VoNo:s artistic approach: Combining classical singing with improvisation

For many years, VoNo's members have been trained by improvisation director Jörgen Krantz, among others. We work with both vocal and physical/scenic improvisation, and our training aims to stimulate creativity, broaden expressivity, and discover new perspectives. Improvisation has been a regular feature in all our concerts and performances for several years, and we always invite the audience to participate. 

Respect for the written work

In classical singing, we approach a written work with respect and interpret the composer's intentions and the score as faithfully as possible. In improvisation, we approach the music from the opposite direction: we jump in and don't know where it will lead. The artistic freedom, responsibility, and process are shifted to the singers, but also to the audience, who contribute material to the improvisations.

Enriching each other

Our goal - and our challenge - is to let these two approaches enrich each other. On the one hand, the trust and playfulness of improvisation give a freer way of making music even in classical ensemble singing. In VoNo, this has created a close harmony despite our different voices and backgrounds. On the other hand, the musical elements of improvisation are enhanced by our classical training and the confidence in the craft of professional choir singing.

VoNo's mission is to develop the vocal and choral art form. We do this by constantly maintaining high artistic standards and giving quality attention to musical detail, AND by improvising, playing, failing, and daring.


An example of audience input for improvisation

VoNo's improvisation concepts:

Improvisational concert "Give VoNo a Match"

The audience contributes words, songs, or ideas about the current theme - Christmas, autumn, love, etc. - on the spot. Then we turn it all into some type of  song - a gospel song with many voices, an opera duet, a quiet trio, or a jazzy tune. There is a lot of humor and unexpected music.

Research conference

VoNo improvise on a speech, panel discussion, or debate. As the event progresses, we write down what we perceive as keywords. When the event speakers have finished, we make music around the words we have written down. The audience and the other participants have described it as if we are giving them other ways into the (often quite academic) topic of the day, opening up for new thoughts and even lightening the mood with a lot of humor.

Examples from 2022:

  • World Academic Forum where we collaborated with Sverker Sörlin, among others.
  • ISDRS conference on the theme "Sustainable development and courage", where we collaborated with Prof Carlton Waterhouse, an expert on climate laws in President Biden's staff, among others.

Improvisation in our performances

Audience participation

In this concept, the audience are presented questions in the foyer of the theater or concert hall where the performance is about to take place. They write their answers on slips of paper which are then placed in a bowl that we pick up at a few points during the performance. For example, at the "Tillsammans" choir festival in Piteå, we performed "I am like many" (a theme of human rights with a focus on LGBTQ) and the audience were asked, "What inspires you?". This resulted in a beautiful and slightly wacky three-part song based on the answer "a youtuber who travelled the world in a straight line".

Hör din konst (Hear Your Art)

In collaboration with art associations and municipalities, VoNo seeks out interesting artworks in public spaces around which we improvise using the audience's associations.

This can take the form of art walks where the singers are in groups of 3-4 singers at each artwork. The participants who are engaging the tour/walk then give their reactions, feelings, thoughts, and associations to the artworks, which the singers improvise on, giving a new experience of the art.

Much of this art is located in environments where children and young people move. In collaboration with the County Music Board in Stockholm, Hör din konst! is now part of the Creative School (Skapande Skola) program.


Street performances

VoNo has a tradition of "flash mobs" and vocal "pop-ups" as a way to reach new audiences who would not primarily choose (or have the opportunity) to see vocal performance art. Here is a film about one of our street performances (recorded at Central Station in 2018).