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Artikel Tagged ‘Deke Sharon’

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

Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 2

15. September 2015 Keine Kommentare

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

Last month, the Shanghai Mass Arts Center was hosting the 2015 Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) – here comes part 2 of my first-hand impressions:

Day 2: Aren’t we all a little crazy in this big ACA family?

Thursday (Aug 6) started with the A Cappella Summit Forum. Representatives from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Hongkong presented their status of A Cappella development.

l. to r.: Hea Il Kim, Sung-Mo Han, Ray Chu, Kaichiro Kitamura, Clare Chen, Deke Sharon, Angelina Choo-Sassarak, Peter Lane, Wuming Chen, Kwok-Tung Fung

l. to r.: Hea Il Kim, Sung-Mo Han, Ray Chu, Kaichiro Kitamura, Clare Chen, Deke Sharon, Angelina Choo-Sassarak, Peter Lane, Wuming Chen, Kwok-Tung Fung

Deke Sharon talked about his experience and the success of a growing popularity of a cappella in the US and in other regions of the world. Clare Chen, the president of Vocal Asia, shared her dream and mission of supporting a cappella in Asia, as well as linking and networking all over the world. Special guest was Peter Lane, president and CEO of the Walton Arts Center in Arkansas, who started last year with a professional a cappella festival called „VoiceJam“, hosted by Deke Sharon.

Main topic was sharing ideas of linking and connecting the different regions together, and finally come closer and exchange between the continents.


Sung-Mo Han (President of the Korea A Cappella Education Association) teaching singing in harmony without scores

Sung-Mo Han (President of the Korea A Cappella Education Association) teaching singing in harmony without scores

Finally, Vocal Asia’s educational consultant Sung-Mo Han presented a profound education concept for A Cappella and spontaneously demonstrated a method of teaching and singing without scores. The simplicity and effectiveness stunned even the pro’s amongst the audience.

After lunch, hurray, the workshop sessions started! The full program of the festival can be found on Vocal Asia. As there were always three lectures in parallel, you had to decide on your favorite topic which was by far not easy with all the good lecturers and interesting workshops. After joining the workshop „A Cappella arranging in 10 steps“ by Deke Sharon, which makes it sound so easy to arrange, I headed to the Single Singers’ first rehearsal.

The Single Singers’ first rehearsal with Christine Liu.

The Single Singers’ first rehearsal with Christine Liu.

Christine Liu, music director and alto of Voco Novo, brought the Single Singers’ concept from the London A Cappella Festival to VAF. When she entered the rehearsal place, she seemed to be shocked and overwhelmed at the same time. We were supposed to sing in a group of 20 people who applied for the workshop in advance. But Christine was facing about 50 excited and curious single singers. Well, the shocking part about it was how to balance the voices and how to make all of us ready to perform on the VAF Concert the next day. First half of our rehearsal, we needed to organize enough copies of the scores, split into the different voice parts, discuss whether to transpose both of the songs and of course, get to know each other. Christine having a hard time to get the excited chattering and giggling noise down. Our first trial was horrifying, but we all loved Christine for smiling at us, being so positive and motivating. „Will you have some time tonight to practice before our last rehearsal tomorrow?“ I think we were all crazy deciding to go for 2 songs, but aren’t we all a little crazy in this big ACA family?

The workshop „Urbanized A Cappella“ with Naturally 7

The workshop „Urbanized A Cappella“ with Naturally 7

Highlight of day 2 for sure was my Interview with Naturally 7 for the Vocal Blog. You can get an idea of  how outstanding these 7 artists are. You will definitely fall for them when you hear them live, but not only when they are performing, also behind the scenes, they are just so down-to-earth and warm-hearted personalities – you can’t help but fall in love with them.

In the last workshop session of this day „Urbanized A Cappella“ the Naturally 7 members talked about their background and gave some examples of their musical journey. Unfortunately, half of the participants – and so did I – had to leave in the middle of the workshop to hurry to the first ACA Day concert in another location.

