Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button
Technorati button
Reddit button
Myspace button
Linkedin button
Webonews button
Delicious button
Digg button
Flickr button
Stumbleupon button
Newsvine button


Archiv für September, 2015

The Real Group – on their 30th anniversary tour in Korea

24. September 2015 Keine Kommentare

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

It was 1984 when The Real Group was formed. More than 3 decades later, they are still touring across the globe and celebrating their 30th anniversary with their fans all over the world. A few days ago, The Real Group had a concert in the Seoul Arts Center in Korea. Although in the same time zone, we failed to do a „Real“time interview due to bad internet connection. But Morten, baritone of The Real Group, was so nice to give me an interview at a later time. I am very happy to share it with you here on Vocal Blog!

An Interview with Morten Vinther (The Real Group)

Juliana: Congratulations to your 30th anniversary – The seniors of contemporary a cappella! This year (2015), you started your anniversary world tour – is it routine or how does it feel different?

Morten Vinther Sørensen, The Real Group

Morten Vinther Sørensen, The Real Group

Morten: It feels like an extreme privilege for us, to get to celebrate our anniversary with so many people all over the world. And singing songs from almost the whole period of 30 years, puts our own work into a new perspective – for example; choosing songs for an anniversary concert is REALLY hard, when you have hundreds of potential candidates for the list. So that feels different! And even though singing concerts and traveling is what we do, it never becomes routine to meet a smiling audience. Every night is different and we thoroughly enjoy it – recently in South Korea we had fans bringing cake and enjoyed it a bit extra! :-)

Juliana: On your „round the world tour“, you’ve just been in Korea. It seems you’ve been almost everywhere. How did you choose the countries and locations for your anniversary tour?

Morten: We actually sat down with a wish to spoil ourselves a little and said: Which places that we have been to would be on a wish-list? And then we basically tried to make that happen with our manager Helena Roos and our hardworking contacts all over the world. This far the tour has included central Europe, most of Scandinavia, United States, Japan, England, South Korea and before the year is over we will visit Germany, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Latvia, Denmark and have a few trips in Sweden.

Juliana: What is your favorite location?

Morten: Impossible to answer! Every spot has it’s own charm, and I really like getting to switch between cultures and regions all the time. We are all in love with FOOD though (!), which results in tough concerts when we visit countries like Italy and Japan – note to self: don’t eat the 15th bite of sushi before the concert!

Juliana: What is your special linkage to Korea?

Morten: Some years back a very visionary man - Jay W. Sung, FEEL MUSIC – contacted us, because he wanted to use our music in TV-commercials in South Korea and he immediately made us appear on big campaigns on national TV. So that was actually the start of when ended out extensive touring in Korea, hosting an a cappella festival in Seoul, singing at the opening-ceremony of the FIFA World Cup and developing the “a cappella phone” with LG to name the most important things (of course, the love for Korean food followed…)

Juliana: What is your personal highlight touring / singing with the Real Group?

The Real Group

The Real Group

Morten: Personal highlights, hmm, there’s almost too many highlights – but I will try to name a few.

- Touring in South Africa is definitely on the list. We are ambassadors for the charity organization Star for Life that work in South Africa have been visiting schools with that initiative, while also doing our normal concert. Deeply moving encounters with the smiles, the singing and the past.

- Almost living for one month (in total) in the middle of Shibuya, Tokyo, while singing 19 concerts in almost all the suburban areas of Tokyo. Feels a little like home when we come back now.

Juliana: Looking back in your band’s history and your many visits to Asia, how do you think the A Cappella world changed during that time? Especially in Asia?

Morten: The genre has opened up to so many different ways of approaching a cappella. In Asia we have seen both the contemporary and the folky styles develop a lot.

Juliana: Three decades „The Real Group“ – you became ambassadors for a cappella – What is the secret of establishing a worldwide successful renown a cappella group and keeping at the top, motivating and inspiring other groups to sing a cappella?

