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Artikel Tagged ‘Bill Hare’

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


Why do we record like we do, or, why don’t we sound like Don Henley?

by David Knight, In the Smoke (UK) on July 22nd on the group’s blog

David Knight - In the SmokeThe modern a cappella record is an extraordinary beast – multi-tracked, multi-award winning, and sounding perfect. Track after track rolls past, absolutely in time, perfectly in pitch, with effects that allow a voice to sound like it’s singing in the Sistine Chapel or at a rock festival. A complete aural environment is created in your headphones that shows off the best of the group – and more.

So why don’t In the Smoke do it?

Bill Hare has argued very persuasively about how an audience recieves a performance on a stage differently from a recording. Aurally, we’re all attuned to the modern, bright pop sound, and modern recording techniques allow each singer to be recorded individually and auto-tuned to achieve something similar from an a cappella group. However, In the Smoke are ploughing an increasingly lonely furrow as one of the few groups that actively chose to record en bloc, in front of a couple of microphones, often with the soloist in the same room.

We do so for many reasons, but the most important is enjoyment. We love to sing, and love to sing together. We feed off the energy in the room, the look on someone else’s face when they hit a note just right, the pleasure of blending that chord. It’s the old adage about the sum of all the parts: it makes us a collective, In the Smoke, rather than a group of singers of varying quality. And we hope it comes across – that energy that we know is present in our live shows is there in the recording too, and we’ve worked hard to fill the gaps and sound as good as we can to make up for the lack of visual stimulation.

We also have different reasons for recording. We are trying to make a record (ha!) of how we currently sound, of the current soloists and arrangements, of the make-up of the group and the blend. Whilst we shouldn’t say this to you (our potentially-purchasing-public), we make a CD as much for us as for you. This method allows that; we do hear the imperfections, but they’re real and part of what happens to us as a group. We hope that this makes sense to a listener too. If you really wanted to hear what “Boys of Summer” sounded like, you would probably visit iTunes and let Don Henley rack up a couple more pence of royalties. But we think you want to hear us; so we do our best to sound as good as we can, nip off to France for a few days, work hard and record a CD that reflects us.

To some of us, it’s also a question of philosophy. A voice is an instrument, as much as a guitar or a snare drum. However, with production, a voice sounds very different to what is does on its own, and the production becomes part of the instrument. By choosing to sing a cappella, we’re choosing to sing without additional help from a bass or a piano, on our own. So is a mixing desk with a virtuosic masterer an unsung instrument on a recording, and does it create an a cappella falsehood? It’s grey line of course (and we’re immensely grateful to Pauline Morgan, our wonderful recording engineer) but my feeling is that it still needs thinking about.

Many incredible records have been made by multi-tracking and using all the tools available. We’ve chosen to follow the other path. Never let it be said that In the Smoke are afraid of doing things differently.


P.S. If you want to see how we do it, here is Brave (Leona Lewis, arrangement by James Crawford), recorded in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France on the 1st June 2013.


LACF 2012 Status Update: Backbones and a Vocal Jog World Record

by Florian Städtler, from London A Cappella Festival 2012 (#LACF2012)

It’s Saturday morning and it’s the third day of the third edition of the London A Cappella Festival 2012. We’ve seen wonderful concerts featuring The Vasari Singers (UK), The Boxettes (UK), Cadence (CAN) and FORK (FIN). The Schools on Stage project powered by Voice Festival UK made us smile and cheer, an arrangement competition supported by Oxford University Press resulted in fantastic music, countless foyer performances and encounters of both pro and amateur artists entertained us. We met and talked to a cappella aficionados and newbies, to visitors and vocal music tourists hailing from as far as San Fransisco, Taiwan, Toronto, Oslo, Torino, Boston and even a music lover from Milton Keynes…

I’ve been attending the London A Cappella Festival since it all started in January 2010 and I must say it here and now: What The Swingle Singers as hosts and curators together with super-pro organizers at Ikon Arts have build in less than three years is the perfect example of artistic vision and will combined with professional promotional execution. It’s impossible to name all the people here, who have contributed to the three-day vocal music extravaganza, but let’s just name two who in my eyes did an outstanding job: Clare Wheeler, alto with The Swingle Singers, has become one of the leading communicators of international a cappella. Thanks to her personal dedication, the number of overseas guest has become pretty impressive. The second mover and shaker who deserves special mention is Ikon ArtsJessica Hill. She has become the festival’s managerial backbone and seems to master the multiple tasks of running LACF with unbelievable friendliness and placidity. Along with Ikon Arts owner Costa Peristianis, Nicola Semple, Beccy Chilton and Natalia Franklin Pierce she made the festival happen and the growing number of attendants happy.