Vocal Asia Festival 2015 – Impressions of Day 1

13. September 2015 Keine Kommentare

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

Last month, the Shanghai Mass Arts Center was hosting the 2015 Vocal Asia Festival (VAF) as well as the 2nd Asian Cup A Cappella Competition. It was an amazing festival and I still try to figure out which of the many great moments have been my favorites? Although, already several weeks passed, I would like to share with you some in-sight impressions and several very interesting talks on Asian A Cappella – here comes part 1:

Day 1: It’s not all about winning.

On Wednesday (Aug 5) the festival started with the 2nd Asia Cup A Cappella Competition. Awesome groups from whole Asia (Taiwan, Korea, China, Singapore, Japan, Hongkong) were performing. As Deke Sharon (member of the Jury) said, it is unbelievable how much the Asian groups improved over the last few years. Refreshing young groups, powerful voices, a lot of up-tempo pop songs and, just a few, but beautiful arrangements of local songs from their respective country. „The Present“ for instance, performed a charming version of the Korean folk song Arirang. Absolutely mind-blowing was the youngest group, high school students from Taiwan: 尋人啟事人聲樂團 The Wanted. They took the audience on a journey through up and down emotions, making us clap along with Pharrell’s „Happy“, filling tears in our eyes with „Maybe tomorrow“ a Taiwanese song with a breath taking solo by Fangchi Hyun and blowing the audience away with a powerful and precise Get Lucky of Daft Punk. Special guest and last performance before the judges were announcing the results of the contest was EXIT from Korea, winners of the first Asia Cup Competition in 2012. During the break, I had the chance to do a short interview on their musical journey since their success 3 years ago (see below).

The Wanted at the award ceremony.

The Wanted at the award ceremony.

„And the winner is…“ – The international jury consisting of Deke Sharon, Guangxian Chen, Kaichiro Kitamura, Roger Thomas and Ray Chu, was very clear about the first price – well-deserved, going to The Wanted from Taiwan. Second, The Present from Korea and third, the City Singers from China. But the judges also awarded a special price, a special price for living the „spirit of a cappella“. Because it is not all about winning, it is about going on stage, singing with all your soul and heart, bringing joy to the audience and enjoying and having fun with your group – and sometimes to stand-in for a team member. A few hours before leaving for the competition, a member of Singapore’s group NANU stepped out. Rather than resigning from the competition, NANU decided to sing with the remaining members and shared their joy of singing with the audience. For me, this was indeed the spirit of the whole festival and the jury’s special price relieved the tension, somehow the atmosphere changed from „who is best?“ to „let’s sing together, let’s make friends and let’s exchange our experience and learn from each other“. So, the special price for NANU became my greatest moment of Day 1.

Interview with EXIT 엑시트 from Korea (the interview was done in Korean language)

(left to right) Chan-Han Park, Jin-Hyuk Kim, Juliana, Young-June Kim, Seul-Ki Lee, Min-Wook Kim

(left to right) Chan-Han Park, Jin-Hyuk Kim, Juliana, Young-June Kim, Seul-Ki Lee, Min-Wook Kim

Juliana: In 2012, you won the first Asia Cup A Cappella Competition. Since then, how did your life change?

Young-June: It seems it became more difficult (laugh).

Jin-Hyuk: Well, it didn’t change that much. It’s just that we could start to work and tour in the Greater China region, like Hongkong, Taiwan, China, ah and also Japan. Before, nobody knew us in those countries. Vocal Asia really helped us.

Juliana: So, how often are you going abroad for concerts? How much are you on tour?

Young-June: Well, most of our concerts are in Korea, about twice or at most three times a year we are touring abroad. But once, we are going to foreign countries for concerts, of course, we are doing a lot at a time.

Juliana: Can you live from singing and touring? Is Exit your full-time job?

Seul-Ki: Yes, it is our full-time job.

Juliana: In Korea success and high reputation is so important in all areas of life. Do you think, it is also necessary to win a competition as an a cappella group to have the chance to gain popularity and be successful?

Young-June: I would rather say, although having won a competition, most of the groups have to really work extremely hard for their success. I would say, there is no relationship whatsoever between winning a competition and being successful. There are professional groups who never took part at a competition and still are very successful, there are other groups having won competitions, but struggling and working really hard to gain some popularity. So, you cannot rely on being successful after winning a competition.