Morten: I would say that The Real Group has never had those “goals” in mind. I’m not sure it’s secrets but curiosity, timing, respect and extremely hard work has definitely been factors, that has helped on the way – hard work being the biggest one! :-)

Juliana: Do you need to continuously reinvent yourself?

Morten: It would be very boring if we continued to do the same, so I think we have a natural urge to invent new music, new arrangements and follow new ideas – no sure if that is reinventing. But it probably comes out of the aforementioned curiosity… it’s hard to stop that!

The Real Group greeting the Vocal Blog followers “Meet!”

Juliana: What comes next? What are your upcoming projects? Will you continue with LEVELELEVEN (The Real Group + Rajaton)?

Morten: We have a repertoire with a symphony orchestra, that we will take out a few times within the next year. And yes, that’s our plan to continue with LEVELELEVEN – as long as Rajaton wants us on stage with them :-) It’s a very dear project to all of us and besides developing new music and exploring a new instrument together, we have so much fun when we meet. There’s already a few concerts in the calendar for next year with Leveleleven, and we’re looking forward to the luxury.

Juliana: Is „the Bass-Anders“ leaving the biggest change you experienced during your time with The Real Group? 

Morten: Yes, it is definitely the biggest change I have experienced, because Anders Jalkeus is the first member that has left the group, since I joined. That being said, I have been singing with Emmas substitute Kerstin when Emma was on her maternity leave and now more than half a year with our new bass Janis Strazdins – so the changes feel less dramatic than they might look, I guess. The music always lingers on

Juliana: Your new bass Janis joined this year. How did Janis make his way from Latvia to The Real Group?

Morten: We already knew about Janis before we started to look for Anders Jalkeus’ replacement. He used to sing in the extraordinary Latvian vocal group Cosmos and since they split up some years back he quickly made it to our list of people we wanted to talk to. For the last five years, Janis has been singing and touring with the renowned Latvian Radio Choir so it was a steady, calm and experienced guy who entered our rehearsal place to try out with us. I remember rehearsing much longer passages of the pieces than we had planned for, and generally our feedback to his singing was very positive – Janis was cool and answered: “Well, that’s what they pay me for…”    :-)  Janis feels like a great addition to the group and his background reflects the same kind of musical curiosity that can be found in The Real Group – so now we are curious about the future :-) !

Juliana: What is ”The Real Group Academy” about?

Morten: The Real Group Academy is our online “hub” for education within the vocal music field. We have tried to find a way to tie all the great teachers we know out there to all the wonderful singers who wants to learn more. So we really try to connect the singers/conductors/arrangers who want to improve – to the one they need to talk to, so they can meet in real life or via Skype or other digital platforms. The Real Group Academy organize weekend-courses, festivals, coachings, workshops and through Peder Karlsson we’re a part of the RAMA Vocal Center in Denmark. We care a lot about vocal music, basically.

Juliana: Thank you so much for your interview! Enjoy the remaining 30th anniversary tour of The Real Group!

The Real Group “Live in Japan” (also mentioned by Kaichiro Kitamura who is a guest performer on the CD)


Flying Visit at the BERvokal 2015

22. September 2015 Keine Kommentare

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

Wait, Vocal Blog “Asia“ at BERvokal in Berlin??? Well yes, I was lucky to spend the very same weekend in Berlin when the BERvokal 2015 (Sep 4-6) took place. The 3 year old annual A Cappella Pop Festival is hosted by Lukas Teske (Maybebop) and Felix Powroslo (coach of the Wise Guys). The festival is aiming at vocal ensembles as well as individual singers and vocal enthusiasts, being a platform of exchange, mutual learning and offering great workshops by professional coaches.

