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Archiv für November, 2013

Kier Blog Post #1: The Wedding of all Things

by Kier aka Morten Kjær

Kier running jumpingLike it’s the case for most people that I know in the field of music, my work life is a big patchwork of projects. But it didn’t use to be that way. In fact, it used to be quite the opposite. I remember how, 10 years ago, I was sitting in a summerhouse in the Danish countryside without a clue on how to spend my time …

1,5 years earlier, I had completed my Masters program in Vocal Performance at the Music Conservatory in Aarhus, Denmark. After this followed a period of intensive touring with my vocal group, Basix. Our success in the 2001 Danish pre-competition of the Eurovision Song Contest had allowed us to travel around Northern Europe with our a cappella show. The group was my life and my passion for seven years. But in 2003, this new urge to become a solo artist and perform with a band with “real” instruments – drums, keys, the whole thing – started to grow very strong. I knew it was time for me to say goodbye to my friends. The Basix Christmas tour that year was the last I did with them.

Now what …? Moving into that summerhouse with my boyfriend at the time seemed like a good idea. I was excited about all the time I had on my hands now. I wanted to write songs, meet people, make a record, and it be a “big deal”. The only problem was, I didn’t really know how to do all those things. Days of very little activity turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months turned into a full year of frustratingly aimless wandering through life. I finally decided to hire a coach. She helped me structure my thoughts, put my thoughts into words, and eventually my words into action. It was rough, but I finally started up some new projects  – a few of them were a new collaboration with Malene Rigtrup (Ørehænger), a band (Gårsdagens Lys), and eventually the making of a solo album.

Kier on e-piano skylineBeing “proactive” was a whole new thing for me back then. I am still practicing the concept. But I have become much better at looking into which things I have influence on and then work with those. Moving from Copenhagen to Los Angeles in 2010 opened up a whole new field of opportunities for me. I had decided to try and keep alive the friendships and professional partnerships I had grown in Europe over the years. But I also wanted to be a part of the US music scene. Between the frequent travels across the Atlantic with workshops and concerts in different cities with many different groups of people and various concepts, it all started to feel a little chaotic. And then I remembered a song title by one of my favorite Danish artists: Randi Laubek. The song is called “The Wedding of All Things” (edited by Vocal Blog: find lyrics here).

I really liked the idea of all things getting “married” and started to ponder on how my current projects could interact. I basically had two parallel streams of activity going: my work as a teacher in the vocal community and my solo career. Instead of writing and teaching arrangements of other artists’ songs at vocal workshops, I started to bring music that I had composed and arranged myself. And as opposed to planning a separate tour through Denmark and Germany with my electronic band, Kier Project, and then do separate clinics in the same cities, I decided to “marry” the two. This inspired me tremendously and opened up brand new opportunities to grow both as a teacher, writer, and performer.

Right now, I am planning my third Germany tour with Kier Project. This electronic trio consists of me (keys/vox) and then my Copenhagen-based producer friends, Tue Sander (keys/guitar/vox) and Lars Rønne (laptop/vox). Part of what we do is visit choirs and vocal groups around Denmark, Germany and, as a new thing, Holland. In the afternoon, we do big, open choir workshops for singers in the region. At night, we perform a public concert featuring the hosting group, our band, and the large community choir. It is fun, it is meaningful, its … the wedding of all things.

Kier is a platinum-selling singer and songwriter out of Copenhagen, Denmark. For a decade, he has awed audiences across Northern Europe and the US with his contemporary soul music. In 2010, Kier relocated to Los Angeles.

