A cappella band Cadence on creating music with their voices

Canadian a cappella quartet Cadence will be headlining the Night of a Thousand Voices event at this year's ChoirFest in their Middle Eastern debut, on Friday.
Members of the a cappella band Cadence, from left, Kurt Sampson, Ross Lynde, Lucas Marchand and Carl Berger. Courtesy Cadence
Members of the a cappella band Cadence, from left, Kurt Sampson, Ross Lynde, Lucas Marchand and Carl Berger. Courtesy Cadence

Canadian quartet Cadence have taken to the stage for the past 17 years to deconstruct jazz and contemporary numbers from Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides, Now to Justin Bieber’s Baby – without a single instrument in sight.

The a cappella band (members Carl Berger, Ross Lynde, Lucas Marchand and Kurt Sampson) make their debut in Dubai at this year’s five-day ChoirFest Middle East, and will headline the Night of a Thousand Voices event at the Kempinski Hotel at The Palm Jumeirah tomorrow.

Their playlist, says Berger, is an eclectic mix of jazz and ­experimental music, but they expect the most applause for their version of Bieber’s 2010 chart topper Baby.

“That’s one of our favourites to perform,” says Berger, who is also the quartet’s manager. “We have arranged it in a style that makes the song almost unrecognisable – a madrigal or an unaccompanied choral composition. At first, the audience might not even know that it’s Bieber’s ­biggest hit,” he adds.

Cadence were formed in 1998 when Berger and Lynde were enrolled in a music programme at York University. “We were singing in a collegiate group and then we decided to start a quartet just for fun and the joy of singing,” says Berger. “It then became a full-time job and now we tour all over the world.”

Berger holds the baritone and bass notes in the arrangements, while Lynde and March are tenors. Sampson joins in with bass and vocal percussion.

Berger, who has a degree in ethnomusicology and jazz piano, says each of them plays an instrument – the saxophone, drums, guitar and ukulele – but “abandoning the instruments gives them an edge”, especially at festivals.

“What drew us together is that we could make music without instruments,” Berger explains. “We find that there is so much you can do without instruments. When we compete with other bands, we notice that because we perform a cappella, we sound very different and the crowd is drawn to our voices, giving us an advantage.”

Berger says their first love is jazz, but they have been experimenting with other genres over the years.

“We have always been rooted in jazz, but have enjoyed making cross-genre music like gospel and classical, as well,” he says. “Now we are branching out into more contemporary music.”

Berger says vocal training in a cappella begins with a strong classical training.

“We all have university degrees in music and our passion to perform various instruments fuels our vocal performance too. That’s one of the things that gives our group an advantage. We understand the instruments’ sounds and begin experimenting on our own. We also listen to other a cappella musicians and improve ourselves.”

The band are known for their inventive rhythms and textured harmonies, which they’ve successfully recreated in studio ­albums since 2000. Their albums Frost Free (2000), Twenty for One (2005), Speak Easy (2010) and Cool Yule (2011) have ­received three Juno and 10 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award nominations. They have also performed with Grammy Award-winning jazz singer ­Bobby McFerrin. Berger says they are currently working on a few singles and videos that will be released as a compilation.

Cadence live shows are filled with interaction and over the top antics to get the audience on their feet. “Dubai will be no different,” says Berger. “We are told we have a typical Canadian personality, high energy and laid-back. So it’ll be a night of energetic fun songs and lots of ­music the audience may be ­familiar with.”

• Cadence will be performing at 7pm; tickets for the concert are priced from Dh350 and are available on www.timeouttickets.com. Pre-gala dinner at 5.30pm at Brunello restaurant costs Dh420

aahmed@thenational.ae

Published: March 11, 2015 04:00 AM

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