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Artikel Tagged ‘interview’

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.

AAVF 2015: “Like Woodstock – just better.”

A Facebook chat dialogue between Jeff Meshel (“Jeff Meshel’s World: Song of the Week”) and Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog/Acappellazone) about Aarhus Vocal Festival 2015, friends and family, the value of competition and Israeli golf courses. (Excuse the “experimental” layout…remember: Content is king!)

  • Jeff Meshel

    Hey, Mr. Städtler! Where the hell were you? You missed the finest bash ever. AAVF was uplifting, inspiring, fun. I so much missed sharing a beer with you.

  • Florian Städtler
    27/05/2015 14:49

    Florian Städtler


    Hi there, Jeff. I can’t believe I missed this. One of the half dozen events that form the core of what they call the vocal music community. Can you imagine how much I wanted to come? And how hard it was to see you, your group and the whole a cappella family celebrate the art form…and yourselves. Let alone having that beer with you, that we haven’t had since back then, on a ship in Stockholm….2012!!

  • Jeff Meshel
    27/05/2015 15:04

    Jeff Meshel


    It was a remarkable event, right up there with the best festival events I’ve attended. Everything was great–the performers, the workshops, the informal concerts, the networking, the hugging, the after-party bashes. The organization was quite good–the meal package enabled everyone to hang out together during the breaks, which is a big benefit. I’m so full of inspiration–ideas, fun, admiration for all the groups I heard, ideas I exchanged. And love–getting back together with all (well, most) of my dear ACA-friends. Where were you??

  • Florian Städtler
    27/05/2015 15:15

    Florian Städtler


    I was at a very different event….hold on, no: Actually it wasn’t that different. First off, it has a longer tradition than most of the vocal music festivals we travel to. Secondly, with 88 people attending, it seems small – but it really isn’t. And thirdly, it brings together people from distant places to meet, eat, sing, have fun, talk, take pictures and hug. Once a year, and unfortunately always on “Pfingsten” (Whitsun/Pentecost) our tribe gathers for a big family reunion somewhere in Germany. This started right after the German reunification, 1991. I went to this place, into that restaurant and met all these relatives, 60% of whom I had never seen before! So as the dates collided like at AAVF 2013, I had to make this tough choice: Biological vs. vocal family…What would you have done in my place?

    Jeff Meshel portrait
  • Jeff Meshel
    27/05/2015 15:22

    Jeff Meshel


    I don’t know your family (but I do know a lot of your friends). And I know that you can choose your friends, but not your family, so that’s a big advantage for friends. I actually don’t have very many blood-family members left. But I am blessed with a lot of singing friends from all over the world, with whom I feel closer and closer with every passing event. ‘Knowing people’ in our vocal community isn’t binary. You can’t count them like the number of FB friends. Each time you meet, the connection deepens and becomes that much more meaningful. So I had the experience, as always, of both meeting lots of new people, making former acquaintances into friends, and former casual friends into real intimate friends. Still, blood is thicker than water, so I guess you made the inevitable correct choice. Just bad luck on the dates.

  • Florian Städtler
    27/05/2015 15:36

    Florian Städtler


    Everytime I tell my friends about a family meeting including almost 100 people (everybody who stems from my my mother’s mother and her two siblings), they say they haven’t heard about anything like that. So I don’t even know how thick the blood of my grand-counsins son-in-law is in comparison to some of the people who have become my second family through continuous communication and activities around the topic of singing together in groups. You’re probably right that friendship and relationships are hard (or not at all) to measure. So I probably should be very happy to have two groups of people who give me these feelings and moments you described above. Not having been there, I now want to know a bit more about Aarhus: What are your top3 AAVF memories (don’t think, just type!)?

  • Jeff Meshel
    27/05/2015 16:31

    Jeff Meshel


    Two of them are pretty easy (and public). Vivid Voices killed the choir competition. They were just overwhelming. Creative, entertaining, impressive. Everything. Giant WOW for them. Signe Sørensen and her group Mariagerfjord Pigekor were a knockout. Not just the music, but the back-story, how she went into schools with no vocal tradition and built this wonderful group of committed, engaged, creative girls out of thin air. She was really inspiring.