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Berlin’s First PTX Date – Pop, Petting, no Puerling

18. November 2013 10 Kommentare

double review of PTX‘s Berlin show (November 14th, 2013) by Patrick Oliver and Indra Tedjasukmana

Don’t believe the hype, some say. But can one really speak of a “hype” watching Pentatonix’ blitz career? Winners of NBC’s The Sing-off 2011, YouTube sensation, entering Billboard Top10 without a record deal, a sold-out European premiere with a whirlwind tour visiting most European capitals. Any way you look at this group of early twenty-somethings, they have finally reached what many in a cappella kept talking and talking about: They’ve gone totally mainstream. All kind of kids, many of whom have never heard the term a cappella before “Pitch Perfect”, are now sharing their PTX love via the TV of the PTX generation: YouTube.

As a matter of fact, the German vocal music aficionados (No, I’m not calling them the “A Cappella Police”) went to see Pentatonix when they did their first ever show in Germany’s capital, Berlin. The venue, Passionskirche, a church used for concerts on a regular basis was a quite unusual place for both the teenaged audience and for the five US singers. And reading the Patrick Oliver’s (singer with vocal groups Musix, ONAIR, Hartmuth & die Hitmaschine) and Indra Tedjasukmana’s (singer and beatboxer with Sonic Suite and the first student in Germany to write his doctoral thesis on the topic of a cappella) reports, that venue and the surprisingly low-profile sound and lighting system played a big role in this first encounter of the US pop newcomers and the German a cappella intelligentsia. Enjoy the read!


Patrick Oliver live on stageIt could have been so great! Hard to imagine, this smile I would be wearing today while strolling down the streets of Berlin, if only this concert had taken place in Columbiahalle, at Postbahnhof or maybe even at Admiralspalast. Regarding the fact, that the November 14th show was sold out after only two weeks, a significantly larger venue would have been filled nicely, too. Well, at least they could have equipped Passionskirche (the church where the concert eventually took place) with a decent sound system. And if the group had been taken care of by an experienced sound engineer, I would be such a happy guy today. And I would have climaxed a bunch of times, if they hadn’t only covered Pentatonix with cold, white light but a tasteful lighting concept.

They didn’t. And so I sat on the brink of my chair wondering what to think of all this. It all began quite impressively: Long before the doors opened, an large number of waiting fans queued in front of the church. Something I’ve never seen at an a cappella concert before. And how young these people were! Lots of (really good-looking) people, who probably didn’t take any particular interest in a cappella music: they just were so much into Pentatonix – the boy/girl group phenomenon. “If I had known that this will be like at a Robbie Williams show, I would have come earlier”, someone said while waiting.

PassionskircheThe concert started with a delay of fifteen minutes, but then it took off like a rocket! The five singers entered the stage accompanied by Michael Jackson-style ovations. For two minutes they just stood there enjoying the cheers. The moment they started their first song, one thing became clear quickly: You could hardly hear the singers as soon as the crowd went wild.

However, they were doing a great job! They were fully present right from the first moment and dove deep down into the music. They lived and loved every little note, every breath, celebrate every musical change. Despite of the difficult environment, it became very clear that five exceptionally gifted artists created something very special here. And they were so aware of it and gave it their all.

Avi demonstrated overtone singing combined with soul phrasing, Kevin played the cello and beatboxes at the same time – which he shouldn’t have done, as the beatbox sounded terribly. But not even the worst of all sound engineers would have been able to destroy the cello performance: Crazy double stops and innovative blues riffs would have been worth the ticket price of that night.

Mitch never hesitated to conquer the vocal stratosphere and get his spontaneous applause. Scott shone with his charismatic voice and his intense glare. And Kirstie? She had her great moments, but generally she made a rather insecure impression, sometimes even in a bad temper. If she was unnerved by the acoustics, I could feel for her. On certain days, this can truly spoil your day, no matter how much the audience celebrates. Anyway, the way the five filled even the smallest melodic lines with love and passion was so inspiring. They love every single song they do, they just don’t do “that song we just have to do for the crowd.”

Let’s sum it up like that: Everything that happened before the microphone was world class. What followed was a sad chain of errors. The bass lacked exactly that range that one needs for defined bass notes and a proper bass drum. There was nothing but a sub bass mish-mash. The show ended after 90 minutes without intermission and they were gone like true stars.

