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Artikel Tagged ‘Tobias Hug’

The 7 London A Cappella Festival Rules

by Florian Städtler, Vocal Blog founder

Florian Steve Jobs live Städtler (Foto Ellen Schmauss)

Germany loves rules and regulations. That’s how we build these machines and cars that the rest of the world still pays lots of money for. So it’s been long overdue to write a listicle listing the rules that you should follow to fully and very efficiently enjoy the first highlight of the year, London A Cappella Festival, which happens to take place this weekend at King’s Place.

Rule 1: Be there. True, there is a growing number of vocal music festivals in Europe and all over the world. But London A Cappella has grown into a real gem. No better place and time to hear the best international and UK vocal groups and meet a cappella fans, movers and shakers from all over the world. People to meet: Jessica Hill (Ikon Arts), Costa Peristianis (Ikon Arts), Clare Girard (The Swingles), Oliver Griffiths (The Swingles), Alex Godfree (Voice Festival UK), Tobias Hug (Everybody Needs A Hug).

Rule 2: Talk to people. Actually the easiest thing in the world. Everybody in the vocal music community is more than happy to share his personal musical experience with you. You can learn so much about vocal music in countries from Finland to France, from Italy to the UK, from Singapore to Canada. People to meet: Henry Southern (The Sons of Pitches, UK), Hans Cassa (Montezuma, NED), Danny Ozment (Emerald City Productions, USA), David Longo (Sled Dog Music Group, USA)

Rule 3: Get involved (1). This festival is not only about the “stars” of the scene being admired by a stunned audience. It’s about everybody being involved in the festival buzz. So if you yourself want to perform, become  a member of the incredible “Single Singers” project, that offers the opportunity to sing in an instant international choir, that has had performances at several international vocal music events. People to meet: Annemarie Homann (Single Singers co-founder, NED/ITA), Emily May ‘t Hoen (Single Singers co-founder, NED), Hans Cassa (Single Singers, part-time musical director)

Rule 4: Get involved (2). As you might have heard, it’s “all about that bass.”. Well, all (!) the women at LACF have started to adore (and talk about) Club for Five’s Tuukka Happaniemi after their very successful show on Friday night, that’s even more true. But even from the perspective from an envious ex-tenor 1, I have to recommend a group that consists of bass singers only. Founded by The Swingles bass Ed Randell, “Woofer” is delighting the LACF crowds with low-frequency versions of The Bee Gees’ (!!) “How Deep is your Love”, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (a more obvious choice) and other musical treats slightly below the capacities of the human ear. People to meet: Edward Randell (The Swingles), Kevin Fox (The Swingles), Tuukaa Hapaniemi (Club for Five), special guest Jonathan Howard (The King’s Singers)

On top of the Vocal Jog world

On top of the Vocal Jog world

Rule 5: Get involved (3) and stay fit. According to a real a cappella fitness luminary, Jonte Ramsten (FORK) “The nerdiest thing one can imagine” is the Vocal Jog. Yes, Jog, i.e. singers or a cappella fans running. I started this out of frustration that I never had a chance to get an impression of the cities I toured to and the lack of time to walk around beautiful places like St. Petersburg, Osaka, Heidelberg or Geneva. So part of this rule is to always bring your running shoes and clothes to every festival you’re visiting. And then move out of your comfort zone and meet for a run even after a great after show party and more festival activities to come. So if you want to be part of that unique (and rather exclusive) community of running a cappella nerds, like the Vocal Jog Facebook page. People to meet: Florian Städtler (Chief Jogging Executive, Head of Pacemaking, GER), Hans Cassa (Vocal Jog veteran, NED), John Buchanan Lau (Vocal Jog veteran, SCO), Liz Swain (singer and choir conductor, UK), Nicholas Girard (husband of Clare Girard, formerly Wheeler ;)

Rule 6: Expect the unexpected. With a line-up that includes classical, children, pop, jazz, rock, barbershop and world music as well as artists, teachers, conductors and attendees from all over the world, opening up and thinking outside your own musical box makes your festival experience richer and fuller. A cappella crowds are famous for not being purist. They love the magic of the human voice and I’ve seen barbershop singers delighted by a dubstep song, pop singers surprised by the variety of jazz harmony and jazz aficionados banging their head to a Singaporean version of an Iron Maiden heavy metal classic. People to meet: Costa Peristianis (Managing Director of Ikon Arts, LACF promoter), Holly Peristiani (Ikon Arts), Jo Eteson (The Swingles, LACF curators), Tobias Hug (Creative Director Vocalmente and LEOsings)

