Tenor vocalist Nick Begbie is no stranger to the international music scene. As a founding member of Australia’s premier contemporary a cappella ensemble, The Idea of North, he has performed at major festivals in such arenas as The Lincoln Centre in New York, the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and venues of similar repute in Asia.
Ahead of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Idea of North have recently returned to Australia from a tour of Switzerland and Germany, where they performed to critical acclaim.
“We played in a couple of big festivals… it was great! On our way over, we stopped in Qatar for a week and did a public gig there. We held a workshop and concert day at the American School of Doha.”
Indeed, The Idea of North develop close relationships with high schools all over the world, where they give kids direct coaching, master classing and performance feedback, as well as teaching them the fundamentals of harmony singing and ultimately performing alongside the kids in concerts presented by the schools.
“We do a lot of work with high schools.”
The Idea of North have recently gone through a renewal of members, with Soprano Sally Cameron and Bass Andrew Piper stepping down in February this year.
“It was a bit scary at first… because we have never had two members change at the same time before: but we have found some great people to come and take over the reign of those roles.”
Piper was replaced on bass by Luke Thompson, while Cameron’s temporary replacement is Delaney-Brown, prior to a more permanent soprano to be appointed later that year.
‘Often, when there is a change, a new energy is added to the group. We are looking at new repertoire… it’s quite an exciting time.’
Joining them in Adelaide for their Cab Fest season is vocal percussionist Kaiachiro Kitamura, who first met The Idea of North in 2014 at a festival in South Korea. The synergies between the artists were immediately evident.
“We just hit it off so well. We did a couple of tunes at the concert toward the end of the festival, and we just jammed all that afternoon. It worked beautifully, and we decided then that we’d play with him as much as we could.”
Nick says that Kaichiro’s musicality and skill is an asset to The Idea of North.
“When When Kai does vocal percussion – he’s pretty amazing – he makes some drum sounds, but he also gives them individual pitches, like they’re tuned properly. Kai had done vocal percussion for many years, and then went to the Academy of Music in Japan, where he studied drumming for seven years before going back to vocal percussion. He is a remarkable musician.”
Their collaboration with Kaichiro Kitamura in Groove Sessions is not the only show as part of the Cab Fest.
“We are also doing a concert as part of the Hush Foundation’s series of music collections. They produce beautiful, original Australian music to distribute to Children’s Hospitals around the country. It’s amazing.”
This one-off concert is a particularly special one.
“This particular album we are performing from is so lovely, because the lyrics of all the songs were inspired by the things kids said to us as we toured the hospitals. It is a really beautiful album. And Kai is actually playing drums for that show, too!”
So, why should you go and see these two concert series?
“These shows are so incredibly unique. There isn’t really anything like them happening in the country… All the performers are dedicated to making sure that the audience has an experience, rather than attending something to watch and listen: it is a really emotional experience.”
The only a cappella group to ever have done so, The Idea of North took out the 2010 ‘Best Jazz Album’ ARIA Award with their collaborative release ‘Feels Like Spring’, recorded with James Morrison and his quintet, and then independently won the 2013 ‘Best Jazz Album’ ARIA Award for their 10th album ‘Smile’. The Idea of North are thrilled to be coming back to Adelaide, “Australia’s most appreciative audience”.
‘We typically have fantastic feedback. We are very excited!’
The Idea of North with Kaichiro Kitamura: Groove Sessions is playing at the Dunstan Playhouse on the 17th June at 3pm and 8:30pm. Hush 16 – A Piece of Quiet, also featuring Lior, Elena Kats-Chernin and the Zephyr Quartet, is a one-show only event at 1pm on the 18th June at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Interview by Ben Francis