by John Lau
After a night’s sleep severely interrupted by less than capable karaoke acts at my accommodation for the weekend, I made my way to the accommodation base of the man who had organised a Vocal Jog on Facebook (not the only thing organised over this means of Social Media over the course of the weekend) and was wondering to myself what I had let myself in for.
In the end, I didn’t have much to worry about, as our host for the rush-hour jog, Mr Florian Staedtler, the man behind the Vocal Blog and the Acappellazone, confirmed that with five other a cappella fans and myself, there were enough people to enjoy a mysterious surprise on offer at the summit of Primrose Hill on Regents Park, which was our destination. After fifty minutes of jogging and waiting for the others, yours truly was the second man at the summit of Primrose Hill, patiently awaiting the surprise. But what was the surprise? Was it the panorama afforded over London’s skyscrapers and the Eye on the Thames from this vantage point or the sunshine or even something else?
No. It was better. The surprise was none other than a former Swingle Singer, Mr Willy Eteson, who had provided an energy filled breakfast of homemade oats & fruit bars, bananas and bottles of water for the participants. At this stage, I must admit I quite enjoyed the experience of sharing social opportunities such as these and I sure hope that Herr Staedtler will consider doing this again in 2013, with hopefully more people, especially with an Olympic running track possibly redundant in East London by the time the next festival swings round! Florian was delighted with the turnout of seven, as this was a major advance on the last time! Herr Staedtler, it was a pleasure to join you and thank you for this opportunity to meet like-minded people who are passionate about a cappella music.
In the second evening of gigs, I purchased a programme only to be informed upon opening that I had missed the Schools on Stage showcase of the crème de la crème of UK School-based a cappella, a joint collaboration between the Festival organisers and our friends at the Voice Festival UK, held earlier in the afternoon. Alexandra Godfree, one of the VF-UK’s head honchos, was reported to have said that it was a fantastic day with school children from all over the UK.
I was looking forward to both groups who were due to take to the Main Stage that evening: the Canadians from Cadence and the FORK Quartet from the capital of Finland, my interest in the latter having spawned in the Festival City of Edinburgh in August 2011. Outside the Main Stage, I was also looking forward to the Apollo5 group and the local boys from All The King’s Men.
The two women and three men who make up Apollo5 have a momentous year ahead of them as they shall be embarking on their first Tour which will take them across the UK and even further afield, as they continue to work closely with the Red Balloon charity organisation, who aim to facilitate the recovery of bullied children throughout the UK. From the little I could hear of their free gig in advance of another engagement, I was impressed with their vocal offering and their wide repertoire of pop, classical and even Christmassy songs. I shall hope to hear more of them, and so can you at their Official Website.
Based on what I had read on the programme, I was quite looking forward to what the Canadian men from the Cadence quartet had to offer in terms of their jazzy offerings inspired by the likes of Stan Getz, Bobby McFerrin and Sarah McLachlan. Of their twelve item playlist, my highlight of this gig was their rendition of ‘On the Street Where You Live’ where the lead vocals were sung by the chief arranger of most of their playlist, Aaron Jensen. I was personally impressed with their offering and I will certainly be doing my best to get my hands on an album of theirs in the near future.
The Cadence gig over-ran to the extent that by the time we came out, the King’s Men were about to take to their stage, with their new-look line-up of twelve. I didn’t manage to see them at the Fringe this year, partly because I do not generally go for all-male a cappella groups, but from what I have heard of them over the following months, it sounds as if there are plenty reasons to be cheerful for this particular group, who are the only group ever to have qualified so far from the London Regional heat of the Voice Festival. The boys did not disappoint and I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism and blend.
My Edinburgh Festival Experience in August 2011 commenced with me taking a chance on something I seen on the side of a taxi, but I was pleased to have taken a chance on the Finnish quartet of FORK for I could quite believe their bold statement of “Reinventing a cappella” having heard what they had to offer vocally. Even one of my neighbours on my row this evening was anticipating something special when he suggested that it was “Now time for something completely different.” And that is precisely what FORK are. I was pleased to have heard some new material (all re-arranged from the originals by themselves) but my particular highlight from this 14 item playlist was their rendition of Rihanna’s “Only Girl In The World” towards the end of their set, although it was close followed by a near-spotless encore of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And to cap it all off, I even managed to get a signed copy of their album on sale. Get in.
So all in all, this was a great Friday night out. Plenty more coming up in the next piece where I laid foot on the second hall at Kings Place and also my first a cappella workshop.