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Tony Backhouse interview

by: Jennifer Richardson on

 

I am so happy to present this interview with Tony Backhouse.
An awesome guy and huge inspiration to so many of us from all around the world.

 

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in NZ listening to Elvis & was fascinated early on by vocal harmonies. After singing in the school madrigal group & gaining a B.Mus in Composition, I left  the classical world behind & played guitar in a few NZ bands. This hedonistic & thoughtless life culminated in playing in the Crocodiles, NZ’s Band of the Year in 1980. The Crocodiles, giddy with success, hit Sydney in 1981 & promptly broke up. Unable to afford a plane fare home, I stayed on in Sydney playing music, & working in Badde Manors cafe...

2. Please share your singing journey with us?

After playing & singing in bands with Renee Geyer and Jackie Orzasczky in Sydney in the ‘80s, I gave up music as a career, instead focussing on singing for the love of it. This was the best thing I ever did - freed of the need to make a living out of music, I explored a whole new repertoire: Black gospel choirs and quartets. I started an a cappella quartet the Elevators in 1985, and then the Cafe of the Gate of Salvation a cappella gospel choir in 1986. The choir became popular & many wanted to join it - too many, so I started running workshops in a cappella gospel - which I continue to do. 

3. What is one of your most memorable singing experiences?

I’ve had many great singing experiences - jamming with Valanga Khoza, singing with the Heavenly Light Quartet, singing with the Cafe of the Gate of Salvation for Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu…but I remember vividly singing in a church in New Orleans with the Cafe of the Gate of Salvation. We sang a song I’d written, obviously unfamiliar to the church, but before we’d finished the church had taken over the song with bass, drums, organ & voices, and everyone was dancing in the aisles.  

4. 3 tips to someone who wants to improve their technique as a soloist &/or choir member?

Listen. Relax. Move - and move around to where you can hear all the parts, and hear how your part fits. 

5. Why do you love working with The Create Escape?

A memorable experience on one of the tours? The Create Escape has taken me to beautiful villages in Samoa and Bali, plazas and churches in Italy & put me together with other choir directors from different traditions. I love the intersection of different cultures that Jen provides, and the gorgeous locations where we all meet to sing. The most potent memory is of Edoardo Materassi’s Animae Voce choir singing ‘Indodana’ in the round to us in a church in Firenze. Or perhaps in the chapel at Montestigliano, when I sang Shine on Me in that small space with a lovely acoustic & time stood still.

6. What do you love most about teaching? 

Seeing the joy on singers’ faces. Hearing unexpected beauty emerge from a disparate group who suddenly unite on a chord or a riff.

7. Favourite song and why?

One Night by Elvis. It’s the first Elvis song I heard, a good melody, good feel and still has a ton of raw energy in it,

8. What’s next for you?

2020 is a year of travel including our event in Argentina, but I’m also very involved in some recording projects, one of which we’ll start mixing next week. 

I have a ton of nearly-completed recordings and compositions on the go & I’m keen to complete them all - these are not a cappella gospel or anything remotely like it, but collaborations with old friends and colleagues (all of us played in the Crocodiles) that involve funky rhythm sections, screaming & crooning horns, guitars, strings, keys…I’m getting back in touch with some youthful frenzy.

9. 5 things on your bucket list?  

Visit Ethiopia. Live in France or Italy for a while. Finish the collaborative recordings. Become a better bass player. Record with an African American gospel choir.

For details on our upcoming event in Buenos Aires, Argentina with Tony click on this linked line >>

I'll leave you to listen to Tony's favourite song and the video we took of Tony singing in the little chapel at Montestigliano!

Tony looking quite at home during a coffee break in the square in Mercatello.

Singing and Sailing in Croatia, 2019

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Did you know there is strong tradition of singing in Croatia?

Well there is and it's a cappella and called Klapa, it's an integral part of life in Croatia, it reminds me of the Pacific Islands and as I was to find out the harmonies are very similar.

As Wikipedia states: The word klapa translates as "a group of friends" and traces its roots to littoral church singing. The motifs in general celebrate love, wine (grapes), country (homeland) and sea. Main elements of the music are harmony and melody, with rhythm very rarely being very important. In 2012 klapa was inscribed in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

I suggest you slip on your headphones. I filmed this song in the middle of the Diocletian Palace in Split, Croatia on my phone in amongst a crowd but the acoustics in this ancient space are incredible and the harmonies and emotion of this song are sublime. 

Back in 2017 on our first Singing and Sailing trip in Croatia with Stuart Davis we were fortunate to hear a wonderful local 'Klapa' group that really stood out. Apart from singing these gorgeous romantic Dalmatian songs about the life on the islands, this group sang songs from the hinterland that were completely different and recognisably Balkan music as I knew it with nasal sounds. But what really struck me that night was how some songs were so familiar and sounded like the sounds of pacific islander music... I closed my eyes and listened, although the words were Croatian, the sounds transported me to Samoa. That got me chatting with their lead singer and director Mario Markovina.

Mario impressed me greatly with his velvety rich baritone voice and chatting to him I found he has extensive knowledge of music as an ethnomusicologist. Soon after meeting him I was to discover that he is well known and is highly respected amongst many 'klapa groups along the Dalmatian Coast and a true 'maestro', above all, he is a delightful and charming person. It was an obvious choice to invite Mario to teach us some Croatian songs for our Singing and Sailing in 2019. 

Mario had never taught in english and I had never worked with a 'blind' director, so to begin we were both a little curious and anxious, thankfully it fell away quickly and the group all fell in love with him and the music.

In our first session with Mario he had instructed us not to look at the music scores or words and learn by ear... you can see how well that went and can listen to the results (below). Enjoy!

 

 

If you are interested in listening and learning some Klapa singing through a tutorial with Mario contact us. We will have that available.

Giacomo Donati

by: Jennifer Richardson on

Sorry to share this very sad news and announce that last week our Italy event host and very close friend Luisa Donati tragically lost her son Giacomo in a car crash. I think it's the worst thing any parent can experience and as a parent who has also lost a son I have huge empathy here.

As a friend who has spent months of each year working and playing with the family, I share their pain and I know anyone who has ever attended one of our events in either Montestigliano or Palazzo Donati in Italy will understand.

Our love goes out to the Donati Clarke family. Luisa, Chris, Georgia, Olivia, Damiano, Massimo, Virginia, Marta, Giancarlo, Pierluigi, Guilia, Piero and all the partners and friends we offer our deepest love and sympathy.






The family has asked not to send flowers but to donate to a fund created in honour of Giacomo. The funds will be going to 3 causes. SAVE THE CHILDREN as Giac loved children, FAUNA & FLORA INTERNATIONAL and ASSOCIAZIONE GUARNIERI, we owe a lot to this organisation as they helped find him and supported the family through this horrible time. To Donate   >> click here.