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Archiv für Januar, 2014

10 LACF memories that will bring me back in 2015

by Florian Städtler, London, post-#LACF2014

The author with the ultimate description of the typical LACF visitor.

The author with the ultimate description of the typical LACF visitor.











Many events are good at marketing. Only few really deliver. Rarely has a marketing slogan been so diligently put into practice as during London A Cappella Festival 2014, which has just ended after 4 days of – yes, here comes the LACF marketing department – “Total Immersion”. Immersion into an art form. Immersion into a unique community. Immersion into more and more #LACFextra cult activities. Congratulations to a brilliant team of professional and volunteer festival organizers. Congratulations to all who travelled from Hackney and Denver, from Firenze and Rotterdam, from Singapore and Hannover, from Bersheeba and Los Angeles. To name only a totally random few. You have been part of a festival that has grown from a purely British two-day concert event into a four-day package that includes everything an a cappella enthusiast and a “regular” music lover wishes for.

The concerts featuring The Swingle Singers (UK) as co-hosts, The Real Group (SWE), The Housejacks (USA), Slixs (GER), Vive (UK), The Songmen (UK), The Time Ensemble and many more foyer and workshop acts gave an impression of both the state of the art and of what we can expect of the future of vocal music. The workshops were mostly sold out and featured a great diversity of topics and workshop styles, from impromptu beatbox-along sessions and behind-the-scenes talks to intense collective exercises and valuable insights for up-and-coming groups. All this happens in an extraordinarily inspiring venue, King’s Place and a constant buzz of singers, conductors, organizers, producers, media people and aca-nerds, meeting, talking, discussing, celebrating and enjoying the variety of nationalities and cultures in England’s capital.

There’s nothing like the real thing, which is: Coming to the London A Cappella Festival yourself. “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”, Mick Goodrick rightfully said and the same goes for explaining the unique at vocal music festivals like Aarhus, Stockholm, Leipzig, Hannover, Graz, Hamburg, Tours, Vienna or Munich. Just go to London in January 2015, get “totally immersed” and catch the LACF bug. “Pictures say much more than words” is another truism used too often. Nevertheless, the following 10 snapshots taken by my very old but cherished Vocal Blog Lumix, are my personal memories that have made London A Cappella 2014 unique. And 10 reasons for me to come back.

(1) Trending Beards: Obviously, growing beards is trending in London. Just look at the current male fraction of The Swingle Singers. Why? Is it for practical reasons? Do those guys want to look older than they are? Do their spouses want to keep other women kissing their partners? Is it compensation for losing hair elsewhere? The beard phenomenon will certainly not be a major reason to come back to London. But I predict that this trend will have turned into something new by the time of LACF 2015. The “LACF Beard XXL Competition” was clearly won by an ex-Swingle: Tobias “Tobi” Hug made a spectacular appearance at the festival, presenting himself as the perfect doppelgänger of Fidel Castro Jr. It used to be “Everybody needs a Hug”. Now it’s “Love is in the hair.”


L.A. fashion guru Bill Hare with Fidel Castro Jr.











(2) Aca-Family: This festival truly brings together all generations singing and loving vocal music: Vocal music legends in the same way as collegiate a cappella groups. Producer heavy-weights like Bill Hare, Liquid Fifth and Danny Ozment as well as DIY-YouTube creatives in their early twenties. School kids, young parents, grandparents and whole families in the audience. I was particularly happy to see the Ikon Arts‘ founder  and LACF producer Costa Peristianis‘ whole family at King’s Place: Holly (who’s also back at the Ikon office working for British jazz-pop-gospel act Vive), Isabella and Leo. You can’t start to totally immerse early enough!


Holly, Isabella, Costa and Leo joining the aca-celebrities.












(3) Jessica Hill & the LACF team: Have you ever tried to plan and organize a concert in your local community? It can be quite a challenge. But what about organizing an international festival with participants from all over the world, from top-notch, professional artists to countless of amateur and school ensembles? Jessica Hill, artist manager with Ikon Arts has become “Mama LACF” and like every good mom, she loves her baby – although it can be quite exhausting and capricious. And even a seasoned professional like Jessie couldn’t manage this extravaganza on her own. So our thank yous go out to Sarah Hickling, Nicola Semple, Becky Chilton, Holly Peristiani (whose desk I was allowed to use for a mini-internship during the festival – thanks so much!) and Clarice Goff. Ikon Arts director can be more than proud of that fabulous team.


