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Artikel Tagged ‘a cappella’

My journey as a “single singer” in Asia – Part 2

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2016

My journey as a single singer in Asia – Part 2

Christine Liu leading the Single Singers at VAF 2016

Christine Liu leading the Single Singers at VAF 2016

In August 2016, it is the second time that I join the Vocal Asia Festival (VAF). It takes place in Taitung, a beautiful city in south-west of Taiwan. The highest participant number ever, almost 500 singers, various groups from dozens of different Asian countries are joining – and I came alone.

But at the VAF, nobody is ever alone. And on top, everybody regardless of coming alone or in a group can actively join, sing along and even perform on stage – thanks to the „Single Singers“. While in Europe, Single Singers are mingling at various festivals thanks to the idea of Annemarie Homan and Emily May’t Hoen, Christine Liu (Voco Novo and Director of International Affairs at Vocal Asia) is driving that idea and leading the Single Singers at the Vocal Asia Festivals.

Single Singers at VAF 2015

Single Singers at the Vocal Asia Festival 2015 in Shanghai

Both, 2015 in Shanghai and this year in Taitung, I joined the Single Singers. At every VAF there are famous international master groups and professional teachers from all over the world and Christine always selected two songs somehow related to the festival. Therefore, we had the big honor to perform a song each from Naturally 7 and DeltaCappella, the master groups of VAF 2015, and a song from  Vocal Sampling and one song arranged by Michele Weir at VAF 2016.

Singing with Naturally 7 at the Vocal Asia Festival 2015

Christine Liu with the Single Singers at VAF 2016

Christine Liu with the Single Singers at VAF 2016

Sometimes, the songs can be very challenging, including instrumental sound imitations and rhythms, the majority of the single singers has never done before. And this year even a language nobody could speak: Spanish.

Amongst all of us I think Christine had the most difficult time. She prepared very well, send all those who applied for the single singers the music upfront, assigned to each person the respective voice part and solo part… But things rarely go exactly according to plan. Three times more single singers showed up at the first rehearsal, the majority was not prepared, not even knew the music sheets. At least everyone was motivated to practice for the big concert: Sound of Asia concert on the third evening of the festival. But the first singing was frankly speaking a disaster. I admired Christine for her patience and positiveness: „Not too bad for a beginning, we’ll make it!“

Michele Weir coaching the Single Singers

Michele Weir coaching the Single Singers

At the second rehearsal the number of single singers was reduced by half, some of the assigned soloists stepped out, nobody among the single singers ever did vocal percussion and time is running. In 2015, we had the great chance to sing along with Naturally 7 (Soldier Down) and DeltaCappella (Easy) and get an intense but short coaching directly from the pro’s and original singers. In 2016, Michele Weir coached us for her arrangement of „One Hand, One Heart“ and Vocal Sampling joined the soundcheck for some last recommendations to their song „Pirim Pin Pin“.

I’m not sure how we made it, but at the end, the single singers performed the two songs, not perfect, but good enough to get a big applause from the audience. Anyway, the main purpose isn’t the quality of the performance.

Single Singers helping each other

Single Singers helping each other

What counts above all is the experience together, sharing the passion for singing, bridging cultures, having fun and finding a common language and harmony. It is wonderful to see, how everyone contributes and grows together in that short period of time. Haruka Abe from Japan joins the last rehearsal 3 hours before we need to go on stage, and she steps in for a soloist part, learns the Spanish lyrics although she never spoke a single word of Spanish before, coached by Patricio Antonio Liang a Taiwanese Spanish-speaker. 10-year old Haejoon Han from Korea enthusiastically learns the Cuban Maracas sound and proudly gets his own microphone. When anything is unclear, there is some hectic translation in all directions, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, English… and the next chord just sounds awesome.

Single Singers Backstage

Single Singers Backstage

Of course, everyone wants to do their best and gets really nervous before the big performance. But backstage, the single singers are motivating each other, releasing tension by just having a good time and getting encouragement by the pro’s and coaches.

Single singers is so very different from any choir performance or vocal group performance I ever had before. You have to rely on fellow singers you meet the first time, you have to adjust and learn from each other in a very short time, listening is even more important because you cannot easily anticipate how the others are going to sing and you have to be flexible enough to learn something you’ve never done before and perform it 2 days later in front of hundreds of people and even in front of the original singers or arrangers.

Single Singers Performance at VAF 2016

Single Singers Performance at the Sound of Asia Concert, Vocal Asia Festival 2016

VAF 2016: Juliana and Li Lin from Acappuccino

VAF 2016: Juliana and Li Lin from Acappuccino

VAF 2015: Juliana and Li Lin, Single Singers

VAF 2015: Juliana and Li Lin, Single Singers

This year, I even had a very special reunion with some fellow single singers from VAF 2015. Derrick Kam and Li Lin Miyu from the Singaporean vocal group Acappuccino asked me, if I would like to join them as a guest singer for one song during the Sound of Asia concert. Although on very short notice, it was such an honor that I couldn’t reject that offer. Further, for me it was the continuation of the single singers’ idea, it was about bridging nations, cultures, distances by doing music together. No better place than this festival to sing a song together.


One Hand, One Heart – Single Singers’ performance at the Vocal Asia Festival 2016

Next year’s Vocal Asia Festival will be in Hongkong. If you can make it, even without your vocal group, come and join the Single Singers! You will have no regrets and return home with a huge number of new friends and an unforgettable experience. Check it out!

