It’s been slightly over a month, and I’m missing it all – what better way than to rekindle good feelings from this year’s Vocal Asia Festival!
It’s reaching a stage where it’s like an annual pilgrimage to meet old friends, as well as getting to know new friends. I believe that one can never know who you’ll meet anyway. So in April, without hesitation, I signed up for this year’s Vocal Asia Festival! (Also because I miss Hong Kong, the last time I went there was with Acappuccino for the Asia A Cappella Festival in 2013.)
Touted as Asia’s only travelling A Cappella festival, it made it to Hong Kong with generous support from co-organizers Y-Square, which is crucial as it provided the festival with the necessary infrastructure all within the same building!
DAY ONE – ASIA CUP A CAPPELLA COMPETITION
The first event of the entire festival was the Asia Cup A Cappella Competition!
This year’s competition featured 10 teams, all presenting their strongest suit to outsing each other this year. Also, there weren’t any single-gender groups this year, compared to last year’s, all groups presenting tonight were all mixed groups.
It was amazing to see arrangements that wowed us, as well as familiar tunes that we could hum along with from the audience. The spectrum presented this year was much varied, though a smaller palate of just 10 very colourful groups who presented.
This year’s adjudication panel comprised CASHKM founder Mr Fung Kwok-Tung (HKG), Tobias Hug (UK), Kim Nazarian (USA) of the New York Voices, pedagogue Peder Karlsson (SE) and Ms Erin Hackel, lecturer at University of Colorado Denver and also director of Lark.
What we (the TVB team) think the groups could do better would be to grasp a higher awareness of balance on stage, as some groups really went all out with their Basses or their pads (harmonies). While for some teams who caught on and adjusted themselves, it was jarring for most groups. Perhaps the use of in-ear monitors for some groups worked against them as they had a limited awareness of what the audience is hearing.
This year’s winner at the VoiceJam Festival, Lark from the University of Colorado Denver, presented an amazing set that featured a high level of vocals, staging and theatricality mixed with a strong female theme (note, not feminism). It was a good intermission performance that kept all in the audience wanting more. Well, the audience was promptly rewarded as the judges needed more time to deliberate the results.
The results for the 2017 Asia Cup A Cappella Competition (in order of announcement):
Special Mention – All Vocal Basses
Special Award for Best Soloist – Ng Cheeyang from The Apex Project (Singapore)
Special Award for Best Performance – Chameleon Gakutai (Japan)
3rd Place – Chameleon Gakutai (Japan) and Seagull K Vocal Band (Taiwan)
2nd Place – Mosaic (Hong Kong)
1st Place – Narin (Korea)
Some highlights of the evening for us who attended:
- Hong Kong‘s Y.YOU set which closed well with Jason Mraz’s Butterfly!
- That heart-arresting performance by the female solo from VSing (Hong Kong)
- Seagull K‘s arrangement of 春水: very unexpected and refreshing
- Mosaic‘s theatricality, that level is high for a collegiate group (of course, we still think Lark did so much better)
- Chameleon Gakutai’s Princess Mononoke medley, which brought us back to when we first watched it
- Apex Project‘s ode to mothers touches the heart.
- Most Vogue Group in our opinion goes to Vibes (Hong Kong), now where can we find such good looking people
- The tenderness in the performance of “She’s Out of my Life” by PKT (China)
- GMale (Taiwan) has a really good pop-jazz set for the evening. (We learnt their teacher is Okai’s Bass – Mr Lai, which could explain their inclination to jazz stylistics)
- Narin‘s fancy footwork in their BTS medley – we must all look to that!
- Lark. Lark. Lark. Lark. Their Vocal Bass. Oh-Em-Gee.
- The special mention to all Basses. We tip our hats off to Basses back in Singapore!
DAY TWO – HONG KONG TWIST CONCERT
If there is a theme to this year’s VAF, it has to be theatricality because the second night is another entirely different ball game.
If this is a typical concert, we have gotten it wrong all the way – from when we first entered, the screen on stage featured various sights of Hong Kong. The concert programme also featured two distinctive titles:
- FM 66.6 Folk-tunately Miserable Song
We then understood that we were in for a treat to watch two different theatrical showcases in A Cappella!