I stayed behind with a certain dissatisfaction. It could have been great sex. But all I got was petting. I was told there might be the chance of another date next year. I’m going to come – hopefully.


POP, NOT PUERLING (by Indra Tedjasukmana)

Indra profile picPentatonix are one of the most discussed groups at the moment, amongst pop music listeners and fans as well as amongst vocal groups and a cappella singers. There seem to be the ones who like them, support them, welcome the fact that an all-vocal group is joining the ranks of mainstream pop stars. And there also seems to be the other half that critizices PTX for selling their looks, images, that they dress as Wizard of Oz characters, Daft Punk robots and do lots of covers.

NOW: I won´t go into this discussion here! This is a concert review.

I saw PTX’s show at “Passionskirche”, a church in Berlin a few days ago. The church was jampacked, fans were screaming, holding up self-made fan posters etc.

When PTX walked on stage the audience greeted them loudly and with lots of applause. So much and so long that they had to wait until they could start. The concert itself was – in a nutshell – highly energetic. Lots of covers (that they are known for also directly relating to their YouTube videos) and some originals. The sound actually was an issue, as the church turned out to be a difficult place for that kind of bass and beatbox based sound. Oftentimes harmonies and chords were overshadowed by rumbling bass frequencies. PTX was pretty tight in terms of staging, energy, timing and when they were singing “Run to you”, a ballad completely without microphones in the church, one could hear that they are highly trained vocalists and that they do understand blending and the tradition of group like Singers Unlimited, The Real Group et al.

PTX live unplugged in BerlinPop music and YouTube fans got exactly what they wanted: a groovy, loud concert, the characters of the 5 being played out nicely. A cappella fans who were looking for harmony, understanding of the middle voices and blending were probably not excatly happy and I understand their frustration in terms of sound in that church. Others who might have been expecting something totally new and unheard of were probably be disappointed. PTX is a pop group. Fresh. Solid.Groovy. Very skilled. They are not Take 6 or Gene Puerling in a harmonic sense nor do they intend to be. PTX is one of the first groups alongside Naturally 7 and The Exchange to really break into the international pop music business.

Fulfillment or disappointment have a lot to do with what you expect. It is not exactly a secret that PTX is a group that is internationally marketable, they have a clear image and are strongly working through their personalities.

Those who were disappointed by the concert and have expressed this by tweeting or facebooking exactly this are certainly entitled to have their opinion. Maybe it is a good thing though to check what those expectations were. The only thing I found problematic was the sound. Other than that it was a cool pop concert with “Run to you” as a silent moment in which the level of musicality that this group does have was nicely displayed. Deke Sharon once said “Haters gonna hate”. Lovers gonna love. And PTX is going to be on the rise if they continue like that.

Thanks Indra and Patrick for your Berlin report. Now everybody, it’s your time to comment on their articles. Doesn’t matter if you were there or not – what is your impression of Pentatonix? Why do you think they have become so popular in less than two years? And do you think there will be more all-vocal groups breaking into the mainstream?

My SoJam Highlights as a First Timer

by Deborah Rosanwo, originally posted on on November 12th 2013

Deborah Rosanwo

When I said that I was going to SoJam the reactions ranged from” Nice, what is that?” to “All that way for a weekend of A cappella…On your own???”

It is actually Twitter’s fault. Whilst following Vocal Blog I got caught up in an onslaught of overwhelming enthusiastic Tweets from SoJam 2011. Those who know me know that I can also be enthusiastic about things a cappella but this was a completely new dimension and it made me curious to see what the hype was about. The seed for my trip was planted.

As fate would have it, I was in for 6 weeks of hardcore a cappella from September on filled with Choir competitions, the Bonner Jazzchor “Bottle This Moment” CD Release Tour and culminating in SoJam.

