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Archiv für Dezember, 2011

European Voices Association founded

by Vocal Blog founder and EVA Chairman of the Board, Florian Städtler




I only realized after the eventual legal registration on December 20th 2011, how long the EVA idea had been cooking. Since the idea of a European vocal music network emerged, a self-appointed “core team” of seven people worked on this project. To give you an impression how this all came about and to motivate you to get involved, here’s the EVA story as a glimpse of the bigger picture.

April 2009
Holger Wittgen, promoter of The Vocal Jazz Summit, Mainz, asks Florian Städtler to plan and set up a live meeting place at the festival’s main venue. To promote this, Florian founds Vocal Blog as a web 2.0 communication platform and a live market place.

October 2009
At the Vocal Jazz Summit, two panels are being held, which discuss the state of affairs of the European and German a cappella scenes. Participants: Volker Bauer, Peder Karlsson, Tobias Hug, Tilo Beckmann, Peter Martin Jacob and Florian Städtler. The idea of a pan-European vocal music network is born.

Polyglot midnight snacks at Tobi's kicked off this session

January 2010
During the premiere of the London A Cappella Festival, Peder, Tobi and Florian work for one full day at Tobi’s Hackney flat, discussing the basic topics of the planned organisation. This dicussion is being followed up by Florian, Tilo and Peter at the Kulturbörse Freiburg two weeks later.

February & April 2010
Workshop meetings in Mannheim and Frankfurt. The team decides to define the purposes and goals of The European Voices Association in an online document that can be signed by supporters: The European Voices Manifesto. A systematic research of existing a cappella infrastructure and “people, who get things done” is being started.

A happy EVA core team after a great meeting in Ludwigshafen

September 2010
Team meeting in Ludwigshafen. Jim Daus Hjernoe joins the core team. The results of the research are impressive, even though many European countries not being researched yet. The details of the Manifesto as well as the three main areas of activities (Volker’s “three bubbles”, doc can be found in this workspace) are being defined.

December 2010
The European Voices Manifesto, signed by approximately 60 movers and shakers from all over Europe goes online at the preliminary website


May 2011
At Aarhus Vocal Festival, 60+ vocal music activists gather on Monday morning, 9am (after the final festival party night…) to learn more about what this EVA thing is all about. The model of a preliminary executive board (PEB: Volker, Peter, Florian) and an advisory board that gives feedback to guide the

The Aarhus kick-off meeting participants

trio above is established. The PEB is assigned to prepare the legal foundation of the association including the articles and the foundation meeting.

December 2011
Volker, Peter, Peder, Florian, Céline Morel (jumping in for Tobi, who forgot about this little trip to Japan ), Tilo and Jim have signed the founding documents and the PEB registers EVA as a German “Verein” on the 20th of December 2011. The seven founding members had previously elected Florian as chairman of the board, Peter as deputy chairman and Volker as treasurer.

The deed is done - EVA founded!

So that’s what happened since Holger Wittgen asked me to set up some sofas, a coffee machine and WiFi to host Vocal Jazz Summit guests – isn’t it wonderful? I’m so much looking forward to your feedback, your ideas and inspiration to build something unique and very inspiring. Thanks to the fabulous core team for all your time and dedication – sorry to say that the real work has just begun!

Currently, interested and interesting people have been invited to become members of the Advisory Board, we expect to get a lot of input, which will be included in the EVA roadmap 2012 (Feb 15th). If you want to be involved in the pioneering phase of EVA’s development, feel free to get in touch with me via – we love to get your feedback, too.
Best wishes and Happy New Year – let’s make 2012 an EVA year!

Florian Städtler
EVA chairman

P.S. Like EVA on Facebook!




