BVP cover photo Christmas season

The A cappella Sound of Beirut Vocal Point

Beirut Vocal Point is a close harmony a cappella vocal ensemble, founded by Janmarie Haggar in 2010 in Lebanon.

BVP has a large repertoire of jazz standards, Broadway show tunes, pop classics, rock ‘n’ roll, love songs, Disney, Christmas, and holiday favorites.

The group’s swinging rhythms make every event sparkle! I’m delighted to share my conversation with their musical director Ms. Haggar.

Acappella musical director Janmarie Haggar
Ms. Janmarie Haggar – musical director of BVP

What is the key success of BVP and how did the A cappella singing arrangements evolve throughout the years?

Thank you Rita, for inviting me to participate!

The key success of Beirut Vocal Point is the incredible camaraderie and commitment from every member of the group.

I have had the privilege of directing these young men and women who continue to grow musically as they take on every new challenge.  Their commitment, mutual respect, and even a sense of humor are the qualities that they bring to every performance.

It’s all about “teamwork” and a “sense of community” which has built the strong platform of our musical family.

The a cappella arrangements that I select for the group have increased in difficulty, as they learn the skills needed to perform close harmony arrangements unaccompanied.

What are the requirements to form an effective Acappella ensemble? How does it differ from larger choirs?

I believe that a “functional effective ensemble” requires a clear vision of what the identity of the group is. 

From the onset, I wanted to direct a close harmony a-cappella group.  While some larger choirs perform a more traditional classical program, BVP has a large repertoire which includes a wide array of musical styles and genres.

They are also required to memorize 18-22 songs and perform them without the use of music folders.  They call me a “benevolent dictator”!

Acappella singing choir Beirut vocal point
Beirut Vocal Point – A Cappella Vocal Ensemble

That may be true, but I believe that an a-cappella group needs to connect with their audience, and you can’t do that effectively with a folder in your hand.

That is the magic that a-cappella groups bring.

Can you tell us about the special talents, vocal technique, and musicality of the current members of the Acappella ensemble?

We are lucky to have a very multitalented group.

Not only are they great vocalists, but you will also find talented dancers, choreographers, set designers, and experts in special effects, which comes in handy when planning a big concert.

Vocal technique is something that develops in rehearsals, and they continue to develop those skills under my direction.

Taking your rehearsals online, what is the benefit of virtual learning? Do you prefer traditional weekly live practices?

Of course we prefer live rehearsals. We really miss our 2 hour weekly rehearsals, around my dining room table which is always followed by some homemade treats and animated conversation.

Due to the fact that singing in a choir live, is sadly a “Covid Super Spreader”, we have moved to rehearsing online.

I have found that this transition has made our singers grow musically.  As they have had to work independently to learn their part, and then submit a video for each choral template; each member has to really perfect their part to make it as “note-perfect” as possible.

Janmarie Haggar with the music composer Vartan Agopian
Janmarie Haggar & Vartan Agopian

In the past few months, I have produced and directed seven virtual video performances, with the collaboration of my dear friend and colleague, Vartan Agopian, who prepares all of the recording tracks needed to execute a virtual choir video.

It is remarkable to see how each video performance gets better and better!

If you could recall one memorable concert, which one would it be?

In July 2019, Beirut Vocal Point performed at AUB’s Assembly Hall in a jazz concert called Pass Me The Jazz.

The repertoire was very difficult, most of which was unfamiliar to my singers.  When questioned about the song selection, I told them:

“It’s not about what you sing.

It’s about how well you sing it

Thankfully they trusted me, and went on to give an exciting performance to a jam-packed, appreciative audience!!

That “show”, which told the story of jazz was a turning point for Beirut Vocal Point.

It is a concert I will always remember!

How complex do you see the situation for singers after the pandemic?

I remain positive and hopeful for a time when all the wonderful choirs in Lebanon will resume their weekly rehearsals and live performances.

We are a nation with a robust musical community.  I am confident that once this pandemic passes, all the talented musicians will raise their voices once again for audiences all over Lebanon.

About the author

Rita Hokayem

I am a soprano opera singer, voice teacher with over 13 years of experience, and digital marketer.
I teach online singing lessons for beginners and professional singers in pop, rock, R&B, country, oriental Arabic music, and pop opera.
My blog contains a series of interviews and articles about interesting topics related to the life of a musician and singer.
I am currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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