1526416_664986813524679_1943502529_nRule 7: Share your LACF experience. Be it during the festival or in the days and weeks after LACF: Spread the news about the festival, its artists and the community of people who love to sing, listen and create together. So you can either share your pictures, texts, videos or full blog articles via your own social media or via Vocal Blog: We are happy to have you as a guest blogger and give your LACF stories, your group, your vocal music ideas or your music a voice and greater exposure. People to contact: Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog, editor-in-chief, founder), Michel Peters (Acappellazone Shop, Marketing/Sales and Suppliers)

I’m looking forward to your comments on this little LACF guideline – what else do you think we should strictly regulate? Or would you rather have anarchy (in the UK) and elsewhere on Planet A Cappella? Let me know your thoughts!

From King’s Place, London (St. Pancras Room), Yours FSt/Florian

Find more current news and footage of London A Cappella Festival via the following links:

>> Festival website:

>> LACFextra Facebook group:

>> LACF on Facebook:

>> Vocal Blog Facebook group:

>> Vocal Blog Facebook fanpage:

>> Vocal Blog on Twitter:


My 10 Favourite Aarhus Moments

10. Mai 2011 11 Kommentare

by Florian Städtler

On a train to Copenhagen Airport I simply wanted to keep some of the exceptional things that happened to me during my three-days stay at the Aarhus Vocal Festival by writing them down. Those who are member of the Vocal Blog group on Facebook or follow me on Twitter already got a slight impression, but here’s a bit more: “My 10 Favourite Aarhus Moments”.

1) Train Ride through Denmark
My trip to Aarhus went as follows: Shuttle bus from my hometown Freiburg (South-West of Germany) to EuroAirport Basel-Freiburg-Mulhouse in 45 minutes, departure 4:30am. Scheduled take-off 6:30am – due to technical problems at our destination Berlin-Tegel Airport, we actually took off at 7:30am. 4 hours changeover in Berlin, with probably the worst WiFi quality ever experienced on a European airport. The Berlin-Copenhagen flight was only slightly delayed so I made it to the 3.5 hours train ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus. And I realized again, that train rides are a nice way to get an impression of a country: You get in touch with people, hear them talking and you see much more of the landscape while you travel. Denmark and its people made a friendly and relaxed impression, just as sunny as the weather on the way.

2) Ridehuset
After having checked in I asked for the way to Ridehuset. The receptionist didn’t understand until I showed him the venue’s name in the printed booklet: “Aaah, Rdddhes(e)”, she replied in a peculiarly nasal tone but with an extraordinarily charming smile…and an extraordinarily pretty nose. I smiled back and never even tried to pronounce it again. What to the unflexible German sounded like a major logopedic incident turned out to be a most amazing room to meet and perform. The Ridehuset was a former hall for horseriding and its nice architecture was the perfect place to get together, to listen to concerts, eat, drink and relax. What makes it even better, is the fact that it is situated very close to the workshop locations, a very important fact for the vibes of any festival.

Jake Moulton, Jonathan Minkoff, Peder Karlsson, Jussi Chydenius

3) The World at One Table
Imagine a football fan sitting at one table with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ronaldinho. After the opening concert I found myself in a similar situation. I joined a table with Clare Wheeler (The Swingle Singers), Peder Karlsson (The Real Academy), Jussi Chydenius (Rajaton), Jonathan Minkoff (, Blue Jupiter), Judy Fontana, Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers), Christine Liu (Vocalasia), Tine Fris (Postyr), Bill Hare (CASA director and recording legend) and Jake Moulton (The Housejacks). One big difference compared to the kickers: all of them are not only great masters of their trade, but intelligent, thoughtful and really cool people.

4) A Triple P from the North

Postyr live!

Papaya, Pust and Postyr – the line-up of Friday night’s opening concert seemed to be selected by some alphabetical logic. The first letter is however their only similarity. Maybe except the fact that this first night perfectly represented the fantastic level that Northern European groups have reached today. Papaya (DK) brought the sound and the motion of African music to Ridehuset, Pust (NOR) presented their unique kind of contemporary folk-based vocal music and Postyr, also from Denmark, launched their new album, new website and new music video. Four of the five singers in the group also being members of AAVF host choir Vocal Line, they presented an amazing fusion of popular songwriting, experimental electronics and no fear of including a cello or an acoustic guitar if they think it fits. Tine, Line, Andreas, Kristoffer and Anders were just following their concept of “singing outside the box.” It became clear again: Future innovation in vocal music will certainly be driven by groups from the Northern European countries.

