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January 13, 2011

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Tapping the power of the human voice

THERE isn't much a cappella music in China or in Shanghai, but a post-graduate student in science has formed one of the city's few choral groups, FindaVox, singing without musical accompaniment.

Gu Yin started the group around one and a half years ago with 11 students and classmates who appreciated the purity of human voices in harmony.

Among the members, Gu is the only one of the first three Fudan members who remain. He says FindaVox, meaning "Find a Voice," is comprised of people who are passionate about singing.

The members include university students from freshmen to post-graduates and fresh graduates. The oldest is 26 years of age. Most have experience in chorus and play musical instruments.

All work or study during the week and rehearse for three hours on the weekend.

"A cappella is now my lifestyle," says Gu.

They are trying to spread appreciation of this classical Western choral form and they perform classical works, as well as popular ones, such as "Australian Spring," "I Do," "A Life for Me," "Stand by Me," "As Long as You Love Me" and "Moon River."

A cappella literally means "in chapel-style" in Italian.

Founder Gu says there are only 10 to 20 a cappella groups on the Chinese mainland. "Before I started this group, I didn't clearly know the concept of a cappella, even though I had listened to Western a cappella," Gu says.

He calls a cappella "perfect, natural, powerful and touching."

"The human voice is the best and most delicate musical instrument," he says. "The interaction of vocalists in a performance is powerful and felt by all singers."

A fellow from Denmark, who also sings a cappella, taught the group warm-up practice, circle singing, in which once a voice begins, and one by one others join to create a powerful sound.

A cappella is a traditional and mature form of singing in the West but very new on the Chinese mainland.

"Compared with Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, it's hard to find good teachers and works for a cappella groups in Shanghai and other cities on the mainland," says Gu.

In an exchange program last year in Macau, FindaVox luckily got help from experienced teachers and choral groups from around the world. They also received a cappella works rearranged from popular English songs.

In May, the newly established Shanghai A Cappella Center will sponsor a competition. The organization itself, founded by a number of a cappella enthusiasts only last month, tries to promote the music form among the general public and enhance the exchange with experienced overseas a cappella groups through various events. "We look forward to interacting with more a cappella groups in China," Gu says.

The group has held a number of well-received performances, most recently at Tongji University for the closing ceremony of Community Culture Festival.

"We hope we can spread this elegant art form in Shanghai so that more people can join and enjoy it," says Gu.

For more and listen to their music, check


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