  • Jeff Meshel
    27/05/2015 16:35

    Jeff Meshel


    The third memory is personal. I brought my 2-year old group, Vocalocity. It was a dream come true for me. More than that, a fantasy come true. I felt like a young father showing his new baby to his father. I couldn’t have been prouder, showing off to my dear friends how this dream has been realized, and watching my 30 ‘kids’ encounter so much overwhelming talent (and warmth). So for me, it wasn’t just participating in the festival as an individual, as I’d done in the past, it was also leading a group of talented young enthusiasts, exposing them to the musical wealth and communal love of our a cappella tribe.

  • Jeff Meshel
    27/05/2015 19:34

    Jeff Meshel


    Let me share one other personal thought. My group, Vocalocity, participated in the choir competition. None of the ‘kids’ (they’re mostly in their 20s, with a mix of a few of us up even into the 70s) had ever been to an event like this. They came with a lot of competitiveness and confidence, some of which they got from me. But I tried to balance it with the sense of love and sharing which is so strong at AAVF and the other a cappella events. We hoped, even expected to do pretty well in the judging—but we didn’t, and we were pretty down about it. Then one of the kids, a very talented musician, said to me, “You know what? This just shows that we need to think further outside the box.” Taking the competition in the best positive way, and an inspiration and incentive to improve ourselves, while acknowledging the fine achievements of others—that made me very proud.

  • 28 May
  • Florian Städtler
    28/05/2015 15:02

    Florian Städtler


    It sounds absurd, but “losing” a competition might be more valuable than winning. I remember bringing The Boxettes (now dissolved British all-female beatbox vocal group) to the Vokal Total competition in Graz. Of course they went there to win, but they didn’t match any of the rules of “proper” a cappella singing. They just put on their show which was loud, rough and made to dance and bang your head. They were disappointed and frustrated when they learned about not being understood. They actually won the audience (!) price, but much more importantly they decided to go their own way with even more determination. Are competitions a force for good in the vocal music world? In this world that is so emotional, full of harmony, empathy and mutual respect? This is a whole new discussion and there are arguments for both sides. I think Vocalocity, who are a fabulous bunch of singers, was one of the many winners at AAVF: They went there, they gave their very best and they entered a process of growth and self-reflection. Congratulations!

  • 28 May
  • Jeff Meshel
    28/05/2015 21:23

    Jeff Meshel


    I agree with you wholeheartedly. From my career in the past as a playwright and director, I can tell you in full honesty that I learned very little from my successes and a great deal from each failure. I struggle to find the justification for a competition in the world of a cappella, at least in the norther European scene. I’ve never attended an American event, which I know are usually competition-based. But the European scene seems to me so generous and encouraging and loving, that I really find the whole idea of competitions quite uncomfortable. I believe there are major figures, such as Peder Karlsson, who refrain from participating in them as a judge. How about this as a compromise?–Groups submit clips to the festival board, or a panel of judges working in their name, and half a dozen groups are chosen from the many applicants to perform for 15 minutes each. All love. All winners. No losers.

  • Jeff Meshel
    28/05/2015 21:27

    Jeff Meshel


    Getting back to AAVF 2015–I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I actually attended Woodstock. The original one. And I can bear witness that I felt more real love in Aarhus than I did in Woodstock. Because I know so many people, and meet so many new friends each time; and because we’re all there to create and hear beautiful music right up close, rubbing shoulders with the artists and engaging fellow enthusiasts in workshops. We really are part of a community, and I for one am very proud and thankful about that.

  • Florian Städtler
    02/06/2015 12:36

    Florian Städtler


    Wow, Aarhus, “like Woodstock – just better!” Our Danish friends will love that quote. Maybe one more question about Vocalosity’s performance: What were the actual details, the judges commented on? And how did the choir members deal with it?

