VOCES8 coming to Freiburg – Interview with Paul Smith
by Nina Ruckhaber, Vocal Co-Blogger
VOCES8‘s upcoming show in Freiburg, the “Capital of the Black Forest” (and place of Acappellazone‘s/Vocal Blog‘s headquarters) gave me the opportunity to interview Paul Smith, the mastermind behind one of the UK’s most active vocal groups. If you live in Germany, Switzerland or France, don’t miss the opportunity to see this British vocal music gem live on Saturday, 27th of June, 20:00h at the beautiful, new Humboldtsaal. Click here for tickets and now: Enjoy the read!
Ever since we started VOCES8 in 2005, education and workshops have been important to us. We believe it is our job to use our skills to try to inspire and energise the next generation of musicians and creative people. We have now worked with more than 250,000 students and opened the Gresham Centre – our own centre for vocal music, education and outreach in the City of London, so I think you can tell it’s something we think is very important!
Recently, your book “The VOCES8 Method” has been released. What is that method basically about?
In many of the schools we work in, there are problems with teachers not having much musical training, a lack of time for music and no money to spend on music. The VOCES8 Method is designed to answer these challenges with simple, fun musical ways to wake up the brain, body and voice, and to do it in a way that links music with numeracy, literacy and linguistics. We are very excited that it is now being used in more than 1000 schools in 9 different countries, and have been translated into French and German.
Your repertoire covers different genres of music (sacred choir music, spirituals, madrigals, jazz standards, classic pop songs). Do you as a group prefer any particular genre?
I think every member of the group would give a different answer! We love singing a wide variety of repertoire, and taking the audience on a real musical journey. Whatever music we sing, we find a way to connect emotionally with it. We are so lucky to sing songs that have survived and flourished for centuries – that tends to give it a real stamp of quality I think.
How would you describe the recent development of the European a cappella scene?
It’s vibrant right now! The whole world seems to be going through an a cappella explosion over the last few years, and we are very happy to be a part of it!
Being a member of a vocal group myself, I have experienced that some masterclasses can be truly inspiring and outstanding in terms of the learning effects. What were the most helpful masterclasses or coachings you have attended, as a group or individually?
We were all lucky growing up to be able to study with some of the best choral musicians in the world. I think the best masterclasses or coaching happens when the person giving the session doesn’t try to teach a subject, but to encourage learning from the people in the room. The way we learn is always going to be flexible, and the best learning happens when the teacher or coach adapts to the people that are learning. We always try to remember that people come first!
Just being curious: what is your next CD going to be like? Is there a name to it, already?
A very good question! We have a new album coming out soon with the French baroque orchestra, Les Inventions, of music by Marcello. We have also just been recording some music by our composer in residence for next year, Ola Gjeilo, and we are now making plans (still top secret!) for our next album with Decca. Life is always exciting!