BERvokal 2015 Open Stage Concert - HörBänd pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

BERvokal 2015 Open Stage Concert – HörBänd
pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

On Saturday evening (Sep 5), I visited the Open Stage Concert – an excellent opportunity for the participating groups to show what they’ve been working on, what they learned during the workshops and coaching sessions from the pros. This year, amongst many well-known coaches like Erik Sohn, Julian Knörzer, Carsten Gerlitz also the master group ONAIR shared their knowledge and experience with the BERvokal participants. Tanja Pannier offered a workshop on loop stations which are becoming more and more popular. And not only for the active singers, also for sound engineers some classes were offered by ONAIR sound engineer Sonja Harth and Maybebop sound engineer Thomas Schröder. Not to forget the initiators of BERvokal – Lukas offering a Beatboxing class and Felix a “song interpretation” class on top of their workshops with the participating groups.

It was just a very short visit to the BERvokal, just a small glimpse of a very special festival with a very special atmosphere. The founders and fathers of the BERvokal Lukas and Felix shared some more insights with me which I am happy to share with all the Vocal Blog readers.

Interview with the daddies of the BERvokal

The sleepless: Lukas Teske („daddy“), Juliana Baron („jetlag“), Felix Powroslo („daddy“) pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

The sleepless: Lukas Teske („daddy“), Juliana Baron („jetlag“), Felix Powroslo („daddy“)
pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

Juliana: You are the daddies of the BERvokal. Meanwhile this is the 3rd BERvokal in a row. How do you feel?

Lukas: Right, this year it is the 3rd BERvokal. We invented and founded this festival once, but this year it somehow feels very special and comfortable. The whole festival became more of a team thing. We don’t have to organize all by ourselves anymore, there are so many volunteers who support us. Without them the whole festival wouldn’t be possible – at least not in such dimensions.

Juliana: How many people are volunteering and supporting this year?

Lukas:  Well, if you also count the technical staff, it’s about 20 or 22.

Juliana:  What makes the BERvokal so special, that so many volunteers support in its third year?

Lukas: to meet each other again…

Felix: … the nice atmosphere, the nice people… – It’s always a huge amount of work, you would not imagine. But nevertheless, so many people support us, because they just love the BERvokal and the atmosphere. This year in Graz at, I met the Austrian vocal group „zwo3wir“. They’ve been at our festival last year and they stated again that BERvokal was the festival which helped them most in progressing. Not so much on marketing perspective but growing in their artistic capabilities. And for them, it was by far the best festival ever. As we do not have a competition, it is more of a peaceful coming together and even creating close ties, it is a much better atmosphere than those festivals with competitions. The atmosphere and spirit is always great, the parties are a blast, all people like to come again.

Juliana: How many participants do you have this time?

Lukas: We always have six groups, about 40 people (The BERensembles 2015: B’Noise, baff!, Beat Poetry Club, Elevator Pitch, Gretchens Antwort, HörBänd). We don’t know yet, how many participants we have in total for all the open workshops. In parallel, there is the COSOA taking place, the Choir Open Stage Open Air Festival. There are about 350 active singers plus the 40 BERvokal participants and the free participants. For sure, a lot of people who can take a lot with them, who contribute and exchange a lot.

Juliana: Why do you only select six participating groups?

Lukas: Well, mainly the final concert is the restrictive factor. Half of the concert should be done by the participating groups the other half by the master team [this year the master team is ONAIR, the local heroes of Berlin]. More than six is not feasible. Same goes for the timeline of the workshops. We want each vocal group to get to know each of the coaches. We, the coaches want to get to know each of the vocal groups. They should take the most out of it. And this would be difficult with more than six teams.

Juliana: Will there be a BERvokal next year?

Felix: We think so.

Lukas: Yes, that’s the plan. Right after, we will sit together, define the general framework and fill it with life.

Juliana: Is it worth applying for next year’s BERvokal? Many groups might think, just six groups, there is no chance for us.

Felix: Of course!

Lukas: For sure it is worth applying! Last year, there were not so many applicants, still the quality was very good. Although this year, much more teams were applying, about 23 teams, there is still a realistic chance to get one of the six places.

Juliana: What are the selection criteria and who is deciding on the participating groups?

Lukas: Well, for each of us, the criteria are a little different.

Felix: It is difficult.

Lukas: For me, it is the potential, means, the combination of „they already have some skills“ and „we can still teach them stuff“. That’s the main criteria for me.