So was it worth it? Definitely! Here are my personal highlights:

1) Finally meeting dear Facebook and Twitter friends – Tone Siwela and Tara Marie Ahn - a Cyber SoJam “like”Story. I struck up a great a cappella -based friendship with both of them because of their effervescent 2011 SoJam Tweets and meeting them in person was like a reunion of dear old friends.

P12007692) The Pre- SoJam Meeting in Jimmy V’s with CAL Founder Tom Keyes, the a Cappella Recording Guru Bill Hare, Mr. Vocal Blog himself Florian Städtler, the CASA Ambassador for Ohio and Africa Tone Siwela and Myself …Aca Nerd.  Learning first hand about the history and purpose of The Contemporary A Cappella League and discussing the regional benefits as well as the international relevance.. Extremely informative…especially when interspersed with travelers anecdotes!

3) Chucks! This is THE Burger Temple of Raleigh. Try a Dirty South with Sea Island Red Pea Chili, crispy tobacco onions and Ashe County Mountain Cheddar. The owner won’t hesitate to explain where all the ingredients are bred or grown. Delicious!

4) What does an A Cappella ensemble from Singapore do when it realizes that a great fan cannot come to it’s concert because he can’t close his Chinese restaurant? A flashmob of course! MICappella sang a beautiful contemporary Chinese song after ordering their food.. Much to the joy of the restaurant owner and astonishment of the customers. Extremely cool!

5) UCD MIX. I was excited about the collegiate a cappella competition. I had heard all sorts of things varying from” if you like Beatbox CPR and Octavers ” to ” you can’t beat the enthusiasm of these youngsters”…all of which proved to be true! The ones that stood out that night were however MIX from the University of Denver. They were innovative, had strong soloists, edgy and still the perfect blend, fantastic drama in their choreography and told the story. They practically goldfished me. I could have seen them amongst the Top 3 for the Vocal Ensemble competition at the Aarhus Vocal Festival. I. Was. Impressed. Needless to say, they won! Congrats!

6) Hot on the heels of this experience comes the MIX Masterclass with The Swingle Singers…great to see how Excellent can become Superb with a few tips on stage presence  and tuning from the experts. MIX blew me away with their intensity even without stage props, costumes and microphones. We will hear a lot more from them in the future.

7) Canadian party a cappella group Eh440 kept the audience entertained between the competition sets. They gave myself and Tone asylum in their car and we all sat singing Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” in 6 improvised parts on our way to the SoJam After-Party #carjam and even took us in as VIPs! A cappella bonds…just like that!

8) A customised Vocal Jog for Dee around the Sheraton block with Florian Städtler between discussions about EVA and CASA in the quest for an elusive taxi to the North Carolina University campus for the workshops on Veterans’ Day…. an almost impossible task but we made it.

9) MICappella… Asian a cappella took the stage by storm last Saturday. Not only are these guys cool to hang out with, their mix of Pop, Rock and Ballads interspersed with the dispersion of myths about Singapore … (They are neither in China, Malaysia  nor in Japan!!) , crowd approval gestures Asian style, a bass from hell, a mad beatboxer and strong vocalists catered for a fired up audience and good vibes all around. The modern day ” hold-up-your-flashlight-on-your-smartphone” during a chinese ballad was literally a brilliant moment for all.

10) And then came the Swingles. All of a sudden there was a refined, pure, clear, beautiful sound encompassing us all like a tunnel of light shining into a clearing in the forest. The bass and the vocal percussion were defining but non intrusive, balm for my ears… Sara Brimer’s soaring soprano, Clare Wheeler’s unbelievable scats, Oliver Griffiths soul- wrenching tenor, Jo Etson’s refined mezzo… I was moved to tears by the Swingles for the first time and I have seen the Swingles at least 4 times in the last 2 years. Their performance was a display of elite a cappella, aristocracy if you wish, hand picked and handed down over 50 years of the group’s existence. Yes, the Swingles totally own their art form!