Juliana: In Korea and in whole Asia K-Pop (Korean pop music) is very popular. Does it help or does it make your life more difficult?

Jin-Hyuk: It helps.

Seul-Ki: Yes, it definitely helps.

Jin-Hyuk: When we go to countries like Hongkong, China, anywhere were the Hallyu wave is strong (Hallyu stands for the increase in the popularity of South Korean culture since the late 1990s) and if we prepare K-Pop repertoire we feel even more close and the audience loves it.

Juliana: Did you watch Zenith’s performance at this year – through the Youtube-live-broadcast?

Jin-Hyuk: Yes, we did.

Juliana: How was your feeling watching your fellow Korean a cappella group performing overseas?

Seul-Ki: Of course you feel with your fellow Koreans going this far of a journey to compete in Europe. Big congratulations! And my full respect, they had to cover the whole costs by themselves, for sure not an easy thing. The more I am happy, that they could return with this wonderful result.

Juliana: For the participating teams at this year’s Asia Cup Competition, what do you recommend them for their future career?

Seul-Ki: Fighting! (laugh)

Chan-Han: And have fun! Enjoy!

Juliana: Thank you, for this interview! Looking forward to your performance tonight!

EXIT Music Video: Beautiful

Vocal Asia 2015: Talking to Deke Sharon

by Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia, August 2015

Deke Sharon with Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia

Deke Sharon with Juliana Baron, Vocal Blog Asia

The third blog post featuring the Vocal Asia Festival 2015 is another exclusive highlight. It was hard to even track  the interviewee down – as busy as he is with coaching, producing, writing, arranging and networking. Deke Sharon, founder of CASA (The Contemporary A Cappella Association), co-founder of The House Jacks, producer of The Sing-off, Pitch Perfect, Straight No Chaser and The Sing-off China is called “The A Cappella Godfather” for a reason.

That’s why I was happy and excited to talk him while meeting him at the Vocal Asia Festival in Shanghai, China.

Juliana: Youve been here in Asia already several times, last time about 2 years ago. Can you feel the progress Asia is having with a cappella? How did you experience the Asian A Cappella groups during the Vocal Asia Festival this year?

Deke: I coached many different a cappella groups this time. First of all, I can’t believe the talent, I can’t believe the quality. Things have gotten so much better than where we were just the first Vocal Asia Festival (5 years ago). Young groups, older groups, different styles, different personalities – amazing. I would say, if I had one piece of criticism, one piece of suggestion: the groups that I saw, some of them are so interested in doing difficult arrangements, complex harmonies. They love the balance, they love all of these color notes. But they need to remember that people love music not because it’s difficult.

We love a cappella because it’s difficult, but the general public loves a cappella because of how it makes them feel. We need to make sure that every song has a feeling in it. And when we think about Pentatonix, their harmonies aren’t complex. They don’t have lots of notes stacked up. It’s more about them singing the songs well with a lot of passion. And that’s what I want from all of the groups here. I want them to have the same success as Pentatonix. Singing songs in a variety of different languages, from a variety of different perspectives, all with a lot of passion and power. And hopefully with a lot of media attention.

Juliana: In China, a lot of a cappella groups are at their beginning stage and many are lacking an experienced teacher. What can you recommend, how can they improve?

Deke: The first I’d recommend for a cappella groups in Asia is to contact Vocal Asia. The organization has resources, it has ambassadors in every country. It has materials that have been created and best practices. And even if these don’t exist in your language, they can create them in other languages. They can help you get this information. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Learn from people who’ve done it before and then just take their practices and use them in your own region.

Juliana: When I talk to people about my hobby, my passion for a cappella, after showing some first interest, at least 80% tell me: Oh, I cant sing. You dont want to hear me sing. I am totally tone-deaf! - What do you do to motivate people to sing a cappella?

