s concert
    6. Watching that readheaded percussionist with astonishment during this concert
    7. Watching Jens vibrating positive energy looking only at his back
    8. Enjoying the food at the buffet that was so much better since last time
    9. Enjoying the spontanious duets with the members of Vox North. Such a talent!
    10. Getting it right almost 100% at Peder Karlsons meet-up, where he let us sing only 4 lines about 100 times to get it ‘perfect’!

  10. 18. Mai 2011, 22:22 | #10

    Let me start by saying that the whole festival was one of the highlights of my life. I’ll never forget the wonderful time I had and I hope I’ll always be able to recall the way I felt doing the workshops and listening to the concerts; totally free, happy and inspired!

    Here are my 10 favourite moments, in no particular order.

    1. Meeting all the people I had been anticipating the festival with on Twitter. (btw thank you, Rogier IJmker, for awakening my curiosity with your “I’ve booked my ticket to #aavf” tweet.) Also, getting to meet all kinds of lovely new singing people during the tasty and healthy meals. (Do I get away with putting three faves in one here?) ;-)
    2. Hearing Vocal Line live for the first time and being totally blown away by them. There are choirs and choirs, and then there’s Vocal Line. I want some of what they have for all the choirs I get to coach.
    3. Bobby McFerrin’s masterclass, all the personal and professional things he shared with us (“I sing with the voice I have in that moment.”), and of course, standing next to him while singing a Circle Song with the fantastic “New Vox North”.
    4. The New Vox North’s performance. I still get goose bumps just thinking about it, and I’ve tried to put in words how they sounded and how I felt during it, but I simply can’t.
    5. Opening night with Papaya (oh, the energy!), PUST (folk sounds ftw!) and Postyr (daring stuff!). At that moment I realised the whole weekend was going to be totally awesome (a word I hardly ever use, but it’s the only one that fits.)
    6. The PUST workshop by Elizabeth and Haavard. I especially loved to experience a different way of working, some of which I’ll certainly be using during my own workshops!
    7. Learning several songs during the open singing on Friday afternoon. Again, I was thrilled with the highly effective way Morten en Malene taught us the songs. Inspiring!
    8. Kristian’s duet with Bobby McFerrin. So moving and such fun to watch! I loved how he dared to take the lead for a few moments. Yes to the moment, indeed!
    9. The improvisation workshop by Kristian. His calm, reassuring way ensured that everyone ended up improvising freely and con gusto! For myself it was quite heady to be improvising and simply loving it. Again, yes to the moment!
    10. Getting to jam with Jake Moulton, Tobias Hug, Havard Gravdal and the lovely Clare Wheeler, and of course a whole bunch of fellow participants I don’t know by name. It was addictive!

    Thank you, Florian, for giving me the opportunity to relive all these great moments. And for being our Vocal Advocate! I had two more favourite moments, which I’ll simply share, because you can’t stop me. ;-) 11. When Jake Moulton demonstrated his art without the help of a microphone and I realised how incredibly soft it was. 12. The workshop given by Nils and Anders and the fun we had singing High on Life in the Slow Lane. Which is what I was during the whole weekend, and which is what I want to be. Always.

    Big hugs to Jens and Jim. Thank you for a wonderful experience!

  11. Bjørn Tveiten
    20. März 2012, 18:41 | #11

    Ellen og Niels
    Anders og Marianne

    Vi gikk the Jhomsom trek i Nepal sammen i 1979, treffer jeg dere med denne kommentaren?

    Bjørn Tveiten (Norge)

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