Jessica “Mama LACF” Hill (Ikon Arts)














(4) The Single Singers: Annemarie Homann, Dutch ex-pat in Italy and her singing buddy Emily May t’Hoen have created a wonderful work of non-profit, make-it-happen, feel good work-of-art. Up to 40 singers traveling to different international  a cappella festivals without their groups prepare a couple of songs that – after 2 rehearsals – are performed at the festivals’ main venue. This has become one of the true cult activities at festivals in Aarhus, Stockholm and London. And seeing these people meeting, reuniting and simply enjoying the collective singing simply makes you happy.


Single Singers ecstasy, LACF 2013












(5) The LACF 2014 Live Album: Yes, we did it, last-minute, including the typical allnighter getting the vocal music online shop Acappellazone ready for pre-orders of the first live album including all professional acts that have performed at King’s Place this year. Yes, I’m not kidding, by early March there will be an album that includes The Real Group, The Swingle Singers, The Housejacks, Slixs and Vive. The album (limited edition of 200 CDs or mp3) can be    pre-ordered at a special festival price until 30th of January and will then be available at the regular price. So if you couldn’t make it to LACF 2014, here’s your chance to get an impression of the vocal magic happening at King’s Place. And if you were there, that’s the perfect souvenir, Christmas present or collector’s item.














(6) The Vocal Jog: This is probably something that most of my readers and especially those who have been to aca-festivals, cannot even imagine: Going for a collective morning run after very little sleep and before another day jam-packed with workshops and concerts. Believe it or not, we’re doing this on an annual basis, a chosen few who make it up to Primrose Hill, close to Regent’s Park. Learn more about it at the Vocal Jog fan page and join if you want to get to a completely different level of festival energy. And nerdiness. (For the record: This year there were 6 of us, 2 groups of three each, who unfortunately missed each other on Primrose Hill. 4 Dutch – more on that later -, on Scotsman and one German).


View from Primrose Hill during not-so-foggy LACF2014 test run (Friday, 23rd of January)













(7) Willy Eteson: Former Swingles business director Richard “Willy” Eteson has a favourite pastime, which has become an exclusive LACFextra activity. Willy is a fantastic chef and creator of self-made meat products. This year again, he brought his latest creations to the King’s Place foyer: Self-made grilled sausages and (here we go, my dear vegetarian friends!) delicious brawn. Southern Belle Sara Brimer and her boyfriend, conductor James Davey  were absolutely delighted as the picture can tell.


Meat & Greet with Swingle Singers soprano Sara Brimer and Jim Davey













(8) Full English Breakfast. The hotel some of us stayed at was – to describe it carefully – not a hotbed of customer service. However, we tried to enjoy the traditional English breakfast (scrambled eggs, toast, tomatoes, baked beans, bacon, sausage (worlds apart from Willy’s self-made treats). And you can’t imagine how good this fireworks of British cuisine tastes after 7.7 kilometres of running.


That’s how you start a London day: Baked beans and Nutella are non-negotiable.













(9) Vive & Slixs: My personal discoveries (thanks, Costa Peristianis and Tobias Hug!) of the festival were the two groups that were new to most of the audience, too: Local heroes Vive with their artful and clever mix of jazz, pop and gospel as well German “hidden champions” Slixs (formerly known as Stouxingers), who in a irresistible way refuted the cliché that German groups never really groove or can be funny in an intelligent way . Both Vive and Slixs have two things in common: They consist of five male and one female member, and – more important – of 6 equally strong characters that make their concerts performances in the literal sense of the word. My prediction here: If  those not-so-newcomers will live up to their own potential, they will be the headliners and trendsetters of tomorrow.


Vive – the only way is up!














(10) The Dutchies: Like most neighbors, the Dutch and the Germans have their mutual stereotypes, small and not-so-small rivalries and frictions. I love my Dutch friends, a whole traveling party of good-humored and witty people. Thanks for candle light dinners, breakfast chats, great snapshots and greater after parties. See you soon, somewhere in Acappelland. Or at LACF 2015, at the very latest!


Preparing for another LACF2014 day with Full Dutch Breakfast.