Deke_back_klDeke: Well, I’ve made a couple of videos about this very issue (watch Deke Sharon’s Youtube channel), because I find it very frustrating that our culture has changed to the point where people think they can’t sing. One or two generations ago everybody sang. There was no recorded music and if you wanted music, you had to make it yourself. This has changed so much in our culture and it’s a shame because we, I think, are like whales, we are like birds, we are like crickets, we communicate through music with each other. It’s soothing, it’s powerful, it’s how we fall in love. So everybody should have the opportunity to sing, but unfortunately many people ever since they were young in school have been told: „You have a good voice, you should sing – Ah, you are not such a good singer…“ I am hoping to change the culture and create more opportunities for people to sing. But more importantly change the feeling that everybody has to be Pavarotti, everybody has to be Katy Perry and nobody else should sing. That’s a mistake.

Juliana: On your way here to Shanghai, you commented on Facebook: Even China Air considers it a classic referring to the Pitch Perfect movie being in the category of classic - Do you think a cappella and vocal play gets its appropriate attention and respect compared to instrument accompanied music?

Deke: Well, a cappella disappeared through most cultures over the past few decades. It was very popular with doo wop music in America in the 50ies… and there is an a cappella tradition in every culture. But current popular music is so much about instruments that I think that has been lost. And we are helping people refind it. And when you see the excitement people have when they hear an a cappella group, it’s so exciting, it’s so charging, it recharges my batteries.

Last night’s performance in the mall many groups were performing (Vocal Asia Festival held a 3 hour a cappella concert with the participant groups in a shopping mall, people gathering and watching from 3 different floors) and there was a giant crowd forming to hear this group singing. And some woman just walked up to me and asked me to videotape the group, because it was too big of a crowd and she couldn’t see over them. So I held her phone above of my head and videotaped the group performing. (look at the first picture I took with Deke, obviously he could hold the phone above the crowd – and no, it was not me asking him for the favor). That’s amazing! She didn’t even know me. She just handed me her phone. So people want it, people love it, they just don’t know about it. That’s really what we’re doing.

Juliana: Youve been behind various Sing Off Shows all over the world, accompanied so many media productions and of course not to forget the Pitch Perfect movie. When it comes to bringing a cappella into mainstream media and catch a broad audience it is not only about a cappella. What is needed to make it a success?

Deke: Well, it depends on the particular media form. So, in the case of a major movie, there needs to be a strong story, in the case of Pitch Perfect it was a great story and it’s fun. So both of the movies made people laugh, people went to the movie because they wanted to see these characters, they wanted to laugh, and then they fell in love with a cappella.

Almost everybody who saw Pitch Perfect didn’t know anything about a cappella. Obviously our community knew about it and enjoyed it, but it was the general public who experienced a cappella through it for the first time. When you do new shows like the Sing Off, the stakes, the competition is important to keep the audience involved. But behind the scenes I tell singers: the competition doesn’t matter. This is just an opportunity for you to get viewers to the television.

With viral videos you want that there is something different, special and interesting about your video that makes people watch it, not just that it’s a cappella. And that’s been so successful for so many groups. There’s a lot of interest in the current media but it’s still growing. I look forward to seeing a cappella go on broadway and in more television programs and groups formed all around the world.

Juliana: Will there be a second Sing Off in China?

Deke: We’re hoping that Sing Off in China will come back. We did the Sing Off China in 2012, it was a success and hopefully it will come back again. I hear people talking about it, they definitely want it to come back. But it was an issue of television shows evolving and the government not wanting too much of it. But, we’ll get there.

Juliana: The a cappella lovers in Mainland China are also very sad, that Pitch Perfect 2 didn’t come to the cinemas here.

Deke: Well, hopefully we’ll get here eventually.

Juliana: That would be great. We are just waiting for it! – Do you think A cappella competitions are the right thing to improve quality of groups?

Deke: For me, an a cappella competition is not about improving quality. It is about getting an audience. So, when I created the college a cappella competition, it was the freedom march madness of a cappella (march madness are the play offs in college basketball). There is something about the public wants to see a competition…

In fact, in Pitch Perfect both story lines were around competition. So, if that’s what we need to do to get people to sit and watch, then that’s fine. But, hopefully, groups are motivated to make their music on their own and to come to the competition to make friends, to get a bigger audience and that winning isn’t the only thing, that’s not the most important.