Felix: Nevertheless, it is difficult. Somehow, you are comparing apples and oranges. There are so many different genres. One group sings perfect pitch, has great voices, the next group is by far more entertaining. You cannot objectively compare them. Impossible. We decide a lot based on our feelings, it has to feel good, it has to feel right. Also, we want to have some diversity, for example pure female teams – this year we even have two – and to cover different genres as good as possible.

Juliana: And who besides you is making the decision?

Lukas: Principally, we are doing it. We are just in the process of forming a society of BERvokal (Verein BERvokal) and the managing board as well can contribute, can vote and explain their choice of candidates.

Juliana: How about your lack of sleep this year at BERvokal?

Felix: Mine definitely higher than last year. I already started with a lack of sleep because I’ve been in Cologne the days before to work with the Wise Guys and – well, we are both young daddies (laughing)

Juliana: You are talking about rehearsal with the Wise Guys. What is the difference between working with the pros and coaching the newcomer or amateur groups?

Felix: It is a totally different thing. With the Wise Guys, I am limited in what I am doing. I’m mainly working on the steps and the choreography. Here, I didn’t do a single step so far. The coaching I do here is much more complex: starting with vocal techniques, where I definitely don’t tell the Wise Guys anything – for that, they have Erik Sohn – and continuing with stage presence and song interpretation. That’s nothing I do with the Wise Guys. Therefore, I am always looking forward to working with the young groups. It doesn’t matter at all if they are amateur groups. Newcomers sometimes are even more willing to try out new things and follow your advice compared to established bands like the Wise Guys.

Juliana: What was your personal highlight this year at BERvokal?

Felix: It already started with the first coaching of “Gretchens Antwort” which felt really good. It was a smooth workshop, I could place my points… Sometimes, you want to achieve something specific. You always knock on the same spot and hope that the marble plate gets a crack, that you reach the group and achieve some changes. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work or not in the degree you want it to. But then, you just have to content yourself with it and say: “OK, this has to mature and sprout step by step”. With other groups, you might have immediate success. This is even more fun. Well, of course, the other approach is very important work as well. And then, I really love to do the song interpretation workshop. That’s when I am really in my element.

Lukas: … indeed, in all your disciplines.

Felix (laughing): It’s always a very dense atmosphere in the room, the people already exhausted of the day, it already gets dark outside… If you then do emotional songs, and on top the interpretation really works well, this is just wonderful.

Lukas: I was impressed, that this year amongst the candidates there were almost no pure male groups, actually only one all-male group. In the first year, this was totally the opposite, almost only pure male groups. This year, we had mixed groups and a lot of all-female groups.

Juliana: What is your motivation to offer the BERvokal?

Lukas: Well, the initial motivation is a different one from today. Now, it is more that we created something, an annual meeting point of the a cappella scene, and we want to establish it further, to let it sprout and grow further.

Felix: For me, if this festival would repeat exactly the same way, maybe one day, I’d say, I will back out step by step. But it is just a fantastic feeling, every year, there are more people coming, those who already experienced the BERvokal come again and say „it was just wonderful with you“. Just awesome to see everything grow. Well, and what was it initially? For me, I wanted to do something together with Lukas. Also, I wanted to have this coaching forum. I enjoy very much to position myself as a coach, that people get to know me and what I am doing. And to have the freedom to work the way I want to work, on top of it in Berlin. At the beginning, I think we both totally underestimated the efforts and what it means to establish such a festival.

Lukas (laughing): Which is not related to our motivation. It just was missing in Berlin. At that time, there was only one professional a cappella group in Berlin, named musix. They don’t exist anymore. In Berlin, there are so many singers, but there is nothing comprehensive. There are a few a cappella festivals, several concerts, but not such a weekend, where everyone comes together.

Juliana: Making the bridge to Asia where the a cappella scene is still relatively young. What do you recommend, how would you boost the development of a cappella in Asia?