Besides the musical “core business”, countless special and hilarious things happen(ed) during this festival: A Cappella rockers FORK just twittered that they are going shopping (you will probably see the results on stage next time), recording legend Bill Hare (USA) just found a Pentatonix-lookalike in the British museum, Joan Hare flirted with an double-decker bus driver, the “Single Singers” (no typo) gathered for their first rehearsal after setting up a 20+ vocal group via social media (there will be a special on that later), this afternoon we’re going to see two panels discussing the state of affairs of contemporary a cappella and the pudding, cake and hi-heel-lovers found bliss in High Tea at Montagnue and at the buzzing after show parties at a pub called The Fellow.

My most important mission of LACF2012 was of a very different kind: On Friday, 13th of January, the first semi-official London A Cappella VOCAL JOG was to take place, another try to motivate a cappella people to get over their hangovers and join me on a little run during events like this. I have been running through cities during all my vocal music travelling life, but the maximum group of Vocal Joggers as of 2011 was two participants: Morten Vinther, baritone of The Real Group broke the spell on October 16th 2011 and went for the first ever non-solo Vocal Jog in my hometown Freiburg.

But for London A Cappella, I wanted to make it big time  – and I was supported by Willy Eteson former tenor and business director of The Swingle Singers who’s a slightly eccentric British foodie and hobby star chef today. While serving self-made pork specialties at Ikon Art’s desk all through the festival, he dared me: If I was able to run up Primrose Hill (the highest “mountain” in London City ;-) with a group of at least four other Vocal Joggers, he would be there at 8:45 on Friday 13th to cater the runners with home-baked power bars, bananas and water. At this point in time, there were 9 potential runners registered at the London A Cappella Vocal Jog Facebook page, so I was optimistic even though I knew that 4 of the listed 9 might have been a bit too optimistic regarding their being at the IBIS Euston hotel lobby at 8:30 in the morning.

Friday 13th came, I woke up at around 8:00 (after staying at the bar for much too long with the wonderful Hans Cassa of Montezuma’s Revenge), felt better than expected…but then got the first bad news: Line Groth, singer and arranger for Danish electro a cappella group Postyr Project didn’t feel well. Neither did Joakim Skog, executive producer of Stockholm’s The Real Vocal Festival. And I still had no confirmation of Nicholas Girard (House Jacks, Overboard, The Sing-Off) and John Buchanan Lau from Edinborough. So I went to the hotel lobby, thinking of Willy Eteson fighting his way through the London rush hour traffic all the way from Hackney, parking illegally and running up Primrose Hill with Vocal Jog delicacies…to find no more than two or three runners…

On top of the Vocal Jog world

As it turned out, Friday 13th was my lucky Vocal Jog day: The first one to show up was Hans Cassa along with the slightly jet-lagged US star Nick Girard and at 8:30h Annemarie Homann (NED, Single Singers founder), Claudia Appel Dom (another surprise guest from The Netherlands) and John Buchanan Lau, a cappella enthusiast from Edinborough joined and made me very happy vocal Jogger. The weather was beautiful, quite cold, but blue skies over London Town. So after passing two blocks we entered Regent’s park and after 20 minutes saw Primrose Hill – which for Londoners (and especially the Dutch guests) is the equivalent of the K2. In spite of general sleep deficit, transcontinental jet-lag and traces of hangovers we made it up Primrose Hill, but: No Willy Eteson…!

…but a fantastic Vocal Jog reception committee à la surprise: Bill Hare (he wore a jacket, which means it was freaking cold!), his mother Joan Hare and their good friend from Slovakia, Sona Killianova gave us a (shivering) big hand and took pictures with the proud runners in front of the London skyline and the rising sun. At around 9:10am with the photo session done, I told my running mates that I had hoped for Willy, but assumed that he got word of the declining number of participants or might simply be stuck in the morning traffic. Sure to be served something delicious later that day we said farewell to the trembling Californian-Slovakian reception committee and started to run down the hill…

…but only seconds later we heard Bill, Joan and Sona shouting and yelling, so we turned round and there he was: Mr. Aca-Deli, Richard “Willy” Eteson with the Vocal Jog catering that will go down in history. So we ran up again, took even more photos, got the right dose of doping, said thank you again and hit the road to make it to the hotels in time for breakfast. These, my friends, are true moments to remember, thank you London A Cappella for supporting this “crazy” (Clare Wheeler) project and spreading the Vocal Jog news.