Juliana: Recently, a Chinese friend asked me Do you think it can be done for real, these battles like in Pitch Perfect, on that level? - I would like to hand over this question to you, the vocal producer of Pitch Perfect.

Deke: No, it’s not. You can’t do the riff off. It’s too hard. The human mind can’t work that quickly singing with other people. They are a few groups, like my own group the House Jacks, who will be able to improvise a song in front of the audience. But we are not improvising a song right on top of another song based on a single word connection. But that’s Hollywood, that’s drama, that’s fine.

Juliana: I am very curious about two recent or upcoming projects of yours. The Lifetime show and the a cappella touring show Vocalosity. Can you tell us more about that?

Deke: Yes, there is a new television show that I just finished taping on Lifetime. It’ll come out – I think – it will be in January. And it’s about a high school a cappella group which should be really exciting.

And I am working with a great group called „Stay tuned“ from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Big a cappella group, 21 high school singers. And they are not even a class at the school. They are just like an after school activity. So they are a little like the Barden Bellas (laugh). They are diverse, and a little rough round the edges, but we have a lot of fun together, we make some amazing music.

My show Vocalosity, it fantastic. And I’ve got some of the greatest young professional a cappella singers out there. And the cast is not being announced yet. But when you hear them, you say „wow, these are stars from the Sing Off, these are stars from other a cappella groups and shows“. They are twelve in total. And that group will be touring in the US throughout 2016 and hopefully will start touring internationally soon after.

Juliana: You also announced your new book coming out this year. What is it about?

Deke: My new book called „A Cappella“  which I co-wrote with Brody McDonald and Ben Spalding. This is a book with lots of chapters with different guest writers as well. The idea is, we’re trying to create a single definitive book about all aspects of a cappella. So my book „A Cappella Arranging“ still will be the work about a cappella arranging.

But this book is about the history of a cappella, the traditions, with lots of different lists in there, like celebrities who sang a cappella in college and finding college a cappella group names…

But also how do you arrange by ear, how do you mix live sound, how do you integrate live looping pedals into your live performance. And so on and so forth. Hopefully, it’s a resource that’ll be of interest to people who just generate live a cappella, fans and also people who do it professionally, will also find things valuable in it.

Juliana: When will it be available?

Deke: Well, it was supposed to be available now. So, I am just waiting for the final draft to be going through and edit. And hopefully it will be out by the end of the year. I am guessing another month or two.

Juliana: Its just unbelievable what you do, you produce movies, TV shows, you arrange songs, you write books, you coach groups, hold workshops, all around the world Looking at your schedule, your achievements for a cappella and your full devotion and enthusiasm for everything related to a cappella. I wonder how a Deke Sharon day looks like.

Deke (laugh): Every day is different and there is no single example. When I am working on the Sing Off, I am 100% Sing Off, when I’m working on Pitch Perfect I am 100% Pitch Perfect, … those kind of projects are so captivating that they just fill your brain from the moment you wake up to the moment you get asleep.

And then it’s in-between that I get to have so much fun, and fly to different festivals, and work with groups and publish music and do custom arrangements and do all these type of things. So, if people wonder what the average day in my life looks like, there is no average day. But, the beautiful thing is that it all interweaves. Every time, I arrange a song, maybe that song gonna get used again, or maybe, I’ll publish it, or maybe I’ll perform it when I get to Carnegie Hall… etc, etc.

There is something great about a cappella, there is so many different aspects and all relate to each other: arranging, coaching, teaching, songwriting, performing and inspiring people… What I love about a cappella is all of it. And I wouldn’t give any of it up.

Juliana: At last nights Vocal Asia Festival party, there were all these plastic cups, and of course, there would be a table starting off with the cup song. Last question, I am very curious, you as the vocal producer of Pitch Perfect, do you know how to do the percussion of the cup song which became viral, even here in non-Youtube country China?

Deke (smile): I know it very well, but I don’t do it myself. I leave that to others.

Juliana: Thank you so much, Deke, for this interesting and inspiring interview.

Deke: You are most welcome.

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