At seventeen years old, self-taught guitarist Jonathan Albertini barely knew about things like musical theory and a cappella harmony. Then, at the insistence of his mother, he joined an all-male barbershop chorus, and it changed his life forever. Now, nine years later as a seasoned performer and director of several singing groups on the Gold Coast including the one that gave him his start in the genre, he is looking to pass on some of that joy and passion to upcoming generations of a cappella singers with his youth workshop Voices in Paradise.
“I had no musical theory training,” remembers Jonathan. “I couldn’t even read music”.
“Then within one year of being a member of [Gold Coast barbershop chorus] The Blenders, I was able to travel to Colorado in the USA to compete in front of ten thousand people on an international contest stage.”
Not only did Jonathan meet his now-wife on that same trip to America, the entire experience changed his life for the better in so many ways.
“I want to provide other youngsters – especially young males who think singing isn’t cool – with the same experience I had. Like getting to travel all over the world, sing at prestigious venues and become better musicians and performers.”
One of those prestigious venues Jonathan is referring to is the world-famous Carnegie Hall, where Jonathan himself participated in a youth workshop and concert which ignited in him the desire to do the same back on his home turf.
“I came back from that trip and started Voices in Paradise which attracted 104 singers in the first year. The next year we attracted 130 singers, and this year we have 175 singers registered!”
Like any decent sized musical event, Voices in Paradise requires a tremendous amount of work to pull together.
“The biggest challenge is sourcing the music each year for workshop registrants,” says Jonathan.
“It is important to me that we choose modern and well-known songs that the singers will love to learn and perform. Deke Sharon [musical producer and Arranger of the Pitch Perfect movies] is the official arranger of Voices In Paradise and donates his arrangements each year. I then create learning tracks for each of the 5 songs so the singers have the best learning material to memorise their songs for the big day.”
The 80-odd members of The Blenders are happy to assist with putting together registration kits, t-shirts for participants, registration, marketing, ticketing and all the other finer details that go along with such an event.
“The Blenders quickly jump at the chance to help in any way. That said all of my choruses see the value in supporting the youth. That’s partly why the event is such an amazing night of entertainment, because all of my groups are together in the same spot in one night featuring over 400 singers for what is an incredible night of a cappella singing.”
It’s not just the choruses involved but also Griffith University, The Arts Centre Gold Coast and many local businesses and organisations which support the event through providing sponsorship and donations.
“Our aim is to keep the registration fee as low as possible for the singers and get as many involved as possible. That’s why the support of the community is crucial to the success of Voices in Paradise,” Jonathan acknowledges.
“It’s challenging at times to lead a group of 80 men or a group of 40 women but I feel that the best way I can give back to the community is by being involved in organisations that provide happiness to people and harmony to the lives of many. I truly have an extended family with all of my singers and I am proud to raise my child in this environment… It is for these reasons and many more that youth development is and will always remain very near and dear to my heart.”
The groups involved in Voices in Paradise includes 175 male and female singers plus performances by:
- Musical Island Boys – International Gold medallists, Barbershop Harmony Society
- Ginger and Tonic – SingFest Champions 2012
- The Blenders – Largest All Male Chorus In the Southern Hemisphere
- Blenders Youth Chorus – Pan Pacific Youth Champions
- Coastal Charisma – Sweet Adelines International Ladies Chorus
- Serotonin – Griffith University Mixed A Cappella Choir
- Blindside – Pan Pacific Youth Quartet Champions
There are still tickets left for the concert at the Arts Centre Gold Coast Concert on Saturday May 23. Tickets can be purchased via The Arts Centre Gold Coast website.