Felix: Do more festivals … and invite us as coaches (laughing)

Lukas: Development happens through „people seeing, liking and also wanting to do it“. Therefore, it is a global task, to create models, to spread a cappella. There is even a trend of European groups to go on tour in Asia, I also heard of an American group who even moved to China to address the young market. Probably we need such people, such groups.

Juliana: Hopefully, I can welcome you in China next time. Thank you so much for this interview. Good luck for your festival BERvokal!

BERvokal 2015 Final Concert pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

BERvokal 2015 Final Concert
pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

BERvokal 2015 Final Concert - ONAIR pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)

BERvokal 2015 Final Concert – ONAIR
pictures by Nicole Brothánek (E&P Brothánek)


Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 5

21. September 2015 1 Kommentar

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015

Sad, but true – the last day of Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) 2015 in Shanghai has come:

Day 5: Caught in the moment

Sun (Aug 9), the last day of the Vocal Asia Festival, started with one of my favorite workshop topics: „Imprecision in an Age of Musical Perfection“.

DeltaCappella’s workshop „Imprecision“

DeltaCappella’s workshop „Imprecision“

DeltaCappella inspired and motivated people in their workshop to try out new ways of learning and arranging a song without strictly sticking to the notation. Unfortunately, we found no time during the festival to have an interview. I hope, I will get the chance some day soon, to have a deeper discussion with DeltaCappella on this interesting approach.

In the afternoon, I attended the Jazz vocal percussion class of Kaichiro Kitamura, an amazing Jazz vocal percussionist and founder of the Japan A Cappella Society.

After his workshop, I got a chance to talk to Kai about the status and development of A Cappella in Japan.

Interview with Kaichiro Kitamura from Japan

Kaichiro Kitamura, Juliana Baron, Ray Chu

Kaichiro Kitamura, Juliana Baron, Ray Chu

Juliana: Kaichiro-san, you are such an international person, fluent in English, Chinese, Korean – and of course Japanese. Is it ok, to call you Kai?

Kai: Yes, well, you are half Korean, you can also call me Kai Obba (elder brother).

Juliana: (laugh) This year, Vocal Asia in Japan was kicked off. How would you describe the status of A Cappella in Japan?

Kai: Actually, we are deeply impressed by Take 6, Singers unlimited, Doo-wap and so on. Those, who listen to their music, they form up their college a cappella groups. The first a cappella club was established in Waseda University in Tokyo, which I graduated from, and that was more than 30 years ago. This was the first college a cappella club in Japan. Then, 10 years later, new a cappella clubs occurred in many colleges and many places and not only the students’ associations, but also the vocal festival associations for the public. So now, spreading out nationwide from Hokkaido to Kyushu area. There are pretty many a cappella festivals right now in Japan.

Juliana: How come that there are not so many Japanese a cappella groups going outside of Japan?

Kai: Well, one of the reasons is, they don’t know about the international festivals abroad, actually. And the second reason is, they are interested to join in international festivals, but it is tough for them to speak English. They need to understand everything in English, need to express themselves, need to understand the classes, the instructors – that’s tough for them. There is a language barrier.

Juliana: Are there any professional groups in Japan who can make their living from a cappella?

Kai: Yes, more than 10 professional groups are in Japan. Most of the teams are living in Osaka or Kobe area and about 3-5 groups are now active in Tokyo.

Juliana: What was your highlights and lowlights throughout your musical journey with vocal percussion and a cappella?

Kai: It is hard to tell, because I experienced so many highlights. One of the big highlights is the Vocal Asia Festival. Every year I was invited as an instructor. And every year coincidently, I was invited as a guest performer at the gala concert to accompany the master group of the festival. For example with The Real Group in 2011, in 2012 with Slixs, then Rajaton, The Idea of North. That gave me the big chance to perform in the world. And this year, tonight, I will also join Naturally 7 on stage. We just finished the rehearsal, it was OK (laugh). Oh, and with The Real Group, when they came to Tokyo, I just hopped into their show and the whole performance was recorded. The CD is now on sale, the title is “Live in Japan – The Real Group”

Juliana: Any lowlights?