4) Meeting Jens Johansen

Jens Johansen (Vocal Line), Tine Fris (Postyr, Vocal Line)

Jens is the “spiritus rector” of what we today experience as the Danish school of “rhythmic choir music”. For more than two decades he has worked with students and his choir Vocal Line. Today, groups like The New Voxnorth, Vox 11, Papaya and Postyr represent the second generation of Danish contemporary vocal brilliance. And while these groups shine with flawless blending and a rhythmic precision unheard of in Europe, Jens has remained as calm, moderate and friendly as when I first met him 15 years ago. His personal achievements in vocal music and in setting up the Aarhus Vocal Festival again cannot be praised often enough.

Céline Morel & Peder Karlsson

5) France exists!
The French don’t use the term a cappella. And despite being one of the biggest countries of the European Union, France has no more than half a dozen contemporary vocal groups. It was a pleasure talking to Céline Morel (CEPRAVOI) and Thierry Lalo (Les Voice Messengers) and learning more about their will to develop new ways of vocal and choral music in France. It would be so great to find people like them in each and every European country and have them exchange ideas on a regular basis.

6) His Bobbyness’ Masterclass

Tobias Hug (The Swingle Singers), His Bobbyness

Rarely have I seen 500 people in one room being so focused, so involved, so intently listening. Bobby McFerrin, giving a masterclass to Jim Daus Hjernoe‘s group “The New Vox North”, is personalized inspiration. He knows how to tell a story and he knows how to create music that is never pretentious but always fascinating. He is funny and serious, very direct but never patronizing. And he stayed with us longer than one would have expected, watching workshops and competitions. Bobby McFerrin is the single most influential person in contemporary vocal music. Or – as Peder Karlsson put it: “For me there was life before and life after Bobby.”

7) Learning from a Real Role Model

The jazz choir competition jury: Malene Rigtrup, Tobias Hug, Peder Karlsson

Speaking of luminaries, who would not think of Peder Karlsson? 26 years as baritone with The Real Group and endless experience both in singing and being a teacher give him natural authority. He is a master of combining the challenge of thinking out of the box with pragmatic action. For me, the work with him on a European framework for vocal, a cappella and choral music has been a highly intensive learning process how this art form has evolved from the first pioneer groups to the vocal music movement we see today.

8) 40 Minutes with the Best Rhythmic Choir of the World

Vocal Line with Bobby McFerrin live!

Superlatives are to be treated with care. Not in this case: Vocal Line, the Danish choir conducted by Jens Johansen has reached a level of artistry that is simply outstanding. I must admit, I’m not the one who is getting easily overwhelmed by a concert experience. But the first set of the festival’s main concert (just Vocal Line, without Bobby yet)  moved me to tears. You must see and hear this group of singers. If you don’t have a heart of stone, you will realize that this is what vocal music and music in general is all about. Spiritual moments in Aarhus. Enough said.

9) The European Voices Association (EVA) kickoff meeting

We were there!

For about 18 months seven vocal music activists have worked on a common vision for an organisational structure for European vocal, a cappella and choral music. And on the last day of AAVF the “core team” presented a first rough idea of how this network could be developed. Despite the inhuman timing of the meeting (9am – on the morning after the final festival party) more than 50 participants learnt how the idea came about (Florian Städtler), what European diversity means for us (Tobias Hug), what the higher purpose of EVA could be (Peder Karlsson), what the three content “bubbles” information, networking and education could look like (Volker Bauer), why it is important for all vocal music activists to be part of the team (Tilo Beckmann) and what the next steps towards EVA will be. By the way, the meeting itself started with a collective song directed by AAVF host Jim Daus Hjernoe, also a member of the preliminary team. One more happy moment and hopefully a milestone in the development of European A Cappella.

10) The Vocal Jog #1

7:30am, Hotel Ritz, Aarhus: Feeling lonely...