  • Jeff Meshel
    02/06/2015 13:05

    Jeff Meshel


    The judge’s comments were great! They were very positive, complimentary, with good constructive criticism. I think we’re stronger on communicativity, passion, weaker on precision (in accordance with the character of our country, perhaps). So their comments will help us focus on those aspects. On the other hand, we got some compliments on our blend, which made us feel really great.

  • Jeff Meshel
    02/06/2015 13:08

    Jeff Meshel


    We’re still very young, only two years old. I think the bottom line is that we still have a lot more growing to do to define ourselves. Someone told me a joke about when they were building the first golf course in Israel (there’s only one). They brought in an expert from England on how to get that fine, green grass. “You need to plant the right kind of seeds, water it properly, weed it as I’ve shown you, apply the proper fertilizer at the proper times, and wait 400 years.”

  • Jeff Meshel
    02/06/2015 13:09

    Jeff Meshel


    The choir members got a lot of respect for the other groups. We definitely came away with the feeling that we gave it our best, we did a very respectable job, and we have lots more work to do.

  • 2 June
Florian Städtler
02/06/2015 12:36

Florian Städtler

It sounds like you came away with quite a lot.

  • Jeff Meshel
    02/06/2015 19:57

    Jeff Meshel


    Oh, there’s more! A couple of very nice people (and talented musicians) asked if we would like for them to write an arrangement for us. Christmas in May!


KategorienMain Tags: ,

Acappella – The Musical (Exclusive Interview)

Florian Steve Jobs live Städtler (Foto Ellen Schmauss)Florian Städtler (FSt), Vocal Blog editor-in-chief on June 20th, 2015, interviewing Greg Cooper (Executive Producer) and Evan Feist (Music Director) about “Acappella The Musical”, which will debut in New York on July 7th.

Before you read the interview below you might want to win tickets for the upcoming shows of Acappella The Musical (July 7th-14th) by answering the following question: Who wrote the script for A Cappella The Musical?

By sending the correct name to by Thursday, 2nd of July, 12pm, you’ll take part in this Vocal Blog ticket raffle. But for now: Enjoy the interview!

FSt: So how about, introducing yourselves a little bit and tell our readers how you both got to do this adventure.

Evan: OK, thank you. So my name is Evan Feist. I’m the music director, the arranger, the orchestrator and the sound designer. I got involved in this project when one of my collaborators Andrew Fox went to the NYMF mixer and met, I believe it was you, Greg, and Vynnie, and he made a beeline to them and said: “I know nothing about your project, but I know, that it’s a cappella, and so I want to be involved!” And they started talking and my name came up, and Andrew gave them my contact info, and I got a couple of calls and a couple of e-mails about this project and I was very excited about it and didn’t really know much about it and, you know, immediately signed on. I had the same kind of reaction that Andrew did, which was: “I don’t really know much about this project, I haven’t seen a script, I don’t really know much about the music, but it’s an acappella musical, and I want to be involved.

Greg: Greg Cooper, I’m the executive producer of Acappella and this project, for me, started about twelve years ago, when I started hearing about all the juke box musicals and I thought, well my favorite group has got a bunch of music, why can’t we take their music and really spin it and kind of put it in 3D so the world can experience it in a different way. So, I contacted the Acappella company and they said: “Go man, go! We think that would be a great idea”. So I began working on the project and then really got started in earnest about three or four years ago, when I came in contact with our amazing book writer Vynnie Meli, and she was able to really craft a really, really amazing story around the music so that it stood up and really, really made sense. So, we started working on that, submitted it to the New York Musical Theater Festival, they loved it, and here we are. So, the basis is obviously this amazing, powerful soul story in music, and I wanted to really let people experience that in a different way, but the idea of combining a cappella and live musical theater is just such a compelling idea and vision for us. We’re so excited about that!

FSt: Yeah, that’s really true. You also answered my second question basically, that you have been thinking about it for a while…

Greg: And Florian, I would be remiss, if I said I did that on purpose *laughs* that really is some divine intervention, that it all happens in this perfect storm type situation we’ve got going with a cappella.