I’m Florian Städtler, blogger, a cappella agent, event director and learner of Mandarin. Vocal Blog is my global vocal music communication baby. If you want to be a part of that great community and dive into a stream of related news, links, tips, videos, pictures etc., follow me on Twitter, like the Vocal Blog Facebook fan page, join the Facebook group, subscribe to the Acappellazone YouTube channel and hit me up, when you are going to be present at a cappella events. And if you are interested in becoming a Vocal Co-Blogger, send your (not-so-promotional) articles and pictures and I’m happy to feature them on the blog. If you like what you read and watch, and want Vocal Blog going, buy CDs, DVDs, sheet music and more Cool Stuff at my vocal music online shop

At work while the US guys are preaching :-) #VBontour

Live blogging from LACF2014 workshops. #VBontour

Pitch Perfect Unpicked – Deke Sharon & Nick Girard talk, teach and make noises at LACF2014

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog – posted live from London A Cappella Festival 2014

Florian Steve Jobs live Städtler (Foto Ellen Schmauss)This is basically what I overheard in a London A Cappella Festival workshop by two a cappella big shots of the US vocal music scene: Deke Sharon, “the man who invented a cappella in 1991″, TV producer and overall a cappella mastermind and Nick Girard (singer and vocal percussionist with The Housejacks and Overboard) got up on King’s Place Hall Two and started talking. The workshop started according to its title with Deke rushing through the US vocal music history from Barbershop and Ivy League traditional collegiate a cappella to the successful a cappella movie Pitch Perfect. Then surprisingly (maybe a bit disappointingly for those who were keen on learning more that a few, quick anecdotes…and probably didn’t read the festival programme like me), this turned into beginners’ vocal percussionist and instrument imitation workshop.

So while two-hundred collegiate, semi-pro a cappella and choir singers “boomed” and “chicked” and “tsssd”,  fiddled, blew and picked imaginary instruments, I took out my laptop and tried to catch a few of aca-celebrity quotes, tips and tricks from how to make an a cappella movie and not spit at your friends while you lip buzz.

“You know the myth: In the US, a cappella is big and we’re all rich. – Well, that’s the myth.” (Deke Sharon)


Deke Sharon doing the trumpet, trombone, muted trumpet, violin et al

“Old England is great too, I’m talking about the US New England here.” (Deke Sharon)

“A cappella started out as Ivy League thing, but during the last years, it has exploded.” (Deke Sharon)

“We want to make an a cappella movie….!” “That’s a terrible idea.” (Deke Sharon)

“There was no vomiting involved in the non-fiction book.” (Deke Sharon)

“The movie ended up being made. But it wasn’t necessarily easy.” (Deke Sharon)

“The bottom line is: This will be a comedy, so we will have to make fun of our community. But on the other hand, the music had to be good.” (Deke Sharon)

“This was a movie that was on a very, very tight budget.” (Deke Sharon)

“I had no idea how these girls should win as it is written in the script.” (Deke Sharon)

“Here at LACF we’re literally preaching to the choir.” (Deke Sharon)

“Music is communication. You must be able to reach people with your voices.” (Deke Sharon)

“Vocal percussion and beatbox are essentially synonymous in our community.” “However, I as a vocal percussionist see myself as a member of band. It’s not about the beatbox competition pyrotechnics.” (Nick Girard)

“A great beatboxer often not makes a great vocal percussionist in a group: Vocal percussionists first and foremost will keep the time.” (Deke Sharon)

Nick Girard teaching vocal percussion

Nick Girard teaching vocal percussion

“Don’t listen to vocal percussionists – listen to real drummer doing their thing.” (Nick Girard)

“The breathing’s gonna get complicated.” (Nick Girard)

“The end of this sound looks like this.” (Nick Girard)

“If you’re afraid of looking stupid, you should probably not start with vocal percussion. And sorry, you will end up looking stupid even when you are very good at it.” (Nick Girard)

“It really sounds disgusting, this collective spiting, clearing throats.” (Florian Städtler)

“I don’t have to breathe anymore. Because I’m relaxed.” (Nick Girard)

“There have to be one or two trombone solos on YouTube.” (Deke Sharon)

“I learned this (the muted trumpet) after I got married.” (Deke Sharon)

“It’s that ugliness that you have to keep!” (Deke Sharon)

“Just say ‘Helluh, Gov’na!’” (Deke Sharon)

“Before you know it, you have a semi-marketable skill.” (Deke Sharon)

“A lot of what you hear when you sing bass, is your microphone.” (Nick Girard)

“I’m a baritenor.” (Nick Girard)

“The first thing you need for a cappella improvisation is no fear.” (Deke Sharon) “And maybe be a bit drunk.” (Nick Girard)

“It (improvisation Housejacks style) comes as a lovely soufflé of chaos and stupidity.” (Deke Sharon)

“We don’t mind if it goes wrong.” (John Pointer, The Housejacks)

“As members of the great British perfect music machine, you tend to forget about what this is all about: How does it make you feel and how can you share that feeling with other people.” (Deke Sharon)”

At work while the US guys are preaching :-) #VBontour

At work while the US guys are preaching :-) #VBontour

I’m Florian Städtler , a happy, happy man, because I can afford to spend four days in London meeting some of the coolest, most intelligent and lovely people I know. Vocal Blog has become my connection to this tiny, wonderful, nerdy, enthusiastic community of a cappella. If you like what you read and see, follow me via Twitter, like the Facebook fan page, join the Facebook group, watch 600+ videos at the Acappellazone YouTube channel. And you want to keep me and Vocal Blog going, buy vocal music CDs, DVDs, sheet music and cool stuff at my shop at






The LACF2014 Vocal Jog – Join the Cult!

