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Jabberwocks hone musical talents during Hong Kong tour

Two-week tour allows group to experiment with new venues, engage with fans abroad

On Sunday, the jet-lagged yet appreciative members of the a capella group the Jabberwocks returned from a two-week tour in Hong Kong, where they sang at the Hong Kong International A Cappella Festival. Out of the 16 group members, eight left for the tour on March 13, and the other eight met them when spring break began March 20.

This marks the second time since 2006 that the Jabberwocks have performed at the festival, said Brendan George ’18, the group’s business manager. The festival was created with the aim of promoting the arts in Hong Kong, particularly to children there, said Reid McDuff ’16, treasurer for the Jabberwocks.

The singers performed at several venue types throughout the tour, including schools, public squares and larger concert halls, said Robert Lee ’17, music director and tour manager for the Jabberwocks, who hails from Hong Kong. In addition to mobile stages and other outdoor venues, the group even performed from inside of a truck. “The door opened and it was just us inside,” McDuff said, noting the audience’s surprise at the group’s playful entrance.

On the final two nights of the tour, the group performed at a sold-out “A Cappella Extravaganza” that drew 3,500 attendees. The Jabberwocks were some of the youngest performers there, Reid said, adding that they learned from the more experienced a cappella groups in attendance. Deviating from typical a capella performance set-up, the Jabberwocks used individual microphones that night, leading them to make adjustments to their sound, Lee said.

The variety of venues and equipment tested the group’s collective musicianship, as the singers were forced to change their usual routines. “We started out not sounding our best,” Lee said. “Our final performance we absolutely nailed,” he added, beaming.

While the Jabberworks were in Hong Kong, members of the Brown University Alumni Association of Hong Kong held a gathering and invited them to attend.

Jabberwocks member Ben Gastevich ’16 learned Cantonese in preparation for the trip, garnering much appreciation from the audience during the Jabberwocks’ performances, George said.

The tour improved the Jabberwocks’ identities as artists, McDuff said. “The audience loved us for our energy and playfulness. We really played on that,” he said.

Fans in Hong Kong responded with enthusiasm to the Jabberwocks’ appearance at the festival. Some sent the singers pictures with notes on the back and origami hearts, George said. Students at one school even made wallets for the singers, said Quinton Burton ’15.5. Many audience members returned to subsequent Jabberwock performances several times, McDuff said.

Lee said he began planning the tour in December after speaking with Jabberwock alum Jonathan Tam ’08, who currently resides in Hong Kong. Tam had family connections to the festival and was able to offer the singers flights and housing free of charge, Lee added.

After group members found out they were going abroad, “everything we did from that point was in preparation for” the tour, Lee said. “Carrying the Brown University name forces us to keep our standards high if we want to represent the school,” he added.


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