FSt: Yeah, cool. So actually there has been a 24, 25, 30 year old history of what we call contemporary a cappella in the US. But how have you both been, or maybe first, how did you get involved with this kind of early movement? Cause I heard your names before.

Evan Feist

Evan Feist

Evan: So in 9th grade, when I was about…I’m gonna say twelve or thirteen, there was an a cappella group at my high school, Plainview-Old Bethpaige John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, Long Island, New York. There was an a capella group, an all-male group, called the B-Sharps, which were the rock stars of our school. I was lucky enough to audition and got in. I was the first freshman to ever be initiated into the group, and it was great. Now, in our high school, there are eight different acappella groups. I really feel that, you know, now that we’re conquering musicals, high school a cappella I think is the new frontier. And so, since then, I ended up running our group in high school and arranging for them. I started a group at the Conservatory of Music at SUNY-Purchase, and we’re just celebrating our ten-year anniversary next year. I was arranging for them and directing them. They just started doing some ICCA stuff, and then ever since I graduated from college, I became a freelance arranger, have worked with a whole bunch of people, recently started as a staff arranger for Acappella Psych and, you know, after college I went to grad school at teachers college at Columbia. Where I really honed my skills as a vocal coach, when I started working with The Voice and contestants from The Sing Off and American Idol. So at this point, you know, it’s so broad and so varied. People ask me what I do for a living and the best answer I can say is, that I’m a musical handyman. Whatever you need to do, you know, I go between a musical handyman and an a cappella vagabond.

FSt: That’s a nice description. And it’s basically one of these careers, that nobody would have thought possible like ten or fifteen years ago.

Evan: Right! And it’s a lot of piecing together. It’s just, you know, freelancing and, you know…I think acappellist is going to be a career path.

FSt: Greg, let’s talk about the musical and the project. In New York, there have been like thousands of great shows, maybe others not so great. Why should people go to Acappella the Musical?


Greg Cooper

Greg: A really, really good question, Florian. I’ll just say a few words. First of all…romantic comedy. This is gonna be tons of fun, number one. Number two: great story. Really, really excited about this story, that our writers crafted around it. Amazing, amazing cast of people. We’ve got some of the best talent in the city, that are gonna be working with us. I’ll just throw out a few names: Cheryl Freeman is playing Aunt Leona; Jeremiah, our lead, is Tyler Hardwick; Virginia Woodruff…just some amazingly talented people, who are coming together to create this thing, but you asked about the difference. Well, I mean listen, Broadway has got so much variety in entertainment, but listen, when was the last time you saw a full-fledged, real, book-written production, put together Broadway style, with a cappella music? I mean, that’s a spectacle in and of itself. So, we’re definitely going a little bit off the beaten path and outside the box. And I think one of the most important keys for us is, the audience will be able to see, hear, feel, and taste this thing, because the music is a cappella and because Evan is doing such an amazing job of crafting this with the music. The audience will not just be sitting there watching; they’re gonna be interacting with this thing. I mean, we’re already seeing people getting up, standing and clapping and shouting and just having the best time. We really plan this to be a magical, unique musical theater experience. So it’ll be like nothing else, that you can see on Broadway right now.”

Evan: Yeah, I feel like there have been shows, that have gotten towards this kind of genre. There was a show called “Avenue X” and there is another one, that I can’t quite remember the name of… [Greg: Perfect Harmony?] Right! And I think one of the big differences is, that we’re doing this on the NYMF stage, which, you know, is a very collaborative effort and, you know, is just kind of a different kind of stage to put this up on. And then of course coming, I believe, this fall is Deac’s Vocalocity. Which I think is a very, very different thing and I really love that, you know, as our community is growing, as we’re getting bigger and more varied, the kinds of stage shows are changing. I remember, when I was in high school about six or seven months after I started singing a cappella, I saw the off-Broadway show “Toxic Audio”, which was a fantastic show and, you know, to go from seeing a concert in a concert hall to seeing a concert with vignettes on a Broadway-style stage to a full-fledged Broadway musical and then, you know, I feel like things are growing, things are changing and things are branching out a bit. And I think one of the core features of our musical is the idea of finding your own voice and singing your own song. And I think that one of the things, that I love most about our community right now is that there is a way, an opportunity, and a place for everybody to find their own voice, sing their own song and, you know, whatever it is that you want to do, we have a way to support that, and the community is such a warm and loving community, that everyone is supportive of what everyone else is doing. I remember hearing the score for an a cappella opera in Memphis a little while ago, and it’s just amazing, the different kind of things that people are doing and even more amazing than what people are doing, it’s really incredible how everybody is supporting everyone else and it really is a big acappella family.

