The Organizers of the Montreacappella Festival

Interviews

April is a big month for a cappella. The Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) faithful will descend upon Massachusetts April 15 for Boston Sings (BOSS), while others will make the pilgrimage to New York the weekend of April 29 for the biggest weekend on the scholastic a cappella calendar—the 2012 International Championship of High School and Collegiate A Cappella Championship (ICHSA and ICCA) Finals.

In addition to these a cappella Goliaths, a third force is rising north of the border. On Sunday, April 22, all eyes will focus on Montreacappella.

Michael Dyck and Glynn Rankin conceived of the Canadian a cappella festival after their group, Effusion, had competed in ICCAs years back. Rankin recalled, “getting to meet so many other groups” and cited the way in which the experience enriched his group’s own view of a cappella and the community around it.

Of a cappella, Dyck said, “We developed a passion about it.”

And so, when Rankin came to his friend with the idea to organize an a cappella festival, Dyck jumped at the opportunity to join them. Dyck described the festival as “an a cappella buffet—one group after another, non-stop—a smorgasboard of every kind of a cappella possible, ranging from gospel to soul to hip hop; female, male, mixed.”

“We tried to set up the list so it will a 40-person group, then a 4-person all-female group,” Rankin said, demonstrating the diversity of the acts in place.

Tickets to the event are available for the fixed price of $10, and Dyck described his expectation that attendees will “flow in and flow out throughout the day … that’s why it’s more of a festival.”

The event will represent more than just music. “We’re trying to bring a hip Montreal flavor to the whole day,” Rankin said. “We’re trying to promote local businesses [and] give people a feel of the local Montreal culture.”

Dyck elaborated, “The thing about Montreal is it’s extremely rich in tradition. A lot of French choirs that do a cappella are inclined to do classical a cappella … Montreal is a hub for early music … There are so many traditions flowing in parallel lines that can flow together. The festival is going to be a celebration of the city through music.”

Dyck went on to describe the way in which Montreacappella will not only celebrate Montreal’s music, though, but bring a new style to their local scene. “It’s a little bit static in terms of collegiate a cappella [in Montreal],” Dyck said. He went on to speak about the potential for a cappella to evolve, making use of so many distinct components of local culture.“I hope this festival can make things more dynamic, get things moving; we would love to see a cappella done in collegiate style in French or in Creole, with movement, with a bit of the gospel flavor.” Both Dyck and Glynn went on to comment on the way in which vocal percussion and choreography are relatively novel on the Montreal a cappella scene—the audience simply isn’t accustomed to these elements of performance that are taken for granted in the US.

The experience of organizing the festival has not been without surprises. “We were thinking we would have seven or eight groups,” Dyck said. “In the end we got 27 groups registered.” He went on to discuss how garnering an audience, developing sponsorships and getting the event out in the media have all been new to them as organizers.

Though both men lamented the number of groups who had expressed interest in the festival but ultimately had to drop out of the commitment, Rankin also spoke about the vindication of “the excitement on the part of groups so interested in the event … it’s not every day they can go and have a big show free, and we’re doing the organizing for them.”

Among the highlights of the festival, Dyck mentioned Concerto Della Donna, “an all-female group of extremely high caliber, directed by Sir Iwan Edwards, who is a world-renowned choral master.” He also touted VoxA4, “a four-person group from the Francophone community that’s not very well known … this could be a splash [for them] to get a little more [exposure] in the English community.”

Rankin went on to note the excitement of York University Wibi A Cappella being a part of the show, as well as the excitement of US group, SUNY Plattsburgh Minor Adjustments.

Not content to rest on arranging Montreal’s biggest a cappella show this year, Rankin noted “if any groups are interested for next year, don’t hesitate to send an email early. And if any groups are coming this way, let us know. We want to make Montreal a hub for a cappella in North America.”

Those interested in learning more about Montreacappella can visit the official website here.