BWW Interview: Singers Unite! Learn About Australian Discovery Orchestra's Global Vocal Competition!
The Australian Discovery Orchestra, the world's first solely digital streaming orchestra, has just launched 16 STORIES - a worldwide online vocal competition.
Renowned musical theatre creators from around the world have contributed a song from a musical they have written that has never previously been recorded for commercial release; these 16 songs will comprise an upcoming Australian Discovery Orchestra album, to be released on the Broadway Records label.
The online global vocal competition commenced just last week to find 16 vocalists for each song on the album - who will appear on the album as well as in the accompanying music videos. Click here to learn more about the songs and songwriters featured on 16 Stories.
Below, ADO Conductor and 16 Stories creator Kevin Purcell tells us all about the exciting new competition!
How did this idea come about?
Actually, the idea was born nearly four years ago. My wife and I were sitting around somewhere, and we must have been in New York at that time. It just popped into my head and I basically asked her what she thought about that, thinking she would think it was a most stupid idea I'd ever come up with, having come up with some recently stupid ideas. Actually, she liked that one!
It's taken so long to get this project to where we are, that I've almost forgotten how or what the initial catalyst really was for it. I remember thinking at the time that there is just a vast catalog of songs and writers writing for American Musical Theater that you are clearly never going to hear, because recording is expensive. Getting shows to any stage of development is almost like bank bust. I thought what a shame that some of these great songs are actually never really going to have a very wide audience.
I think it was probably something along those ideas that probably kickstarted me thinking, 'Well, I have an orchestra. Why don't we do it?' Not really at the time, I think, probably realizing just the logistical complexities around organizing it, let alone running a global vocal competition. Anyway, we've got there.
How did you go about choosing the composers that were going to take part in it?
I had very long relationship with Michael Kerker at ASCAP, because I've produced tours here in Australia called Broadway Comes to Australia, where we brought people like [Lynn] Ahrens and [Stephen] Flaherty and Stephen Schwartz out for concerts up and down the east coast of Australia with an orchestra.
I went to Michael and I said, "I'm an ASCAP writer member and you're basically the go-to guy, the bible on everything to do with new American Musical Theater writers- why don't you tell me who should be on the album?" He wrote me a list. I didn't feel it was appropriate for me, at the very least, to be choosing songs potentially because I didn't know who was regarding as the best upcoming talent. I did know the Australians scene very well, but I didn't know the Americans scene as well.
The idea actually was about to be for the emerging writers, who would be perhaps coming to more notice around about the time it would take us to get the album to the point where it would be released.
I thought Michael was very astute about the choices that he actually made. I let him choose 12 out of the 16, and then there were 4 songs that was going to be Australian writers. On a separate issue really, Australian writers are so disadvantaged, because we don't really have any industry here to speak of. But we have quite a number of very talented writers, who need the development opportunity and they don't get it here in this country. It doesn't mean that they're not potentially great musical theater song writers. Some of them have had some success.
Then they chose what song that they were going to contribute?
They sent us five. Michael and I, basically, chose from the five that they gave us. In a couple of circumstances, by the time that we had got to maybe writer number 10, 11, 12 and it was only just in the order that we actually processed the songs, we became more consciously aware that, of course, the album needed to be balanced. We didn't want an album full of ballads and we didn't want an album full of up-tempo comedy numbers.
As far as the submissions go, what are you looking for?
We basically already have submissions that are done by people who have entered and also a couple of other people have already completed the demo and uploaded this and sent it back to us. They're all really good, so far! I've always assumed that the vast percentage would come from the US but, in fact, a couple of other countries are actually outdoing the US right now.
Scotland and New Zealand. Who would have thought New Zealand would have such a big musical theater? I reckon this is the most amazing thing about this, I have no idea where the singers are going to come from. If I could find people who could enter from Afghanistan, Peru, the North Pole, that would all be just fabulous as far as I'm concerned. I'm well-aware of having been in this business for a long time and worked all over the world, that there are vast numbers of people who have the most fabulous musical theater voices. Some of them are musical theater people and some of them just have other occupations, but they have fantastic voices. This album is only about the voice in the sense of, we don't mind where you live, we don't mind what you do. If you can sell this song to me that makes me sit up and makes all the hairs on my neck sort of sit up, and nobody knows you - you're still going to win.
Yes, the whole global aspect of this is definitely the coolest part, I think.
It is a surprisingly cool idea. The more I think about it, I'm thinking that I wasn't sure that I need to be certified and put away, when I came up with this idea. I'm actually really surprised now that I think about it more why this has never actually been done before.
Once you've selected your winners, how will the recording process work with people being all over the world?
I have a company in New York, when I live there for the six months of the year. We do a lot of recording and a lot of arrangements for singers. Particularly, singers with symphony orchestras in pop series and things.
We spend a lot of our time, basically, doing things remotely through a software tool called Source-Connect, which allows us to upload portal file sessions to recording studios anywhere in the world. As long as they've got Source-Connect at their end as well, we can actually produce the recording in real time, by a very high-end audio connection from wherever we are. Sometimes we run Skype for video as well. It will be a struggle if somebody submits one from the North Pole. They may have to travel a bit further to get to a studio to actually plop into the studio and actually do it.
Obviously, we pay for all the sessions for the by-costs. They just have to get to the recording studio. We basically pick up the rest of the tab. Then for ones that we're doing live, remote or, in fact, for everybody... we'll ask them to actually film their vocal recording session when they're singing with the orchestra track. We'll ask them to film it on their phone.
Then, maybe Netflix will pick it up as a one-hour documentary!
I know people have until March 15th to submit? What do you want to say to people who are thinking about it?
I think that it's common knowledge that not all competitions are a level playing field. It's not an attractive side of the business. I want to assure every single person who thinks about entering that they will be judged absolutely on the same criteria as every other entry. I will, along with Michael Kerker and the writers, because the writers get a say in the decision-making as well for who sings their song, which is only right - I absolutely assure them that if they are the best, they will win.
And "best" in the sense of: Do something magical, be yourself, be courageous. Be your own best interpreter, tell me what the song really means to you. Sing me the story. I mean, ultimately, it's the person who sings me the story, they don't have to have the prettiest voice, they don't have to have the biggest voice.
It's really about: sing me the story, be brave, really believe in yourself.
The competition will be open for submissions until midnight on March 15th, 2019. For more information, including submission instruction, entry rules and fees, visit ADO online at https://australiandiscoveryorchestra.com/16-stories-introduction/.