Kai: Actually, I’ve never experienced bad things. Always the music cheers me up and people motivated me. So, every time I feel happy.

Juliana: What is your wish for Asia’s A Cappella future?

Kai: Especially for our country, we have lot’s of difficulties to host an international festival. But I want to make a change. If we promote a cappella festivals like those from Vocal Asia to Japanese concerts, to the Japanese people, Japanese singers – maybe that attracts them, I believe they will participate. All I can do is being an ambassador, tell people what is good, what is happening in other Asian countries. I will be in charge of promoting. I’ll do my best.

Juliana: Thank you so much, Kai Obba! I wish you all the best for your a cappella promotion!


VAF Gala Concert - The Wanted

VAF Gala Concert – The Wanted

The final highlight of the 2015 Vocal Asia Festival was the gala concert. Asia Cup winners „The Wanted“ opened the show. Although just coming out of High School, they were absolutely stunning and almost professional.

VAF Gala Concert - DeltaCappella

VAF Gala Concert – DeltaCappella

Special guest DeltaCappella brought a different sound experience and a diverse program of jazz, swing, rock and pop songs – the audience loved it. The workshop participants of the morning session were invited to sing along the chorus of Good Livin’: „We’re gonna harmonize and we’re gonna shout…“

VAF Gala Concert - Naturally 7 giving everything.

VAF Gala Concert – Naturally 7 giving it one’s all.

VAF Gala Concert - Naturally 7

VAF Gala Concert – Naturally 7






Mindblowing the show of the VAF’s master group Naturally 7. Next to me, there was a Chinese lady almost going nuts, almost jumping out of her seat. It seemed to be her first time in an a cappella concert and she couldn’t stop saying how good they are.

Kaichiro Kitamura’s duet with Naturally 7 bass Kelz was for sure another highlight on this show.

Fabulous gig of Kaichiro Kitamura with Naturally 7 bass Kelz at the VAF Gala Concert.

But my favorite of this evening was the encore song „Caught in the moment“. Somehow like a motto which accompanied me throughout the whole festival. Each and every moment was just so special.


Naturally 7: „Caught in the moment“ (which is much more intimate and touching listening to it live)

Although this was a lot to read and thanks for your interest – there was much more happening throughout the VAF 2015. Sorry that I couldn’t join and share impressions of several other interesting workshops by Ray Chu, Christine Liu, Kwok-Tung Fung, Leo Tsai and Kaichiro Kitamura. If you joined any of their workshops or want to share some of your experiences, please feel free to comment and share.

Hope to see you at the next festival whenever, wherever on this earth! Cheers!

VAF 2015 - the participants

VAF 2015 – the participants

Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 4

19. September 2015 Keine Kommentare

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015

And here comes part 4 of my VAF 2015 diary:

Day 4: an impressive experience to sing and entertain people on four levels of a shopping mall

Sat (Aug 8), after the warm up session with Leo Tsai, everyone had another chance to sing with Naturally 7: „Meet and sing with N7“. Needless to say, we all had a blast. Check out the snapshot video of „Rivers of Babylon“.

Workshop  „Meet and sing with N7“

This afternoon, there was not so much time to join the workshops and group coaching sessions as a lot of the participating groups were performing at the ACA Day Concert in Shanghai’s MetroCity, a huge shopping mall with four levels’ view onto the stage in B1. With my local group A-CAism, I had the honor to open the ACA Day event. It was astonishing how fast all levels filled with an interested and curious audience who would stay and grow even more during the 3 hours concert. It was an impressive experience to sing and entertain people on four levels around us and above our heads. The audience coming late were struggling to catch a good view. Some were taking the escalator up and down several times to enjoy a better sight.

Exit from Korea at their performance in MetroCity, Shanghai.

Exit from Korea at their performance in MetroCity, Shanghai.