London A Cappella (II): The Single Singers – alone but not lonely

23. Dezember 2011 1 Kommentar

by Emily May t’Hoen, originally posted at on December 22nd, 2011

Whenever I visit a festival alone I have mixed feelings. I enjoy the concerts and workshops very much but….. I want to be on stage myself! I want to sing! Not just listen! That’s why I’m so glad that Annemarie Homan (Dutch friend living in Italy) came with this fantastic idea of creating the “Single Singers”.
For all vocals coming to London A-capella Festival without a group. Together we spread this idea on twitter and facebook. And during the last six weeks people have started to join our group. How great is it that we managed to create an international group of 20 professional and very experienced singers. Now, during London Acapella Festival 2012 I’ll be able to sing and perform myself! And not just with anybody…. So proud that we’re going to sing, among others, with ex-swingle and current member of The Magnets Jes Sadler (London), Hans Cassa of Montezuma’s Revenge (Holland), Tor Martin Antonsen from Apes&Babes (Norway) and Corey Slutsky, owner of Voices Only (US). And so nice of the organisation of LACF to give us performance-time on Saturday evening, right after the Swingles-concert!


We selected the songs we’re going to sing and the sheet music has just been distributed on dropbox, so we can start rehearsing! All individually behind our own pc’s from our own homes around the world. Just printed the scores. I love discovering new music, figuring out the voice I’m going to sing, working on the hard parts till I get them right…. Can’t wait to get together in London to put all these beautiful voices together. Have to study now!


Hope to see you in London at our performance, January 14 at 10.00 pm!
Emily May ’t Hoen – Alto in the ‘Single Singers’



Do you like what you read and do you want to join the conversation? If yes, let me know via – I am happy to have a group of fantastic co-bloggers who make this blog much more interesting and colourful than only one guy writing all the time. If you want to be a Vocal Blogger, keep in mind that your articles shouldn’t be longer than 1.5 written pages, should not be purely promotional (readers love opinions, personal views, real stories much more) and should come along with 2-4 nice topic-related pictures in web format (> 150kB). Thanks for sharing Vocal Blog with your friends, following VB on Twitter and liking the VB Facebook fanpage. If you want to buy cds, dvds, sheet music or other cool stuff by the artists featured on this blog, have a look at the brandnew vocal music online shop Acappellazone. See you online and offline soon – happy holidays to all of you! FSt/Florian.

The Sing-Off 2011 – Live Finale

by Robert-Jon Eckhart, originally posted at on December 6, 2011

Oh yeeeaaaaahhhhhhh!!! As I’m writing this, some of the best groups from all seasons are singing their hearts out during the final episode of the season, the live holiday special. (NBC gracefully waited until the Dutch sinterklaas-evening was over to air this. Very nice, NBC.) Me? I’m still happy about last week’s results. Can I just praise myself for a little bit? Do you mind? Well, this is my blog so I’ll do whatever I want and @#$% you if it bothers you!

Here’s what I posted in the second installment of my Sing-Off reporting:

“I’m not posting [Pentatonix'] performance for being flawless, because it wasn’t. In some parts they were sloppy on the timing, which is unforgivable in a clubbing-song. Also, giving four people each their fifteen seconds of fame within a two-minute song made it a little messy and some effects, like the skipping beat, weren’t tight enough to be really effective. No, the reason I’m featuring this video is because when they win The Sing-Off Season 3 in November, you’ll be happy you saw all their performances from the get go.”

I fucking called it bitches!! HA!!!

(Deep breath…) Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get to some sensible writing. During this episode I finally saw so very clearly why Pentatonix is such a deserved winner. First, let me recap the episode for you. The first hour and 45 minutes consisted of a variety of performances. (More on those later.) After that, the first group got eliminated and sang their swan song. It was Urban Method. Sad, but to be expected. They didn’t seem to connect to the home audience at all. After that, we got to see compilation videos of the two remaining groups.

First up were the Dartmouth Aires. So were they consistently great, during the entire season? Yes, absolutely. Would they be able to speak to a mass audience? With Michael as their frontman, certainly. Should they be on Broadway, even while placing second? Yes, probably. But I also felt a sense of accomplishment in the group. They had made a journey and came across as “being there”.

While the Pentatonix video exuded a completely different vibe. What I saw was a beginning. Don’t forget that Avi and Kevin hadn’t met the other guys until a couple hours before their audition. Pentatonix didn’t have their Big Achievement last week. What they did was taking their first steps. What I saw, was the five of them 25 years from now, looking back at this video and saying: “Ah yes, that is how we started.” Meanwhile having transformed the way all of us practice our beloved genre. This was just the rock dropping into the water, the ripples have yet to be felt.