Being a passionate runner I try to have my running gear with me whenever I’m on the road. There’s no better way to both get an impression of the city you are staying and getting over the side effects of an after show party. Sunday morning, May 8th, was supposed to be the day of the first “Vocal Jog”: A little run around the beautiful city of Aarhus. Friday night, it really seemed as if I had summoned a true dream team featuring Tine Fris, Line Groth (both with Postyr) and my sandbox friend Tobias Hug, who loved the idea of doing the Vocal Jog just before the Morning Singing with Bobby McFerrin. Well, and this was the only very small disappointment at AAFV 2011: Vocal Jog #1, starting at 7:30 on Sunday morning took place – but no one came…excexpt me. Well, even without Line, Tine & Tobi it was wonderful jogging down to the sea, through the forest and on the streets of Aarhus. And they promised to be there next time. You are my witness.

Have you been in Aarhus and want to tell the Vocal Blog readers your favourite moment? Post your comment/story/experience here on the blog, the top 3 stories have the chance to win an AAVF artist’s cd of their choice.

If you’re not a member of the Vocal Blog Facebook group, why not join it now. And if you can’t get enough of news, links and pics from the vocal music world, follow us via

Naturally Boxettes

18. März 2011 2 Kommentare

by Florian Städtler

This story begins in the middle of 2010. On our way to another European a cappella network meeting, Tobias Hug (Black Forest-raised & London-based bass with The Swingle Singers) told me of a new all-female vocal group he discovered in London.

OK, this pic does NOT show the band, but four Swingle Singers (Tobi’s the one on the right) with an unknown die-hard fan.

Where was I…ah yes…Tobi, the world’s greatest vocal and a cappella networker and also a highly talented scout told me of Bellatrix, the female beatbox world champion.

This video of Belle Ehresmann, Guildhall doublebass student, has gone viral quite a while ago. But Belle is not only a human beatbox and lipbuzz virtuoso, Tobi told me. She put together a five-piece all-female, vocal beatbox group. “You’d better check out these insanely talented girls before someone else does”, that’s what Mr. Hug told me. But I was busy as always and already taking care of booking for five international a cappella top acts, so I just didn’t manage to follow up right away.

But my old choir buddy Tobi can be persistent if he really thinks that something is worth being like that. And so he kept me updated on a regular basis until I searched the web, found rough, but fascinating videos of The Boxettes and was finally hit by their sensational video single “Free” . That was – if I remember it right – in the beginning of January, and I had decided much earlier to do two things: See and meet the group at the London A Cappella Festival (12-15th of January) and bring them to Germany’s top showcase events, the Kulturbörse Freiburg.

To make a long story short, it was a great night at King’s Place: Neo, Alyusha, Harriet, Yvette and Bellatrix are young, sexy, charismatic (despite their age) and most importantly: truly talented and musically original. We have nothing like this in the EU. Nor in the States. Probably not in Asia, Australia either. Well, to be honest, their show is far from being perfect. This group is a raw diamond yet. But the singers are 100% authentic and there is only two ways that you can leave a Boxettes concert: Confused because this doesn’t fit into your world of vocal and a cappella music. Or enthusiastic that there is a band that seems to bring a whole new groove and sound to this art form.  I generally love artists who make at least 20% of the audience look like living question marks and shake their heads in doubt and disbelief. Because these are the same bands that make 80% of the people dance and bang their heads in pure joy. That’s what the Boxettes will soon be doing to many more people all around the world. And probably/hopefully they will reach a much broader, pop audience.

Naturally7 live on stage

Speaking of a vocal group aiming at a mainstream pop audience, there’s one group that has been going that way for years and is probably today’s most successfull vocal group: Naturally 7, led by vocal music mastermind Roger Thomas. What happened after my London A Cappella encounter with The Boxettes (+ The Swingle Singers, The Real Group, Witloof Bay and many more aca-people from all over Europe), is a kind of fairy tale. Or maybe a science fiction. Yes, it reminds of the incredible space ship “Heart of Gold” in Douglas Adams’ cult novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The engine of the ship is based on a technology called “The Infinite Improbability Drive”, which makes it possible to cover unbelievable distances in no time. But it has a second effect. On their journey from the place where the Earth used to be (before it was destroyed to build a hyperspace byway…) to “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, the most improbable, unbelievable and mind-boggling things happen.

Why am I telling you that? Well, read on what happened.