My journey as a „single singer“ in Asia – Part 1

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2016

My journey as a single singer in Asia – Part 1

Two years ago, I moved from a comparatively small town in Germany to the 20-million-metropolis Shanghai. To continue my passion for singing and at the same time making some Chinese friends, I wanted to join some local singing group. But how to find it?

Saturday's Single Singers in Shanghai

Saturday’s Single Singers in Shanghai

I was in the lucky situation to know Christine Liu (雙雙 Shuāng Shuāng) from Voco Novo and the Director of International Affairs at Vocal Asia. Vocal Asia is the biggest association of a cappella singers and initiatives in Asia. Although Christine lives in Taiwan, she happened to be in Shanghai in my first week and she introduced me to a key person of a cappella in Shanghai: Bud Jan (詹子贤 Zhān Zi Xián). And this was the start of my journey as a „single singer“ – not at all a lonely journey as the wording might make you believe.

Single Singers in Shanghai

Single Singers in Shanghai

If it’s about a cappella in Shanghai, I would say even in whole China, there is nobody who doesn’t know Bud, and Bud seems to know every single person related to a cappella in Greater China. He organizes the so-called Single Singers in Shanghai and spread this idea to a lot of other cities in China.

The roots of „Single Singers“ is known from the Dutch singers Annemarie Homan and Emily May’t Hoen who came up with this idea at the London A Cappella Festival. Not only vocal groups are joining such festivals but also a lot of singers are coming alone. For them to actively join, to sing along in a group and perform together, they formed the „Single Singers“.

In a similar sense, the Single Singers in Shanghai are formed, but it goes even far beyond. Born from the idea to popularize and spread A Cappella several singers gathered every Saturday in the Shanghai Mass Arts Center and invited all interested single singers to join, to learn and to sing together. In China there is less of a choir culture than for example in Germany. Many of those gathering every Saturday have no musical background, can’t read music or are not used to match harmonies but all of them are curious and love to sing.

Saturday Rehearsal with the Single Singers

Saturday Rehearsal with the Single Singers

When I joined the Shanghai Single Singers in summer 2014, it was still a very young community, just founded a few months before. In only a few cities in China similar organizations were about to start, most copying the example of Shanghai.

Teaching the Cup Song

Teaching the Cup Song

Every Saturday, new single singers would join. Life is incredibly busy in Shanghai and there is a high fluctuation. Nevertheless, over a certain period of time, more and more participants would become frequent visitors. It was not easy to teach and balance the different levels, so after several months we split the group into experienced and beginners. While the beginners were taught basics of singing techniques, rhythms and the beauty of singing in harmony, the more experienced single singers would learn advanced singing and vocal percussion techniques, music theory, arranging, stage performance and choreography. The a cappella community is growing and during the last two years, we gained more than thousand followers, either actively joining the single singers or at least following the activities of the single singers, coming to the concerts or just spreading the word and letting people know about a cappella.

born out of Single Singers: Knowhow Vocal Group

born out of Single Singers: Knowhow Vocal Group

The single singers in China are extremely eager to learn. Although I am no professional, I got the chance to share and teach warm-up methods, rhythm exercises, circle-singing and different choir practices which I know from Europe. We had guest teachers and professors in a rotating mode, local professors as well as famous teachers from abroad like professor Liu (劉靜諭 Liú Jìng Yù) from Taiwan. I am extremely thankful to the lead teacher Hao Hao (董文昊 Dǒng Wén Hào) who dedicates countless hours to develop a teaching concept, to arrange songs for the single singers, to teach almost every single Saturday and to coach newly formed a cappella groups. For me the Single Singers classes were at the same time Chinese language lessons and everyone took care that I understood, that I was integrated and part of the family.

Acaism, the first group to drive and grow the Single Singers

Acaism driving and growing the Single Singers

What makes me extremely happy is the bunch of new a cappella groups forming out of single singers. Every year, at least 5 new vocal groups were born. Me too, I founded a group in 2014 called KnowHow (in Chinese characters 侬好 „nonghao“ which means „hello“ in Shanghainese dialect).

And I am very proud I was invited to join Acaism Vocal Group 阿卡主义人声乐团 for the last 2 years, actually the first and the driving group of Single Singers in Shanghai and Bud being the founder of Acaism.

And all these groups together with the single singers will perform in several concerts throughout the year. Flash mobs in shopping malls, street music, a cappella concerts and as opening acts for successful professional vocal groups visiting Shanghai.

Single Singers Concert

Single Singers Concert

Meanwhile, single singers like in Shanghai are founded in twelve more cities in China: Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Guilin, Harbin, Luoyang, Xi’an, Tianjin, Lanzhou, Changchun, Nanjing. They started to gather once a year in a nationwide single singers forum to exchange, sing together and give free concerts to a growing audience. If one of the cities has a bigger event, representatives from the other cities will support and join. As the lead city’s main organizer Bud Jan supports if a new single singers group wants to form and keeps the network together.

Acaism and Single Singers Concert

Acaism and Single Singers Concert

I am so proud and grateful that I could be part of this single singers development and that I could witness the childhood of a great a cappella future in China.

Here you can watch some videos of Single Singers activities in Shanghai:

Single Singers Flashmob in Kunshan
A-Cappella Concert in Shanghai
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 1
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 2
Single Singers in Shanghai Trailer 3

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)