Ok so there was some singing too this episode, a lot actually, but since the voting closed a day before airing, it was for shits ‘n giggles mostly. Also, the sound was a small disaster during this live show. I’d love to hear from somebody on the inside what happened in the studio. All I know is that many off-key notes where heard in living rooms and the volume levels were inconsistent during the entire evening. Was this mistake or is it just this hard to mix a live a cappella show with this many microphones?

What I did enjoy was Nick Lachey performing with Pentatonix. I’ve been enjoying Nick’s lame music-puns through all seasons and I actually really like his voice! While he didn’t have a lot of lines, he did have a big role in setting the tone for the show. This was his moment to shine and I think he was fantastic. Dorky, but fantastic.

This one was great as well. Ben is known for letting his audience sing with him and didn’t disappoint here. (Although I suspect them of practicing this before the show!!) He doesn’t have the most mainstream voice but I thought the song was cool, I loved the big harmonies with the audience and it’s hard to beat Ben in authentic showmanship.

Other than these two, the songs weren’t up to par with the rest of the season. A lot of critics have been criticizing the show, which makes sense since they’re critics so basically that’s what they should do. As a fan though, I though the finale was lovely. I just appreciate how much time was put into it and how many different groups of people we could see performing.

Next week I’ll be talking about the holiday special, as well as doing some looking back at the entire season and looking forward into the possible future. Peace out.

Rendez-vous avec Les Swingle Ladies

by Helen Kuzina, Moscow (spring 2011)


When I found out that the Swingle Singers, hosts of London A Cappella Festival were performing in Cité de la Musique I jumped on the plane and came to fabulous Paris! This time they performed the Sinfonia by Luciano Berio. Before the concert I met Jo (Eteson), Clare  (Wheeler) and Lucy (Bailey) asked some questions.


Here in Paris you are singing Sinfonia by Luciano Berio. What does this piece mean to you?

Jo:  It’s very exciting for us to perform Berio’s Sinfonia because this  piece was written originally for the Swingle Singers in the sixties. We feel really honoured to perform it as it has such a history. And this is the one thing in our repertoire which stays the same and which we perform several times a year.

Clare:  It’s an amazing piece and it is a nice change to perform it after a cappella music.

You are singing in different styles, do you use a different vocal technique for the music you perform?

Clare:  None of us use only one school of singing. It depends on the style of music we perform, so we use different techniques. Sometimes we use the more natural way or the more pop way of singing. It depends on the music.

How do you warm-up? Do you warm-up separate or together?

Loop Songs - warm-up like Les Swingle Ladies!

Jo:  A combination. We all have different ways to prepare our voices for the show. Sometimes we like getting together and warming up with some vocal exercises that someone brings to the group and we all want to try. For example we sing some Loop Songs by Bertrand Gröger (modern choral études for all SATB groups published by Schott Music and recorded by the Swingle Singers.)

What do you do to keep your voices in a good shape?

Clare:  I think it’s very important to warm-up. Also, I find Swingle singing a very healthy way of singing. I feel that the more Swingle singing I’m doing – the less work I have to do to keep my vocal chords in a good form.

You are always singing lot of different music and you need to learn music very fast. How is the process of studying new pieces going?

Clare:   Very well!

Jo:  At the moment we are doing a lot of contemporary music and we have done a project by Fabrice Bollon, a French conductor and composer. He wrote a piece for us called “Elements”. Contemporary music is slightly different to a cappella music and it needs a different kind of preparation. We tend to learn it on our own for longer before we get together.

Clare:  Usually it depends on how difficult the music is. The audience for an a cappella show is different from the audience for contemporary music, which tends to be much more difficult. It’s more difficult to hear and more difficult to learn. We spend more time on learning contemporary music to make sure that every single note is right.

Clare, Jo and Lucy

Lucy:  We are all trained in different styles and have our own musical tastes. For instance, I come from quite a choral background, but also have a passion for pop music.

