A cappella group Acaholic are “in a Hong Kong-style long-distance relationship”, jokes Nicole Leung Tsz-ching.
The 17-year-old student from St Clare’s Girls’ School has been part of the eight-member group since it was founded last September. All members were chosen from the HKFYG Jockey Club a cappella Education Programme – Students Leadership Training Scheme.
“It’s a dream team from the leadership programme ... we wanted to see what kind of sparkle they could bring when we put music talents from different schools together,” explains Jeffrey Mok Wai-yu, HKFYG Cultural Service Unit’s assistant music administrator and the team’s mentor, or “dad”, as the students affectionately call him.
There were more challenges than sparkles at the beginning. Finding the time and space to rehearse was a struggle. “We live in different corners of Hong Kong, from Tin Shui Wai to Aberdeen,” says Nicole.
They don’t have a budget, so the group can’t just splurge and book a studio. Once, they took their rehearsals public, practising on Kwun Tong Promenade, which turned out to be a blast. “With people stopping by to watch us, it actually inspired us and helped to ease our nerves,” recalls Yuki Mock Ho-yu.
Yuki and Nicole are schoolmates, but most of the group’s members come from different schools and backgrounds, and were only brought together by music.
“We just get better acquainted as we sing,” says Mona Kau Hiu-ling, 16, from Pui Kiu Middle School.
It’s difficult to do a cappella if you don’t really know your teammates, explains Yuki. “In a choir, where you have so many people in one group, you don’t necessarily know everyone well; but with a cappella, your voices need to blend together.”
Piggies, an a cappella group made up of students at St Stephen’s College, agree with the importance of gelling as a group. In most forms of music, singers are accompanied by instruments, but not in a cappella.
“The only accompaniment you get are human voices – which makes it super fun but also highly dependant on the team’s chemistry,” says Piggies’ Brian Lee Tsun-lam, 16.
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All the students have sung in choirs before. But they say the biggest difference between regular choirs and what they’re doing now is that a cappella allows every voice to shine.
“The customised score gives you plenty of chances to show off your strength and make your voice stand out,” says Nicole.
A cappella also comes with extra responsibilities, says Alan Yim Ka-hay from Piggies. “Unlike in a [regular] choir, you have to be [fully] responsible for your own part, so you really need to perfect it,” he says.
There are logistics to work out ahead of a performance, too. The teams must prepare outfits, meals, transport, and, most importantly, microphones. They have to make sure every microphone is properly marked and wired before they go on stage.
“Normally the lead vocalist needs to have the loudest microphone, and the bass and drummer need to be loud, too, while the backing vocalists need to be softer,” explains Nicole.
The student vocalists all agree that pop culture has helped give a cappella a bigger platform. Piggies member Veronica Poon Po-yu, 16, says the group are big fans of Pentatonix, and often use them as inspiration for their own arrangements.
Mona, meanwhile, first discovered the style of singing through Pitch Perfect – a film the Piggies frequently get together to watch.
“We are lucky that we happen to be in a prime moment for a cappella,” says Mona.
Both Acaholic and Piggies will be performing at the Hong Kong A Cappella Parade at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre this weekend. For tickets, visit the Urbtix website.