PS.  Sunday morning brunch in Jimmy V’s … scrambled eggs, sausages and bacon, scones, bagels, fresh fruit and yoghurt and coffee served in a real cup for the first time in 5 days! How I had missed that. And no, I will not diverge into a German rant about Schwarzbrot but this brunch really compensated for all the fast food and coffee to go.. I could laugh and sing again!

Mit freundlichem Gruß

Deborah Rosanwo


11 People I haven’t met but want to meet at SoJam 2013

by Florian Städtler, founder and editor-in-chief of Vocal Blog

Florian with Kaspers SoJam X passHey, I can’t believe it’s November yet and even more incredible: I’m going to be back at one of the finest events on planet a cappella: SoJam A Cappella Festival 2013 is only a few hours away! And I should rather try to get a few hours of sleep before trying to catch my bus to a train to a plane to another plane to Tom Keyes‘ car to Durham, North Carolina.

During SoJams 2011 and 2012 I was lucky to meet a lot of wonderful people from the US and elsewhere. It would be a very hot potatoe to post a select ten of the many great folks I’ve already met at SoJam or somewhere else in the world. So I’m going to tell you (and actually also the mentioned people, too), who I haven’t (really) met and talked to in person yet but would love to: For a drink and/or a little Vocal Blog video chat on the SoJam campus.

  1. Mallory Zuckerman – because she asked me to come and made all the arrangements. Thank you for addressing me so nicely with “My dear” in every single e-mail ;)
  2. Dave Longo – of course we somehow “met”, but did we ever have time for a proper chat? Hope he won’t be too busy, but it would be great to talk about US and EU a cappella worlds
  3. Jasleen Marie Sperandio – because I’ve seen more beautiful pictures of her than of any other Facebook friends. And she’s the perfect reason to invite oneself to the home of my friends Lena & Dave Sperandio
  4. A Durham hairdresser – because I want to get my first ever US haircut…do I have to be nervous? I tried to get one over here, but was too late and I don’t know if the US Airways flight attendants would do me that favor.
  5. Deborah Rosanwo – because I absolutely want her to join the European Voices Association team. And as we never managed to really talk in the country we live, we will use a trip across the pond to finally talk about the future of European a cappella
  6. Ein Ein, Calin, Juni, Peter, Eugene, YK, because I have neither met Micappella nor seen them live on a stage. As a German I particularly like the name Ein Ein. For us Germans that sounds like a double No.1 :)
  7. Eh440 - because I have to admit that I had not heard of them before seeing them on the SoJam website. Make me less ignorant, Canadians…and say hello to the Vocal Blog readers/viewers
  8. Patrick Hockberger – not only because his name sounds quite familiar for people from German-speaking countries, but I think his bio sound really interesting. So does his workshop title “Business Plan Contest”. Must have this man on the blog.
  9. Revati Murthy – her background, cross-cultural and multi-stylistic, makes me very curious. And I haven’t met anyone from India yet, who I can talk to about vocal music
  10. Dave Bernstein – because we have co-blogged, e-mailed, FB-chatted etc. etc. quite a lot, but: No face-to-face meeting yet. So this is our chance, can’t wait!
  11. YOU!! – Who I haven’t thought of. I’m looking forward to coming to know many more people that I can learn from and who are willing to share their aca-knowledge with the rest of the world. Don’t be shy, let me know you are at SoJam 2013!

Time to hit the hay now – less than five hours until my alarm will tell me: It’s REALLY that extraordinary, unique time in November now. See you in North Carolina!

Florian Städtler is founder of Vocal Blog, co-founder of Acappellazone, vocal music agent and Chairman of the Board of The European Voices Association. And he’s a BIG FAN of and wants to thank all the people who work their a…es off to make this happen. Follow Florian on his worldwide a cappella trips via Twitter, hashtag #VBontour.

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