Clare: I studied both classical and jazz music at the same college as Jo (Guildhall School of Music and Drama). I studied violin, jazz singing and composition. I’ve done a lot of jazz singing also.

Jo:  I started off with a choral background at school where a lot of us really loved singing. We sang in A cappella groups, Barbershop groups, Madrigal groups etc And then I joined a choir, The Ionian Singers who at the time only sang contemporary music which was really good training! Later I met Lucy and CJ in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and we’ve been friends since then.

It’s always interesting to know something about your private life! You have to travel so much. Do your family members support you?  

Lucy:  Yes, but it can be difficult when we are apart for a long time. None of us have children, but it’s still hard.

Clare: We definitely need all our friends and families to be very understanding. It does tend to happen gradually that your friend groups change to the people that really care about you. They don’t mind that you are away for a long time.

Jo:  I’m lucky because my husband worked in the group for 10 years, so he understands the situation and is extremely supportive. You have to invest in your family and friends but occasionally it can be very difficult to balance work and your personal life.

What are your hobbies?

Lucy:   Jo and I love to shop together. I just bought an amazing pair of cowboy boots and I’m so exited because I love them!!! I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life!!!

Clare:  I really love going to gigs and hearing new music.

Jo: I love movies – going to the cinema is one of my favorite things to do!

Do you have your own project in your spare time?

Lucy:   It can be quite difficult to find the time to do other projects.

Clare:  I was doing my own music before I joined the group. I already had some projects going, but now the only way I can do it is on my summer holiday. I went to Denver this summer to work with a composer there called Tyler Gilmore, and we wrote some music together and recorded it. That album should be finished and ready soon!

Jo:   I’ve done a couple of movie soundtracks which is really fun. A couple of years ago I recorded stuff for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe soundtrack. Recently it was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2.

It’s the second time you have organized the London A Cappella Festival. What is the purpose behind that?

Clare:  The purpose of the London A Cappella Festival is quite similar to the other festivals. We want to give people a chance to get together and hear really amazing vocal groups. Last year it was The Real Group, Witloof Bay from Belgium as well as amazing newcomers The Boxettes from london.

How do you hold your traditions? What does it mean to  you?

Clare:  This is the reason why we are all here making music together. We hold the tradition of the Swingle Singers very dear. In the sixties the reason why the group, I think, caught peoples imaginations, was that they were pioneers in a cappella. And this is part of this reason; I think the way that we would see the tradition of the Swingle Singers is to try to always be at the forefront of a cappella music. It always has been the priority of the group and it’s definitely important for the group now.

How do the innovations of technology and the group’s evolution influence the Swingle Singers?

Clare:  I think it happens organically. When new people join the group they come with their own experiences and they bring new ideas. Sometimes I am envious of groups that have been together a long time with no or few member changes. They have the chance to invest and develop so much together. We try to build this as much as we can, but I also really value that we have fresh ideas coming from outside.

Let’s speak about your new video of Libertango! What was the idea to make it?

Jo:   We watched some videos of other vocal groups and they are all fantastic. Recently we saw an old Swingle music video of Badinerie from 1963-64. It’s in black and white and Christiane Legrand is walking through a shopping mall singing. But we wanted to do something cinematic, something with a story line and something dramatic. We worked with a fantastic company called “Film Creatives” and they were absolutely amazing! It was a fantastic experience and we would love to work with them again!

You are an example for many vocal groups. What would you like to wish  young a cappella groups? What does a group need to do to be successful?

Lucy:  Find something different to market yourself with, something that only you can do or that you can do the best. Take advice from other groups and make friends with other a cappella groups because it’s a wonderful community and it’s really great to be able to learn from what other people can do on stage. So be really open to changes and learning music!

Clare:  I really agree with that and I just say as well: don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new. Don’t feel you have to follow the crowd to be successful – find your own niche!

Jo: Try something you really love doing. If you are not really excited about what your group is doing then something may be wrong. You have to really love what you do!