Exhalelahni is set as a game, the performers are all Taiwan A Cappella luminaries from The Wanted, Semiscon and Voco Novo, with Ronald Tsang, from Hong Kong who also carried directorship and composition credits.
With a set that is minimalistic in nature, the first piece had a motif that repeated seamlessly and realistically. When the round ended, we hear the same motif, and at a point, the segment was presented in a minor key.
In FM 66.6 Folk-tunately Miserable Song, we learnt that the folk songs we have heard aren’t exactly as positively sounding as we know it as. The act, featuring a stellar performance by the Yat-Po Singers shows us how a show by them is, set with a full array of lights and the same finesse (if not better) as the previous act.
I recognised perennial favourites like Kangding Love Song, and the Crescent Moon Rises, both turned out so classily under the arrangement of the Yat-Po Singers. The acting was also top notch, and showed everybody a different side of these favourites.
What an eyeopening experience it was to watch everything unfold in A Cappella fashion and with such grace.
DAY THREE – VAF CONCERT
The annual VAF Concert brings together the sounds of Asia through the vocal groups from all over Asia that has come to attend VAF. This year’s showcase featured the Single Singers (Asia), Seagull-K Vocal Band, Water Singers (Macau), Narin, Chameleon Gakutai, PKT and Apex Project.
The entire performance felt more like a competition, perhaps because the competition groups have lost the stress of the competition and upped their game, though we felt that certain groups’ balance between ensemble and VP+Bass were still apparent from the competition. But enough of that, let’s give a short insight into the concert:
- Seagull-K brought a Hakka piece to their set and presented a very endearing side of themselves.
- Water Singers presented a segment of their recent show (Picturesque 2.0). which was stunning to the execution.
- Narin presented a very powerful performance that was even tighter than their competition set (imagine how that could sound, coming from the champions of this year’s competition).
- Chameleon Gakutai was the crowd favourite, this time performing their Princess Mononoke Medley with guest Vocal Percussionist the master Kaichiro Kitamura himself.
- PKT was bigger than life! They performed the PTX arrangement of Carol of the Bells and they were very spot on with their entries!
- Apex Project presented their arrangement of an Evolution of Beyonce Medley which opened their set with a sass! Also, remember their EP!
DAY FOUR – ACA DAY, GALA CONCERT, VAF AFTERPARTY
ACA Day this year followed up on the theme of “moving” by presenting THREE ways for the general public to celebrate with the participants of this year’s Vocal Asia Festival. There was a static station at the Living Gallery at Hong Kong MTR station, a space dedicated to arts groups for performances, another static performance spot back at Y-Square’s lobby, and a roving performance that went all the way to Cheung Chau island!
The New York Voices took centre stage with a mix of a cappella and accompanied pieces with a 3-4-piece band setup.
With such beautiful craftsmanship were on display to such an appreciative audience, you cannot blame the audience for going wild when The New York Voices (they call themselves the “voices” affectionately) brought out Tobias Hug and Kaichiro Kitamura to join them for a song.
Also not one to let such appreciation gone to waste, the Voices brought the house down with their rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, ensuring that this will be the moment that we will all remember as we could hear the audience sing along.
Afterparties are the best way to end any great event, and our friends at Vocal Asia really know how to end VAF with their annual afterparties at Y-Square this year, the usual shenanigans from beatbox battles to groups taking stage time at the open stage, to people photobombing each others’ shots. We were very blessed to hear the famliy of Mr Sung Mo Han perform (in picture) and were very impressed!
Many thanks to everyone at VAF for such a tremendous time, your efforts are not forgotten and I’ll take this chance to thank all the volunteers and people behind the scenes – because they ensured that EVERYTHING RAN ON TIME AND IT RAN WELL. This year’s VAF wouldn’t be more complete, and I look forward to meeting everybody again next year at the next VAF.
Derrick KAM is the leader of Acappuccino, as well as TVB’s content manager-cum-Chief Editor. By day a Choir instructor and by night an avid A Cappella enthusiast, Derrick hopes to bring the spotlight into Singapore’s A Cappella community in whatever way possible to showcase the diversity and inspire a new generation of singers.
TVB encourages the contributions of ad hoc writers who objectively can present themselves with the goal of promoting the Singapore and/or international A Cappella community at large. Do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let your voice be heard!