Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival

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Apr 10
 

Josiah Ng sits down with Gabriel Lee, organiser of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, and Ameri-canto outfit Metro Vocal Group to get in tune with the Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival

The Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival is in full swing, and there’s plenty to be singing about. Beyond the highly anticipated Naturally 7 concert and masterclass on April 1-2, the tunes will be flowing all the way to the end of April. With a host of talented groups performing throughout the month such as Japan’s Hamojin and OMMM from France, we sit down with Hong Kong’s very own American quartet Metro Vocal Group and Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group’s Gabriel Lee to talk all things a cappella, as well as what to expect from the festival.

It’s been 10 years since Metro Vocal Quartet arrived in Hong Kong. What’s changed for you guys as a group and how you perceive the city?
Sean Oliver: When we first started out we were only singing in Hong Kong. We didn’t even go to Macau the first couple of years, and now we perform all over Asia. As far as the city – oh man, it changes every day. One day a restaurant’s there and then it’s gone. It was a lot cheaper when we moved here. But the people are still the same, the food is still great and it’s still an exciting city.
Kevin Thornton: We travel so much, we get to a place and we stay a month or two, and then it’s time to move on to somewhere else. But when we got to Hong Kong, we decided that this was where we’re gonna stay for a while. We love it.

Pop culture is full of successful a cappella ventures, like Pentatonix and Pitch Perfect. What’s the appeal of a cappella?
Eric Monson: People are finding more and more that singing is cool. It’s fun and there’s a bonding that goes on between the participants that’s unique. You don’t have to have an amp. I mean rock bands are great, but you don’t need the instrument. You just show up and you sing. I think, especially for guys, it’s starting to become more cool and acceptable to go out and sing.
Michael Lance: Especially with groups like Pentatonix and movies actually raising awareness of a cappella, people are more and more willing to do it.

You guys released a Cantonese album in 2012, No Borders. What was that like as an American group based in Hong Kong?

Oliver: [It was] very difficult. We just wanted to sing what we normally sing and kinda get into the pipeline of entertainment. But somebody suggested that we sing [something local]. Our first Cantonese song was 海闊天空 [Under The Vast Sky] by Beyond. And people went crazy for it. So we got more into Chinese music, both Mandarin and Cantonese, and we loved what we saw. In the States you don’t get it, so it was all new, Cantopop, going all the way back to the 30s. All this music that we’d never heard. So for us it was like new toys.

Gabriel, what can fans expect from the Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival? What are the big things to look out for?

Gabriel Lee: We have Naturally 7 this year, who are one of the top a cappella groups in the world, having collaborated with Michael Bublé and Coldplay. They’ll be giving their own concert this year. We also have a lot of closer interactions this year. We are doing mobile a cappella, where our spectacular roster of foreign and Hong Kong groups will perform from a truck to street crowds. You see, the greatest joy of a cappella singing is that you can go and just sing, so it’s wherever and whenever you want. We’re going around Hong Kong, so you don’t have to bring your rack of amps, your drum set, you just go there and you can sing for the community.

What do you guys hope the Hong Kong audience will take away about a cappella or about you after the festival?

Oliver: Get your friends together, start a group.
Thornton: Support the art. If you like the artist, buy their albums, watch their shows, support them and enjoy them!
Lee: We don’t just spread the joy of a cappella, we share how to appreciate music. It’s not just an ordinary pop concert where you yell for your idol, but we encourage and we educate about how to listen. Not just to hear the concert, but to hear the music.

Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival Sun Apr 10, Piazza C, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Free; acappella.hkfyg.org.hk
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