I met Helen Kuzina on a trip to Moscow and soon realized that Helen probably is one of the greatest Swingle Singers in the world. She seems to have traveled to a dozen countries to see the group perform and has also written a paper about the Swingle Singers during her studies of music in Moscow. Hope to hear more from you, Helena.

The Sing-Off Season 3 Episode 10 – Highlights

originally posted by Robert-Jon Eckhart on on November 28th – thanks again RJ, for sharing your Sing-Off experience!


Wow. Wow wow wow! We’re coming to a point in the competition where i’m starting to feel uncomfortable criticizing these groups at all. In 10 weeks, we’ve gone from a mish mash of 16 diverse groups of varying quality to four top-quality a cappella groups each with a distinct personality. Since all performances this week were excellent, I’ll jump straight to the gossip-section!

In short, the internet just blew up over the elimination of Afro-Blue. As I expected, Pentatonix and Urban Method reached the finale without any problems. The final spot had to be battled for by two fundamentally different groups: young, playful, energetic Dartmouth Aires and mature, skilled, jazzy pros Afro-Blue. After a truly impressive and emotionally charged encore by both, the Aires were allowed to stay because of them being way more consistent during the entire season. Which, I think, nobody can deny they were.

If you want my outright opinion, here’s what I think happened: the elitist musician awoke in the viewer, filled with prejudice. Surely, a bunch of guys jumping around and having fun can’t be better at music than a serious group of trained jazz musicians? “Good music starts at being able to keep a stable pitch”, writes an indignant youtube-commenter. Well, I’m sorry I have to break it to ya fella, but you’re wrong. Good music starts at people wanting to hear more of it. This has always been the case and if your education has told you otherwise, I’m afraid you have been fooled.

So the judges have been flooded with outrage about this decision (on their twitter accounts mainly, which they all have) and how they have chosen to deal with it once again confirms why I love this show so much. Both Shawn and Ben have blogged, explaining how and why they made this decision. (As air-time is always tight and doesn’t leave much space for thorough explanation.) Ben’s blog stands out most since he openly admits that Afro-Blue was his personal favorite, and that they might’ve reached the finals if the judges had chosen to critique them differently. One night I even found him generously replying and apologizing to people on twitter who were dazzled by his decision. In today’s TV-landscape, it’s truly exceptional to find a judge with more heart for the music than for the showbiz.

This player will automatically play the encores from both Afro-Blue and the Dartmouth Aires. There has been some discussion online as to why The Sing-Off isn’t scoring well in the ratings. One of the suggestions is the unclear format: are two groups leaving per episode? Or just one? Will they have to do a face-off song or not? I personally would’ve liked some more info on why they are choosing to do the elimination as they do, but kinda liked that it changed a little every week. Kept things exciting.

The second video, of the Dartmouth Aires, shows what is maybe my favorite moment of the entire show: The bassist is supposed to stand up after Michael finishes his long note, but Michael just keeps it going for-fucking-ever. After one false start the bassist just stands up and looks into the camera, appearing to say “Yeah I know. Whatever.”. I love it because this is the reality of making music.

And here some more Aires to show how they ab-so-lute-ly belong in the finals. If the judges would’ve given me the task to perform Shout, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. It has no story-arc or structure whatsoever. But these guys, wow! Who wouldn’t go and see this in theaters?

Let me finish up by posting A change is gonna come by Afro-Blue. Just as a way of saying: I do understand why people are upset they had to go. This might’ve been their best performance of the entire season. This is epic skill time and no-one can deny it.

On the other hand, I must admit this song is just going over my head. It’s good but I don’t like it. Or, as Ben wrote in his blog, it’s a miracle a jazz group has even been able to participate in a mainstream tv-competition for almost the entire season. (And they’re coming back in the finals for a guest-performance as well.)

Let me close on the following note: there’s no such thing as an absolute in music being good. It all will come down to taste eventually. We, as an a cappella community, should be grateful for having a show on television that celebrates the wonder that is music over the cold skill of measuring people’s abilities against set standards. Ben has offered Afro-Blue studio-time in his personal studio and they ultimately will have the same amount of screen-time as the contest winners.

All will be well. See you next week at the big finale.