Always on the run…

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Jog evangelist

Those of you who are new to Vocal Blog or have not been to an international a cappella festival (yet) might think it’s a typo. No, it isn’t: Besides the Vocal Blog (your favourite online vocal music magazine) there is the Vocal JOG. What the FORK is this?

It all began with realizing that being on tour often means the following: Take a plane or train to some airport, drive to a hotel, hurry to the venue, soundcheck, concert, after show party, sleep (a bit), have breakfast at hotel, drive to train station or airport and be gone. Gone without the slightest idea about the place you just “visited”. On top of that rather frustrating kind of spending time in probably nice places, life on tour is not particularly healthy: either too little or too much or too fast food, alcohol, little sleep and constant rushing from one place to the other.

So could there be anything better than physical activity to get the stress out? And wouldn’t it be nice to see a bit more than another run-of-the-mill hotel room and the backstage areas of the world? I realized that if you have your running shoes and suitable clothes with you all the time, there is almost always a half hour and a shower, that gives you that wonderful feeling of fresh air in your lungs and a perspective on the city or landscape you are at the moment.

To motivate more people at vocal music festival to join me, I gave this “project” the name Vocal Jog and after a lot of unsuccessful efforts to find running mates, I finally had the first group Vocal Jog at London A Cappella Festival 2012. The six of us went up Primrose Hill (a proper British “mountain”…) and down in vocal music and sports history. And 2013, we did it again: Despite of a really hot after show party the night before and a rather cold London morning, 5 of us made it up the Hill and back to more LACF activities right after the Vocal Jog challenge.

John (on the very left) with Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Claudia Appel, Nicholas Girard and Annemarie Homan on Primrose Hill, 2012

So here’s the next opportunity for all of you who are in London on Saturday, 25th of January! Join us for the Third (now) Official LACF2014 Vocal Jog, here is the schedule and the most important details:

    • 08:30am – meeting and start at The Travelodge Royal Scot Hotel (100 King’s Cross Rd, London WC1X 9DT) for those who want to do a relaxing run of about 60 minutes
    • 08:50am – next meeting point is the Chester Gate entrance of Regent’s Park (tube station: Regent’s Park, follow the Outer Circle counterclockwise = Northbound and meet us at the gate opposite of the road called Chester Gate; this is recommended for Vocal Joggers who would like to run approximately 30 minutes
Vocal Jog 2013 heroes: Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Christopher Sutton, Liz Swain, John Lau

Vocal Jog 2013 heroes: Hans Cassa, Florian Städtler, Christopher Sutton, Liz Swain, John Lau

  • 09:00am - meeting point for the “Nordic Talkers”, those who only want to talk a walk of about 15 minutes to the top of Primrose Hill is the crossing of Prince Albert Road and Albert Terrace
  • 09:15am – For those who just want to watch and cheer at the VocalJoggers (= fans, groupies, tweeps), wait for us on top of Primrose Hill, you won’t be able to miss us. Depending on the weather you will be rewarded by a wonderful view over the city including the London Eye and all.
  • 09:50am – return to the Royal Scot, feel free to welcome the Vocal Jog heroes!

Here’s the link to the complete route on Google Maps. Find updates at the Vocal Jog Facebook fan page and if you want to be part of this fantastic #LACFextra #VocalJog experience, don’t miss it and join us along the way. The current world record of participants is 6 runners – London, I know we can beat this! For urgent questions, call the Vocal Jog hotline at +49 171 201 50 66.

Größere Kartenansicht

Meet you on the LACF2014 track in less than a week – can’t wait!

I’m Florian Städtler, an amateur-runner, an ex-singer and – before the Vocal Jog took off – had to learn about “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” the hard way. Like music, workout is a highly social activity. I think running after an after-show party is simply the best. At least when it’s over.


