Beacher organizing a capella fest


Hot on the heels of popular television programs such as Glee, or The Sing Off, Beacher John-Michael Erlendson, is in the midst of organizing Toronto’s first-ever a capella music festival.

SING! Toronto Vocal Arts Festival runs April 13 to 15 at Harbourfront Centre, and will feature three days of vocal performances by the cream of Canadian and international a capella vocal groups, as well as educational and interactive workshops for professional and amateur singers of all ages and experience.

“The festival’s aim is to give new voice to the voice,” says Erlendson, co-founder of the group Countermeasure A Capella. “I was looking at the landscape of festivals around the world. There is some interesting stuff out there, but it’s thousands of miles away. I thought we should have the equivalent here in Toronto.” Erlendson is joined by Countermeasure’s artistic director, Aaron Jensen who is also well-known as a member of Cadence, whose CDs have been reviewed in these pages.

“That seed crystal has bloomed into a hugely ambitious and unique event, the likes of which have never been seen in Toronto,” says Jensen. “The timing is right. Vocal music is on the rise in a serious way.”

Among the vocal groups that will be performing as part of SING! are The Swingle Singers, The Nylons, The New York Voices, The Elmer Isler Singers, and of course, Countermeasure A Capella and Cadence.

Over the weekend there will be several workshops conducted by members of the above groups. More than 800 Toronto-area middle and high school students, and choir members, have been invited to take part in the workshops. It will offer these kids a chance to meet, hear from, and ask questions of music professionals and those in the marketing side of the industry.

“We want to draw young people into a capella singing,” says Erlendson. “These workshops will provide that spark of inspiration.”

The weekend will culminate in a Mass Singalong with 3,000 festival performers and workshop attendees joining together for an inspirational performance of two songs, in multi-part harmony. One of these tunes will be the world premiere of a piece by Aaron Jensen, whose song, High and Drysville won the 2011 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Jazz category. It should be a moving experience to hear stage performers and audience members all joining together in song. If you are a fan of vocal music you won’t want to miss this event. It is almost guaranteed to become an annual festival, and will put Toronto’s vocal scene on the international map. For more information visit

Tickets for the various concert performances are available through the Harbourfront Centre by calling 416-973-4000, ext. 1, or by visiting the website at

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