Ontario Festivals Visited: “Inside SCOOP”

SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival is Canada’s only ongoing, established a cappella festival. www.singtoronto.com

Now in its fourth year, it has expanded to five days of electrifying music. From May 27 to 31, 2015, the Festival highlights not-to-be-missed Canadian and international talent.

More than 50 performances, workshops, pop-up concerts, mentoring sessions and an interactive musical art installation will be found at multiple venues across Toronto, including Koerner Hall, Glenn Gould Studio and The Distillery Historic District.

The festival is wide in scope and appeal. There will be musical fireworks created by headliners – multiple Grammy award winners and platinum selling artists – as well as community choirs entertaining on an outdoor stage, and a first-ever blending of four highly regarded Church choirs singing sacred music. If you feel inspired to sing along, join in the Pressgang Mutiny’s sea shanties – or attend a workshop where you can rub shoulders with some of the best known names in the field. While exploring the Distillery Historic District on the Torch Relay Day of the Pan Am games, you may come upon a rousing ensemble down Tank House Lane. Catch emerging artists at one of the more intimate indoor venues.

There are price levels – from free to VIP – to suit a wide range of fans. The best deal is the weekend wristband passes, which open to the door to 13 workshops taught by music industry heavyweights and also five concerts with nine great performers. Free performance showcases will also be offered, taking place May 30-31 on the outdoor stage in The Distillery Historic District.

Festival entertainers span a smorgasbord of genres and influences, including pop, rock, jazz, choral, barbershop, world, gospel, country, folk, live looping, beat boxing, classical and more. It’s the perfect opportunity to sample something new.

SING! is the kind of endeavour that would not exist without volunteer enthusiasm. Whether it’s stuffing envelopes, handing out flyers, or providing free expertise in budgeting, production, tech issues or marketing, SING! has been a labour of love for many community members. And SING! has also touched many in the community, whether school groups who have attended workshops, or aspiring musicians who come from out of town to make connections or hone their skills, or amateur choirs who perform out of passion for the art form. SING! is also indebted to its sponsors and donors.

Here’s something that very few know: SING! Toronto has partnered with like-minded festivals in Austin, Texas, London, England, Boston, Mass. and Montreal, putting Canadian artists on the map with artist exchanges. Last fall, SING! Toronto was front and centre at the Austin Vocal Arts Festival. Award-winning a cappella icons The Nylons headlined the Celebrate Toronto stage in Austin, joined by up-and-comers Alissa Vox Raw and The O’Pears at the prestigious Long Center. Visitors to SING! Toronto will get a chance to hear these emerging artists.

SING! is riding a swelling wave of interest in music made using only the human voice – no instruments.

Artistic director Aaron Jensen, who has sought out performers from Europe, the U.S. and Canada for this year’s celebration, clues visitors in on the surging a cappella scene:  “In 2015, the a cappella quintet Pentatonix triumphed, with huge audiences and a Grammy award. A second major Hollywood film about collegiate a cappella was announced (Pitch Perfect 2).  And a world record was broken for the largest assembled choir by 25,272 singers in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria,” Jensen says.

And there’s more: NBC’s “The Sing Off” was seen by over 5 million avid fans. The recent “Sing Off” U.S. tour sparked sold out venues and standing ovations.

Visitors to SING! will be part of this energy and in the epi-centre of this exciting, spontaneous, evolving art form. Whether you’re already an a cappella fan, or just curious about how a rich, thrilling “orchestral” sound can be made without instruments, or a musician who wants to learn more from the experts, SING! is the place to be.