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12 deep and not so deep questions for LACF2014 visitors

by Florian Städtler, reporting from Stockholm, #VBontour

Meeting Morgen & Anders in Stockholm

Some might remember my blog post about my “A Cappella World Tour 2012″, when I was lucky to plan and direct a cappella performances at a corporate roadshow in Mainz, Hong Kong, Baltimore and Sao Paolo. Probably the closest I yet came to the thing I would call “the time of my life”, at least my professional life. These jobs are quite exciting as you get deep insight into the world of huge corporations and how they use art to communicate to their stakeholders in a more “soulful”, inspiring way. So after I introduced those guys to the art of “making-400-salespeople-learn-and-record-a-song-in-20-minutes”, they hired me for more jobs of that kind. Before I even knew it, I had turned into a scriptwriter and event director, bridging the linguistic and communicative gap between the corporate and arts world.

Working at an international corporate event as a director of a business theatre play and a staged “activist flashmob”, I’ve stayed in Stockholm for the whole of this week and when it all was over yesterday evening, I finally had  some time to meet two very good friends, The Real Group’s Anders Edenroth and Morten Vinther. We realized that we will very soon meet again, which made us even happier: At the Kulturbörse Freiburg’s “A Cappella Special”, one of Germany’s most prominent showcases on January 29th and, even before that at the London A Cappella Festival 2014, 23rd-25th of January, where they will return after their fantastic London debut two years ago.

Meeting at Urban Deli, a restaurant/deli-shop mix in the hot-spot neighborhood of Södermalm, we soon discussed all the world and his brother, starting from challenges of funeral performances to national stereotypes, the concept of individualistic education and Swedish “Knäckebröd”. Inspired by two very intelligent and witty friends, I’ve collected some questions taken right out of this conversation, that will have to be discussed further with all the other intelligent and witty people at LACF2014 after-show parties and #LACFextra events. We are happy to hear your immediate comments, too, feel free to utter them in the comments section of in Vocal Blog’s Facebook group!

1. Is Swedish “Knäckebröd” better than Finnish?

2. The world has to change, as the current system destroy the environment and the spirit of community sacrificed to economics. Who will realize AND ACT first: The Europeans? The Chinese? The Americans?

Jo Eteson, Olli Griffiths, Tiina Vihtkari at LACF 2013

Jo Eteson, Olli Griffiths, Tiina Vihtkari at LACF 2013

3. How can we get to an educational system that fits the whole variety of talent that human beings offer? Away from the “educational mass production” and around the problem of measuring learnings in a unified way?

4. Why is Stephen Fry so fascinating? Because of his wonderful language skills? Because his remarkable openness regarding his homosexuality? Because of his fantastic acting and public speaking? Because of this beautiful documentary “Stephen Fry in America”? Because of this stunning documentary of his own bipolar disorder?

5. How can you deal with a promoter who exercises his power by constantly smiling and expressing his enthusiasm while not even managing to warm a vegetable soup backstage? And should every musician be able to heat vegetable soup on a stove by himself?

6. What are the true virtues of a tour manager?

7. Is English beer better than its reputation as being “lukewarm cervisia” (“Asterix in Britain”)?

Willy "Deli" Eteson in action.

Willy “Deli” Eteson in action.

8. Did you know that Willy Eteson, former tenor and business director of The Swingle Singers and his long-time choir singing friends annually slaughter a pig to produce sausage and all kind of other British delicacies? (Keep an eye on him at King’s Place, I’m pretty sure he’ll have his doggy/piggy bag with very special treats ready in 2014, too.)

9. What percentage of national stereotypes are actually true? Is everything in Sweden based on “consensus”? Are the Danish the happiest people in the world? Are the Germany efficient and do they have that very bad sense of humour?

10. Do we tend to think that none of these stereotypes are true, because our artistic, aca-harmonic community gives us a false impression of how open-minded and polyglot people from all countries are?

11. Who was the first person to join Florian Städtler for a Vocal Jog? a) Anders Edenroth or b) Morten Vinther?

12. What are questions you would like to discuss at LACF2014?

You think this is pretty random? Of course it is – it’s what three guys at a bar in Stockholm came up with in 2 hours and with (only) six Swedish beers in total. Find better questions, if you can. And maybe even answers…

#VocalJog 2013 - are you ready for this year's Saturday morning run? #LACFextra

#VocalJog 2013 – are you ready for this year’s Saturday morning run? #LACFextra

Hi, I’m Florian Städtler, a cappella agent, blogger, event director and scriptwriter. You might want to follow Vocal Blog and I don’t want to stop you doing so. Check out the Facebook group and fan page as well as Twitter, my shop Acappellazone and the respective YouTube channel. See you in London next week, there are tickets left, but I recommend making this call now…