FSt: What kind of styles of music will people hear in the musical?

Evan: I think at its core, it is an old time gospel musical with a contemporary twist. And I think that is echoed in our story a lot too of this town celebrating its centennial, it’s hundred years old, our prodigal son is returning, which, you know, things are gonna happen and you gonna have to come and see the show to see what happens, but it’s a gospel musical, so you’re gonna get some of that old time gospel, voiced in the very traditional sense with these really big-rooted chords, with these fantastic singers, singing their heart out, belting their face off,  And we put a bit of a contemporary twist on things: there’s some R’n'B, there’s a little bit of Reggae. I think what’s really important for our listeners and viewers to know, is that even though it is Acappella the Musical, it is not a pop, “Pitch Perfect” kind of thing. It is deep soul music. And in terms of what we did with the arrangements, in terms of vibe, we tried to keep it as true to the original, true to what a rootsy gospel musical would be, as well as trying to tell our story through these songs. So things get contemporized, things change. And it’s not so much changing it so that it is new, fresh and flashy, it’s more that things are getting tweaked to tell our story, you know, a tune might go minor, a tune might have big 9th, 11th, and 13th chord tone extensions because our ensemble is the vocal band. They are the ensemble in terms of the show, they’re the chorus. But they’re also the townspeople. But they also kinda function as a Greek chorus commenting on the action and talking to our characters as well as the audience about the action. So we’re doing double and triple duty and the music is so lush and so deep that there’s so much to chew on there. Greg did a great job finding which songs to use and Vynnie, our bookwriter, had a great job of putting where they go, and it made my job really really simple in that the story kind of tells itself. The hardest part for me was deciding: is it this or is it that because it’s so good, I want it to be both!

FSt: Of course, you have to make choices so it’s not three hours or something like that. So you told me a little bit about the story without any spoilers to keep me excited. But the music: can you tell me a little bit about the people who wrote the music, who arranged the music?

Greg: Florian, part of this, there’s so many pieces and modalities going into this, but one of the really big pieces is paying tribute and hommage to what I believe is one of the most talented musicians and one of the most incredible figures in the a cappella world that has ever existed. And that is Keith and Melissa Lancaster. Keith founded the A Cappella Company in 1982 and really, he just really laid the groundwork for a lot of what we are experiencing now. So all of the music that we are using in the show was originally produced by The A Cappella Company. They’re a vocal group that’s basically four guys, but when you listen to their music, they will get into the studio, and they will create magic like you have never heard before. So over the years, they have just really really done a bangup job of taking melody and words and lyrics and even scripture and just creating soul-stirring music. So they are…they’re kind of the bedrock for everything that we’re doing.

Evan: The group was started in 1982, and picking this music was really fun because they have over 24 albums, and we really went through their history.

FSt: One word, Greg, about the venue where you are. What is the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and what’s it all about?

Greg: Absolutely. The New York Musical Theatre Festival is the largest musical theatre festival in the country. Just an amazing platform. So accessible for producers and writers of every level, and we’re so excited. The festival takes place during the entire month of July. So there’s actually going to be a ton of productions, but we want everybody coming to ours! So we’re going to be featured during the New York Musical Theatre Festival July 7th-July 14th, and we are at the Pearl Theatre Company Performance Space right at 555 W 42nd Street. Really really great venue. We have 5 performances and maybe a couple more if everyone comes out in support. I’ll leave all the performance date and times to you. Tickets are also reasonable. One of the real mantras of the festival is giving audiences a Broadway-style experience for an extremely good value. So ticket prices are great, it’s a great show, we certainly want you to come on out. Pearl Theatre Company: great venue. And still plenty of good tickets left!