The atmosphere in the shopping mall was excellent. Despite or because most of them wouldn’t know a cappella, the audience was stunned of the musical diversity and the power of pure voices. Regardless of which city or country the groups performing came from, regardless of which music style they performed, each group received a big hand and cheering echoing through the halls of the shopping mall.

DeltaCappella caught the audience in the MetroCity Mall in Shanghai.

DeltaCappella caught the audience in the MetroCity Mall in Shanghai.

The final performance was by DeltaCappella, the VAF’s special guests from Memphis. It was their first performance on this Shanghai trip and they were obviously a little nervous how the Chinese audience would receive their music. But no need to worry. DeltaCappella was just amazing and the audience immediately fell for them.

Exhausted we headed back to our hotel for the Farewell Party, yes, it was already the last evening. Some technical constraints wouldn’t keep a party room full of a cappella lovers from singing. DeltaCappella, EXIT and a charming group of Vocal Asia staff and volunteers performed as well as the „walking jazz drum kit“ Kaichiro Kitamura and the amazing VP talent Fishball. You shouldn’t provide plastic cups at an a cappella party, if you don’t fancy Pitch Perfect’s Cup Song. It was great fun to mix up with Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, American, Singapore and Hongkong people at a round table and just start to sing and do the cup percussion.

Watch the snapshot recording by Roger Thomas from Naturally 7.

Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 3

17. September 2015 1 Kommentar

Every moment is just so special – Juliana’s first-hand impressions of the Vocal Asia Festival 2015

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, September 2015

And here comes part 3 of my first-hand impressions on last month’s Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) in Shanghai:

Day 3: His soul was reaching directly to my heart

Friday morning (Aug 7) „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu  from Taiwan gave us a fun warm-up session including some body percussion and tai chi exercise.

Then, it was time to learn about the secret how to become an instrument. In their second workshop „How to do your vocal play“  Naturally 7 taught different techniques to imitate drums, harmonica or even DJ scratching sounds. The participants could try their vocal play together with N7. Hilarious was the performance of „DJ scratcher“ Rod Eldridge from N7 together with “Fishball”, the talented VP of the Taiwanese group Mixter.

Rod Eldridge from N7 (USA) and Fishball from Mixter (Taiwan) having a funny vocal play duet.

Garfield Buckley from N7 teaching his harmonica sound.

Garfield Buckley from N7 teaching his harmonica sound.

Deke Sharon coaching The Wanted (Taiwan).

Deke Sharon coaching The Wanted (Taiwan).

In the afternoon, again a lot of workshops in parallel, some groups received professional coaching from  Naturally 7 or  Deke Sharon. Deke also gave some deeper insight of how to produce a cappella for major media in his workshop „Behind the Scene: Aca in media“. And Ray Chu, the pop and artistic director of the Taiwan Choral Music Center, together with Christine Liu (musical director of Voco Novo) talked about how the western sound of a cappella meets the eastern image of poems in their workshop „Poetic A Cappella“.

I had a talk with Ray on how A Cappella developed in Taiwan.

Interview with „Aca Papa“ Ray Chu from Taiwan

Ray Chu demonstrating Tai Chi exercise in the warm up session.

Ray Chu demonstrating Tai Chi exercise in the warm up session.

Juliana: Ray Chu, you are the „Aca Papa“ of Taiwan or even Asia. Everyone who knows you simply loves you! What have you done, what is your secret…?

Ray: I love them too, that’s simple.

Juliana: (laugh) A Cappella in Taiwan is becoming more and more popular and Taiwanese a cappella groups are increasingly successful all around Asia. The Wanted, a Taiwanese group of six high school students, won the 2015 China Competition as well as the Asia Cup Competition a few days ago. How would you describe the development of a cappella in Taiwan?

