“The human voice is limitless”, wrote the Finnish a-cappella ensemble Rajaton self- confidently as a closing apothegm to their biography: a sentence that would seem to have been invented specifically for this year’s keynote focus at the Rheingau Music Festival! “Vocal maximal” is the theme, and vocal artistry in all its myriad facets is the agenda. Pushing the envelope of musical and stylistic boundaries has for many vo- cal ensembles long been a matter of course. Pioneers of the a-capella trend, like the King’s Singers from England or Chanticleer from California, who for more than 30 years now have been helping to make pure singing without any instrumental accom- paniment a viable option for the stage once more, and even a hit with the public, repeatedly come up with fresh surprises to showcase their versatility: whether it’s vocal polyphony in the Palestrina style or contemporary compositions, Christmas carols or jazz standards, originals or arrangements, with their superlatively trained voices they meet and master every artistic challenge. Some younger ensembles like Rajaton from Finland or Klangbezirk from Germany are increasingly prominent in pop culture, pushing the genre envelope ever further, while groups like the Huelgas Ensemble founded at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis or Stile Antico from the United Kingdom, in their turn, are instead returning to the roots of a-capella singing and devoting themselves primarily to early music. Because originally, the term “a cappella” referred solely to the one holy, Papal Cappella Sistina, in which all instru- ments and women’s voices were sternly forbidden; a tradition that is still upheld in the Vatican today. In terms of musical theory, too, the contrapuntal “stile a cappella” was regarded throughout the entire 17th and 18th centuries as the “high school of composition”. With the middle-class choir associations of the 19th century, singing without any instrumental accompaniment underwent a renaissance, that simultane- ously expanded the semantic range of the term “a cappella”: the relationship to a particular style of composition was lost, and even women were meanwhile permitted their own voice in the choral arrangements! The way had now been paved for the cross-boundary vocal ensemble culture we know today: not only “in the chapel”, but also in the concert hall, in a jazz club, or on an open-air stage, polyphonic singing is common. What’s special about a-capella singing, though, is this: each voice is as- signed to only one person! This means that in contrast to a choir the individual can- not submerge him/herself in the sea of his/her co-singers, but has to have mastered the part concerned to perfection. This soloistic approach, in its turn, was also prac- tised in the choir of the Sistine Chapel. In this, at last, the original precepts are still being observed. This, however, is the only stipulation that contemporary vocal en- sembles acknowledge. Otherwise, the guiding principle is freedom, and anything goes. In brief: song without limits – vocal maximal!
1 July 2 July
ABBA Night in J’berg / Rajaton Summer Party with fireworks / Rajaton
7 July + 8 July Klangbezirk
20 July 5 August 12 August 16 August
The King’s Singers “Song of Songs” / Stile Antico “The Magic of the Cigar” / Huelgas Ensemble “Love Story” / Chanticleer – An Orchestra of Voices