The London Vocal Jog team 2012: Claudia Appel Dom, Nicholas Girard, Annemarie Homann, Florian Städtler, Willy Eteson, John Buchanan Lau, Hans Cassa

If you loved this story and are a runner (no matter what level, we do not run longer than 30-40 minutes, pace and distance don’t matter), send an e-mail to and you’ll be invited to future Vocal Jog events. Just to let you know: Jeeves Murphy from Washington DC has been appointed Vocal Jog ambassador for the US during the after show party yesterday. And the next European vocal music highlight, the Real Vocal Festival in Stockholm, Sweden is seriously considering making the Vocal Jog an official part of the festival’s progamme (August 16-19, 2012). Last but not least, Line Groth who will come to my hometown Freiburg next week to showcase Postyr Project at the Kulturbörse Freiburg (Jan 24, 20:30h) has told me that she persists to do the Vocal Jog with me there, no matter how tight the schedule may be. So I’m  looking forward to many more great pictures of fit singers & endorphine-addicted aca-fans from all over the world.

Do-doo-run-run-run, do-doo-run-run!

Florian Städtler is founder Vocal Blog and Chairman of the European Voices Association. He can’t believe how quickly this blog has developed a following of wonderful, intelligent and nicely-smelling people. Thanks for sharing the greatest ideas and the latest aca-gossip with a growing number of vocal music enthusiasts. If you can’t get enough of this stuff and/or want to get in touch with almost 1000 a cappella buddies like Vocal Blog on Facebook. If you want to make us of Vocal Blog as a filter and aggregator of a cappella news, links, tipps and hilarious tweets, follow Vocal Blog on Twitter.

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Dark Side Of The Moon – 40 Years Later and A Cappella!

10. September 2011 Keine Kommentare

by Annalisa Schmad

The year is 1972. Abbey Road Studios, London. The “concept album” Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd is recorded. This is the eighth album by this progressive rock band. Nearly 40 years later it’s still the third best selling album of all time. Timeless music with current themes such as greed, conflict, the passage of time, consumer behaviour and mental illness. The original name of this album was “Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece For Assorted Lunatics”. The songs which originated during jam sessions with the musicians were used two years earlier in live tours as improvisational exercises and they became more and more refined as time went on. Pink Floyd used the newest technologies which were experimental at the time like multitrack recording and a looping machine to bring more depth to the music. The sound engineer on this project was no one less than Alan Parsons who later received a Grammy for Best Engineered Album Non-Classical. The album was number one on the Billboard Top 100 list for 741 weeks between 1973 and 1988. This is the longest number one run for any album in history.

The original album has two sides of course, each with five tracks that together form one continuous theme that represents human life. The album begins and ends with a heartbeat. Speak To Me and Breathe (tracks 1 and 2) accentuate the mundane and senseless elements of life that are a constant threat to mental health and the importance of living one’s own life.  Then the band switches over to an airport with the synthesizer driven, instrumental “On The Run” that represents the stress and fear of modern air travel. “Time” investigates the manner in which the passage of time can control a person’s life and the band lets us relax in an oasis of rest with a reprise of “Breathe”. The first side of the LP ends with Clare Torry’s epic metamorphism in “The Great Gig In The Sky” that represents death.

The second side of the album starts with the sounds of a cash register and coins. “Money” parodies greed and consumerism and becomes the best-selling single of the album. “Us and Them” addresses the isolation of depression and uses symbolic conflict to represent personal relationships. “Brain Damage” talks about mental illness that can occur as a result of fame and success. This is most present in the line “and if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes”. Former band member Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd in 1968 because of mental illness. The last song on the album is “Eclipse” which includes the concepts of uniting common characteristics of being human.


May 2012. 40 years later. The Netherlands. 28 singers take their positions on three stages linked together with catwalks. The audience sits, stands, lays around these stages. Not in predetermined places or rows or chairs. There is no order. It is dark and quiet in the theater. All of the sudden you hear the heartbeat. Dub dub. Dub dub. The show begins and the entire theater is transformed by projection on walls and floors. You have arrived on the Dark Side of the Moon. The first notes of Speak To Me bounce off the walls and we are on our way.

Stichting EduVox (Netherlands) is producing a complete a cappella theatre experience in June 2012 to celebrate 40 years of Dark Side Of The Moon. This production is LIVE on stage and embodies the entire album without pause and with the addition of an overture and improvisational transitions.

