LACF 2012 Status Update: Backbones and a Vocal Jog World Record
It’s Saturday morning and it’s the third day of the third edition of the London A Cappella Festival 2012. We’ve seen wonderful concerts featuring The Vasari Singers (UK), The Boxettes (UK), Cadence (CAN) and FORK (FIN). The Schools on Stage project powered by Voice Festival UK made us smile and cheer, an arrangement competition supported by Oxford University Press resulted in fantastic music, countless foyer performances and encounters of both pro and amateur artists entertained us. We met and talked to a cappella aficionados and newbies, to visitors and vocal music tourists hailing from as far as San Fransisco, Taiwan, Toronto, Oslo, Torino, Boston and even a music lover from Milton Keynes…
I’ve been attending the London A Cappella Festival since it all started in January 2010 and I must say it here and now: What The Swingle Singers as hosts and curators together with super-pro organizers at Ikon Arts have build in less than three years is the perfect example of artistic vision and will combined with professional promotional execution. It’s impossible to name all the people here, who have contributed to the three-day vocal music extravaganza, but let’s just name two who in my eyes did an outstanding job: Clare Wheeler, alto with The Swingle Singers, has become one of the leading communicators of international a cappella. Thanks to her personal dedication, the number of overseas guest has become pretty impressive. The second mover and shaker who deserves special mention is Ikon Arts‘ Jessica Hill. She has become the festival’s managerial backbone and seems to master the multiple tasks of running LACF with unbelievable friendliness and placidity. Along with Ikon Arts owner Costa Peristianis, Nicola Semple, Beccy Chilton and Natalia Franklin Pierce she made the festival happen and the growing number of attendants happy.
Besides the musical “core business”, countless special and hilarious things happen(ed) during this festival: A Cappella rockers FORK just twittered that they are going shopping (you will probably see the results on stage next time), recording legend Bill Hare (USA) just found a Pentatonix-lookalike in the British museum, Joan Hare flirted with an double-decker bus driver, the “Single Singers” (no typo) gathered for their first rehearsal after setting up a 20+ vocal group via social media (there will be a special on that later), this afternoon we’re going to see two panels discussing the state of affairs of contemporary a cappella and the pudding, cake and hi-heel-lovers found bliss in High Tea at Montagnue and at the buzzing after show parties at a pub called The Fellow.
My most important mission of LACF2012 was of a very different kind: On Friday, 13th of January, the first semi-official London A Cappella VOCAL JOG was to take place, another try to motivate a cappella people to get over their hangovers and join me on a little run during events like this. I have been running through cities during all my vocal music travelling life, but the maximum group of Vocal Joggers as of 2011 was two participants: Morten Vinther, baritone of The Real Group broke the spell on October 16th 2011 and went for the first ever non-solo Vocal Jog in my hometown Freiburg.
But for London A Cappella, I wanted to make it big time – and I was supported by Willy Eteson former tenor and business director of The Swingle Singers who’s a slightly eccentric British foodie and hobby star chef today. While serving self-made pork specialties at Ikon Art’s desk all through the festival, he dared me: If I was able to run up Primrose Hill (the highest “mountain” in London City ;-) with a group of at least four other Vocal Joggers, he would be there at 8:45 on Friday 13th to cater the runners with home-baked power bars, bananas and water. At this point in time, there were 9 potential runners registered at the London A Cappella Vocal Jog Facebook page, so I was optimistic even though I knew that 4 of the listed 9 might have been a bit too optimistic regarding their being at the IBIS Euston hotel lobby at 8:30 in the morning.
Friday 13th came, I woke up at around 8:00 (after staying at the bar for much too long with the wonderful Hans Cassa of Montezuma’s Revenge), felt better than expected…but then got the first bad news: Line Groth, singer and arranger for Danish electro a cappella group Postyr Project didn’t feel well. Neither did Joakim Skog, executive producer of Stockholm’s The Real Vocal Festival. And I still had no confirmation of Nicholas Girard (House Jacks, Overboard, The Sing-Off) and John Buchanan Lau from Edinborough. So I went to the hotel lobby, thinking of Willy Eteson fighting his way through the London rush hour traffic all the way from Hackney, parking illegally and running up Primrose Hill with Vocal Jog delicacies…to find no more than two or three runners…
As it turned out, Friday 13th was my lucky Vocal Jog day: The first one to show up was Hans Cassa along with the slightly jet-lagged US star Nick Girard and at 8:30h Annemarie Homann (NED, Single Singers founder), Claudia Appel Dom (another surprise guest from The Netherlands) and John Buchanan Lau, a cappella enthusiast from Edinborough joined and made me very happy vocal Jogger. The weather was beautiful, quite cold, but blue skies over London Town. So after passing two blocks we entered Regent’s park and after 20 minutes saw Primrose Hill – which for Londoners (and especially the Dutch guests) is the equivalent of the K2. In spite of general sleep deficit, transcontinental jet-lag and traces of hangovers we made it up Primrose Hill, but: No Willy Eteson…!
…but a fantastic Vocal Jog reception committee à la surprise: Bill Hare (he wore a jacket, which means it was freaking cold!), his mother Joan Hare and their good friend from Slovakia, Sona Killianova gave us a (shivering) big hand and took pictures with the proud runners in front of the London skyline and the rising sun. At around 9:10am with the photo session done, I told my running mates that I had hoped for Willy, but assumed that he got word of the declining number of participants or might simply be stuck in the morning traffic. Sure to be served something delicious later that day we said farewell to the trembling Californian-Slovakian reception committee and started to run down the hill…
…but only seconds later we heard Bill, Joan and Sona shouting and yelling, so we turned round and there he was: Mr. Aca-Deli, Richard “Willy” Eteson with the Vocal Jog catering that will go down in history. So we ran up again, took even more photos, got the right dose of doping, said thank you again and hit the road to make it to the hotels in time for breakfast. These, my friends, are true moments to remember, thank you London A Cappella for supporting this “crazy” (Clare Wheeler) project and spreading the Vocal Jog news.
If you loved this story and are a runner (no matter what level, we do not run longer than 30-40 minutes, pace and distance don’t matter), send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll be invited to future Vocal Jog events. Just to let you know: Jeeves Murphy from Washington DC has been appointed Vocal Jog ambassador for the US during the after show party yesterday. And the next European vocal music highlight, the Real Vocal Festival in Stockholm, Sweden is seriously considering making the Vocal Jog an official part of the festival’s progamme (August 16-19, 2012). Last but not least, Line Groth who will come to my hometown Freiburg next week to showcase Postyr Project at the Kulturbörse Freiburg (Jan 24, 20:30h) has told me that she persists to do the Vocal Jog with me there, no matter how tight the schedule may be. So I’m looking forward to many more great pictures of fit singers & endorphine-addicted aca-fans from all over the world.
Florian Städtler is founder Vocal Blog and Chairman of the European Voices Association. He can’t believe how quickly this blog has developed a following of wonderful, intelligent and nicely-smelling people. Thanks for sharing the greatest ideas and the latest aca-gossip with a growing number of vocal music enthusiasts. If you can’t get enough of this stuff and/or want to get in touch with almost 1000 a cappella buddies like Vocal Blog on Facebook. If you want to make us of Vocal Blog as a filter and aggregator of a cappella news, links, tipps and hilarious tweets, follow Vocal Blog on Twitter.
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