Evan: One of the things I really love about the Pearl is that it is not a ginormous theatre. So our show, especially with an a cappella show, especially with the story we’re telling, it’s a really intimate story. So the fact that we have a smaller, intimate space is really nice and really is working to our advantage because people will feel really immersed into our story.

FSt: Well, everything sounds incredibly great and fascinating and exciting, and we will do the best to spread the word! Hopefully people traveling to New York in addition to New Yorkers will read about it and come out to see it! Is there anything else you want to add at this point?

Greg: We just want to let fans of a cappella know that it is an incredible time to be alive and to be a part of the a cappella world. We are so honored to be a part of that history, and we just want to invite every a cappella fan on the planet to really come and see what we feel like is one of the next steps in taking a cappella to heights that we can’t even imagine.

FSt: I will pass this on, and Vocal Blog will keep everybody posted on the project. Thank you very much for taking the time again! I wish you all the best for the final stretch before production.

Greg: Thank you so much Florian!


Accent – Exclusive Interview & Video Favorites

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog

Having returned from London A Cappella Festival 2015 only a few days ago, there is so much to write about. I want to start with my encounter with a group that had a King’s Place evening show with their second-ever concert. If you think I’m talking about some up-and-coming UK collegiate group or festival project ensemble, you’re wrong. It was Accent, the “virtual vocal group” that was founded by six YouTube multitrack musicians and singers – on the internet. Find below their bio video (how else could they present themselves as a group?), some of our favorite collaborations on YouTube and an exclusive Vocal Blog interview with Evan Sanders (bass, USA) and Jean-Baptiste Craipeau (tenor 1, FRA).

If you think, I’m talking too much in the interview, you’re right…must have been the excitement to meet those guys in person ;)




We hope to review Accent’s album “Here we are” that was released right before they did their LACF2015 appearance on Vocal Blog very soon. Be sure to get your copy, here’s the playlist: 1. Good News, 2. Rude, 3. Too Close to Comfort, 4. All at once, 5. If You Really Love Me, 6.With a Little Help from my Friends, 6. Song for Gene – and here are four of the album’s songs as originally uploaded on YouTube:

Too Close for Comfort


All At Once

With a Little Help From My Friends


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SoJam 2013 Interview with MICappella

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog editor-in-chief. Recorded November 9th 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

960208_707772989247185_316119057_nYou know that moment when you come back from a trip or took a few days off from the daily grindstone? You will be punished by an even fuller desk, inbox etc. But there are moments like that when it’s easier to cope with that backlash. That’s when you can look back on something so wonderful that it lingers on for weeks and months and contributes to your general happiness with life, your friends, your community. Like for example coming back from a great event, where you met good friends, had delicious food and new inspiration in many different ways. You know what I’m talking of as a matter of fact: It’s my coming back from SoJam 2013. And immediately being drowned by all the things you left behind or didn’t manage to finish before you left as well as by the consequences from those unfinished tasks. But then you face all of this with a big smile. Because you know it was worth it.

So I’m not ashamed of posting some of the SoJam 2013 footage with quite a delay, I’m sure, you will enjoy it anyway. Like I enjoyed my first (and certainly not my last) encounter with SoJam professional showcase artists MICappella from Singapore. Have fun with that little “3 Questions, 3 Answers, 1 Song” interview I was able to do on the NC State University Campus.

Florian Städtler is an an a cappella agent, creative director, A&R director and blogger. He loves to stay in touch with great people from all over the world via his “online communication baby”, Vocal Blog via the blog (that’s where you are now!), Facebook group, Facebook fanpage, Twitter and the Acappellazone YouTube channel. Dave Sperandio (founder of SoJam) once introduced him with the phrase “He runs Europe” – and Florian took it as a compliment.