Ray: In Taiwan, what we did is we invited a lot of European groups coming to Taiwan to have „tour concerts“. Every group who came had about 10 to 12 concerts all over Taiwan in different cities. We did that since 2005 until now, so it’s been many years by now. So, many cities, many places, many groups have seen good groups from Europe. So, they have opened their eyes and their ears. I think, that is the most important contribution to their improvement. They can hear a good sound, so they can imitate or have a good choice of repertoire. I think it is a very good method to let them learn. Actually, Taiwanese a cappella started really late, about 15 years later than Japan, Korea and also Singapore. But now, we catch up. I think, this is all thanks to the many international groups visiting us. And we have a lot of international events in Taiwan. I think, our competitions are the most significant competitions in whole Asia, because we invite all the champions and winners from all over the world to compete in Taiwan. So, our competitions become really high standard.

Juliana: Would you say that A Cappella in Taiwan is more developing and copying Western styles or do they develop their own style.

Ray: At the beginning it was more like Western styles. We learnt a lot from them. And then we were thinking, what do we have ourselves. So, what Christine (Liu) and I am doing, we are doing a lot of poem rearrangements in Taiwan that we use a lot of oriental or Chinese elements into rearrange or compose these poems and rearrange by foreigners like some Chinese arrangers like Christine. So we did a lot of oriental things now. And I think it is very successful. West and East, the combination of melody and western language, music language, pop language, jazz language… It is suitable, a very good combination.

Juliana: What is your impression about the Asia Cup winners „The Wanted“?

Ray: Well, of course, they are very good. But they are still high school or just graduated. I am waiting for them if they can still continue at college time. And they have to go through military service and all these things. So, looking at their future, of course … We will see.

Juliana: Deke Sharon said, they have the potential to become the Pentatonix of Asia.

Ray: Well, that must be after college, after military service. They have to be stable in life first. They are still students. I don’t want them to be professional in college time, they have to finish their studies. They have to grow up also mentally and they have to be mature before doing these things. This is better for them (laugh)

Juliana: I am really interested in your special method of teaching without scores, the chord singing. You are even teaching a choir of blind singers.

Ray: Yes, I do. Of course, they have to learn by listening. So, actually I use a software called Vocaloid, a singing voice synthesizer which can read out the lyrics, even the Chinese lyrics. So I can divide the parts for them with lyrics. So with this software it is easier now. But still,every time, every song that I use Vocaloid, I need 3 to 4 hours to finish all the individual parts for them to practice.

Juliana: How do you approach your choir of blind people? Is there anything special you have to prepare or consider?

Ray: Actually, I treat them like anybody else. That’s the right way. Don’t treat them like they are blind. Sometimes, I even say: „Look at that“ – They will say „you know I can’t see“ – „Oh, I’m sorry!“ (laugh). You know, just purposely treat them like ordinary people. That’s the way.

Juliana: I wish you great success in the future, continue your fantastic contribution to choir music and a cappella! We love you all! (laugh)

Ray: I love you all!

Just 4 hours before the VAF Concert and our opening performance, we had our second and last 90-minutes-class of Single Singers. Since last rehearsal we lost about 20 people, maybe they were too scared to perform. But we won Kaichiro Kitamura, a brilliant vocal percussionist from Japan, who would support us on stage. I forgot to mention that the two songs we were intending to sing were arrangements from DeltaCappella, the special guests from Memphis, Tennessee, and from Naturally 7, the master group of this festival.

I don’t know if the idea of singing „Easy“ in front of DeltaCappella and singing „Soldier Down“ in front of Naturally 7 was more exciting or more frightening, especially at that level of practice. Never ever have I been so ill-prepared before going on stage. But the rehearsal turned out to be my favorite moment of the day. None of us expected this big surprise: both groups DeltaCappella and Naturally 7 joined our last rehearsal, practiced and sang with us. Standing next to Garfield Buckley and singing my Solo of Soldier Down with him – it is hard to describe, but it felt just like his soul was reaching directly to my heart and without any words he was teaching me how to sing and feel this song. Vocal music is indeed strong and intimate. This was absolutely my moment of the day! Thank you, Garfield!


A snapshot of Single Singers’ rehearsal with Naturally 7.

The Single Singers' performance at the VAF Concert in the evening of day 3

The Single Singers’ performance at the VAF Concert in the evening of day 3