When we were checking our diaries to make The Boxettes’ continental premiere happening, I discovered, that on the two days before the Freiburg showcase, Naturally 7 had two gigs very close to Freiburg. When I told Tobi about that, he acted very quickly. Of course he and Roger Thomas met before (there’s a video on YouTube with N7 singing a song backstage at a Michael Bublé show at the O2 in London – the The Swingle Singers being their audience) and so Tobi tried to get in touch with Roger right away. But nothing happened for 5 or 6 days. We had to book flights as they became more expensive every day…and right after we had booked the air tickets from London to Basel/Freiburg Tobi forwarded me THE E-MAIL. It said: “The girls can do a half-hour show at Denzlingen and Stuttgart opening for N7.” Well, rarely did I change flights so happily…

Naturally7 & The Boxettes, Stuttgart/GER

The rest, they say, is history: The Boxettes flew into Basel, met the boys and more than warmed-up the Denzlingen crowd. After the show we celebrated Roger’s birthday with a very special birthday cake (no alcohol, no nuts) served by the ultimate N7 fans Vera Yu and @Laydee_Tea who probably saw their 693rd show of Roger and the boys. On the next day I had the pleasure to be the band bus driver to Stuttgart where the girls rocked the sold-out house and jammed with Roger backstage before saying Farewell around midnight. We arrived in Freiburg around 4 am, knackered but happy. Find many more pics and a backstage video of the Naturally Boxettes meeting at the Vocal Blog Facebook group. And be sure to check out the blog post Roger Thomas dedicated to The Boxettes shortly after the two shows in Germany.

Finally the group had the opportunity to present their show at the Kulturbörse Freiburg in the 1st A Cappella Special presented by SpielPlanVier and magenta concerts. The triple showcase featured Freiburg local heroes Acoustic Instinct, a beatbox-impro-comedy duo, The Boxettes and Dutch a cappella comedy pop act, iNtrmzzo (currently participating in the Dutch version of The Sing-Off). What a night! The house was packed, the stage looked great and the audience was enthusiastic how different and colourful contemporary a cappella can be. It goes without saying that this all ended up in a nice little Dutch-German-British after show party.

On our way home we were so hungry that we stopped at the nearest fast food restaurant and when we had eaten, we realized that the girl’s wireless equipment was gone…you should have seen Trevor’s face at that particular moment. But two phone calls and a friendly chat with a Freiburg cab driver later made him all smiles. All the stuff was found and returned, which meant that The Boxettes weren’t broke before their career took off.

And that’s  the end of this first chapter of my Boxettes story – great stuff (quote Neo)! And thanks so much, Tobi, for keep pushing me. Let’s keep pushing vocal music to ever new areas and helping talents like Neo, Yvette, Belle, Alyusha and Rhiannon to  get on with their careers.

Have you seen The Boxettes live? What do you think makes them special? Would you call their music a cappella at all?

Let me know what you think, I’m looking forward to your comments!

Roger Treece and Tobias Hug: Backstage at Bobby’s

12. Juli 2010 6 Kommentare

Roger Treece, musical director and composer with Bobby McFerrin talking to Swingle Singer Tobias Hug.

Can you imagine working on an album for a total of six years? Recording more than 400 tracks for every song on that album? Working with singers from all over the world who contribute to this one album?

Now, Bobby McFerrin seems to be the one who really can do the unimaginable, but even King Bobby needs someone who does a bit of legwork. So when Linda Goldstein, Bobby’s manager had the idea of making his music available to choirs all over the world, she found Roger Treece. Based in NYC, Roger is a composer, arranger and sound engineer whose talent perfectly matches Bobby’s genius. And he made it become reality: “VOCabuLarieS“, an epic masterpiece of voices, a symphonic work of art based on music and musical fragments by Bobby McFerrin.

Currently, Bobby and Roger tour the world and do concerts with local choirs. However, as you might have imagined, the music composed by Roger is not exactly regular choir repertoire. It’s amazingly complex stuff. That’s why the choirs that were chosen to work with Roger and Bobby are the top rhythmic choirs of the world.

The Jazzchor Freiburg (conductor: Bertrand Gröger) is one of Europe’s leading jazz choirs and was among the “chosen few” – meeting Bobby “The Voice” McFerrin in Vienna in June and in Lörrach/Germany ( on the 15th of July.

We are happy and honoured to have Tobi Hug, bass singer with the London based Swingle Singers (and also singing those two “VOCabuLarieS” gigs with Bobby) interviewing Roger Treece after the first of the two shows.

Did you see a “VOCabuLarieS” show? How do you like the album? Post your comments now and join the a cappella conversation!