Stichting EduVox was established in the winter of 2010 for the promotion of vocal music education. The founders are all people who have earned their positions and reputations in the vocal music world of the Netherlands and Europe. Three of the founders are presently conductors and singers in the light music genre. One of the accents for EduVox is producing innovative projects to promote vocal music and especially a cappella music. They also function as a network organisation for matching choirs and vocal groups with coaches and workshops to promote and increase the quality of vocal music in the Netherlands.

The birth of a concept:

In 2005 an American studio group “Vocomotion” translated the songs into an a cappella version. Freddy Feldman produced this album with 8 singers and a vocal percussionist. The concept remained very close to the originals (transcriptions). The songs were recorded without pause in high definition and the album became a big success.

But the founders of EduVox thought “that could even be better”!

A few things were clear to us. It had to be an a cappella production because, just like Pink Floyd experimented with the most advanced technology and diverse sound concepts while making Dark Side, we wanted to search for the boundaries of the human voice and experiment with it. The music of Dark Side lends itself beautifully for multivoiced a cappella singing through its many facets, layers and nuances.

First of all, Stichting EduVox is working with 28 singers and vocal percussionists so that the songs can be sung 7 – 12 voiced. This gives the songs more depth and means that all of the songs can be performed live and not only in a studio. The singers will be individually amplified and the sound concept will evolve around the ear level of the audience so that they sit in the middle of the sound. We will be using octavisers, looping machines, vocoders and other technical equipment to give the sound more depth and possibilities. Beatboxers and vocal percussionists will be added to modern multimedia aspects to be as innovative as possible.

EduVox gave three different composers/arrangers the task to each arrange three songs from the album. The arrangers were selected for their genre, innovation and experience. EduVox wanted the arrangers to have as much artistic freedom as possible so that they could explore their own creativity.

The only rules were:

  • the arrangement had to be 7 – 12 voiced;
  • it has to be arranged in the original key;
  • it has to preserve the essence and intention of the original;
  • there has to be room for improvisation.

The arrangers have since returned with the most fantastic arrangements! These arrangements exceed every expectation and wish we had originally. It is proving to be an amazing journey! The arrangers are: Dr. Matthias Becker (Germany) who is one of the foremost experts in vocal jazz in Europe; Rogier IJmker (Netherlands) who is a young, up-and- coming composer/arranger and brings a lot of R & B and funk to the arrangements and last but not least Jetse Bremer (Netherlands), one of the Netherlands most prolific and often performed arrangers of light and classical music. They all bring their specialties and “flavors” to the table.

In order to bring the theoretical concept into practice, we put the musical direction in the hands of Don Henken (NL). Don is a well-respected conductor, composer and arranger. He conducted the pop choir “Kolok” for years and won the Dutch pop choir championship two times in a row with Kolok.  We wanted to have a production concept whereby the Dark Side Of The Moon was created three-dimensionally in the space. For this we contracted Bart van Bokhoven. Bart is co-owner of Pronorm in Helmond. Pronorm is the exclusive provider of Pani-projection in the Benelux. Pani is worldwide known for the large image projection. The projections can create the illusion of the Dark Side Of The Moon in the theatre. This will only increase the viewer/listener’s experience. Last but not least, we have one of the best choreographers and producers for vocal music groups in the Netherlands, Meta Stevens, on board. She will make sure that the visual aspects support the music and form and integral part of the artistry.

The auditions took place in June and in August. We now have 28 singers and will be starting rehearsals on September 3rd. We have 20 rehearsals that will last an entire day and two rehearsal weekends (in total approximately 140 rehearsal hours) to prepare the 9 songs and transitions (mostly improvised) of the album. The show will be 70 continuous minutes of music (the original album is 42 minutes).

These singers are high level amateurs and professionals and will do all of the studying of notes at home so that we can get to work immediately making music. There will be a lot of coaching which is educational for the singers and increases the quality: coaching of the vocal percussionists and basses; coaching of improvisation; call and response circle songs; coaching in English pronunciation and diction; blending and team building. This group of 28 singers has to perform in 9 months as though they have been together for years. We will invest heavily in the group process in order to achieve this sound.

We will make a recording, both DVD and CD, of the performance and a “making of” for the DVD in the form of a video blog. You will be able to follow some of this video blogging when we start rehearsals via our website and via Facebook.

The amazing sound engineer Bill Hare (California) who was also involved in the original Vocomotion project (listen to his laughing on Brain Damage!) will be producing and mixing the CD.

But seeing the performance LIVE will be the best way to see it. We hope to attract audiences from all over Europe for our 5 days of performance. Keep watching our site and Vocal Blog for information about online ticket sales which will begin sometime in September.

Thanks, Annalisa for this fantastic article – hope to hear more from this amazing musical multimedia live project.