For the second year in a row, our annual Festival Weekend will be taking place at the beautiful Hammond Theatre at Hampton School, West London, on the 21st and 22nd April 2017.
The Festival Weekend is undoubtedly the highlight of The Voice Festival’s calendar. The weekend, which includes our annual championships, brings together hundreds of participants and audience members in a celebration of singing and creativity. While it’s too late to apply to compete this year, members of the public can still get involved in other ways. Read on to find out how!
1) Cheer on your favourite group as it competes to become VF-UK champion
We have three separate competition categories – Youth, University, and Community. You can purchase tickets to each individual final – get yours here, from £12 (get 25% off before 7 April).
2) Rub shoulders with fellow singers and attend our series of workshops and forums across the weekend
Throughout the weekend, internationally renowned a cappella professionals will lead a series of workshops on improvisation, beatboxing, vocal health, dancing, recording, and more. These workshops are open for everyone to attend – purchase your Weekend Pass to join us in the workshops, and gain access to all the competition finals too, from £39 (get 25% off before 7 April).
3) Join the conversation on social media
Can’t be there on the weekend? We’ll be sad to miss you, but we’ll be sharing all the best bits of the weekend on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as live-streaming the results announcements on Facebook Live, so you don’t get that FOMO feeling. Got something to say? Use the hashtag #VFUK2017.
We’re looking forward to welcoming you to West London in just 6 weeks!
As much as we love a good Christmas tune, there’s only so much Wham! we can take… so it’s always really exciting when a cappella groups embrace the festive spirit and put a new and unique spin on a well-known seasonal song.
This year especially, groups have been pulling out all the stops to produce brilliant sounding, visually stunning performances of classic songs, so we thought the time was ripe to share with you some of our favourite offerings. Why don’t you hit us up on Facebook or Twitter and tell us some of yours?
Beatvox – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I love this catchy and original reinvention of a classic carol and the fact that it features Voice Festival participants and professionals working together – it sums up everything that is great about the UK a cappella scene! – Alex
The Bristol Suspensions – Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin’ Stevens)
It’s great to see last year’s VF-UK University Champions in their element and having kept their uniquely fun spirit despite the loss of some incredible members. The combination of the arrangement and one of the cutest videos of 2016 means you can’t help but feel warm, fuzzy and festive! – Houmaa
Eclipse 6 – Hamildolph (An American Christmas Story)
If a cappella is my number one love, then musical theatre is my second – Hamiltonbeing my one of favourite shows. Mash up a cappella, Hamilton and Christmas, and I’m a very happy gal! One of the things I love most about a cappella is that it gives you an outlet to defy the norm in a way that other art forms don’t allow. The costumes are amazing here, and everything has been executed with such care and skill that you can’t help but smile! – Jess
Pentatonix – Mary, Did You Know? (Michael English)
I love this song from a group that truly have taken a cappella into the mainstream. This comes from a fantastic Christmas album, and I love this particular track because it is more stripped back than some of their other offerings. I hope this album inspires more groups to start up, and existing groups to try something out of their comfort zone. – Catherine
AfterParty – Last Christmas (Wham!)
I like this cover because the video is well thought-out and has a story to it that keeps you interested. I think it’s great when a group uses video to do something more than they could do with an audio recording and I think this one demonstrates that well! – Simon
The Bristol Suspensions are still lost for words after an unforgettable weekend at VF-UK. So, they thought they’d let one of their more talkative (shall we say?) members, Stanford, share his experience of the competition in the way that only he can. We hope you enjoy…
Heading into the Voice Festival Weekend was a manic blur. With Suspensions jetting in from across the globe, our perennial organisational monarch Rafaella Barratt had a mammoth task in ensuring our collective arrival at Hampton School, but we made it and (lack of sleep notwithstanding) arrived in high spirits.
Back in 2015…
Our group had competed in the Voice Festival once before, last year in our first year as an ensemble, and it was a thunderously eye-opening experience that reinvented the way we all approached a cappella. The talent of all the other groups inspired us all to work our noggins off to push the boundaries ever harder regarding our arrangements, our choreography, our performance and even our dynamics – as insisted by our MDs! We wanted nothing more than to deliver on the standard present at the University Competition that had been such a showcase of diverse, kickass talent in 2015.
And to 2016!
This year was no different – the Sweet Nothings sizzled sass, Aquapella delivered on their reputation for next-level musicality, RadioOctave dropped musical puns and swag, and our Bristol-based buddies Pitch Fight made their VoiceFest debut and absolutely rocked our socks off. The Rolling Tones also provided a personal highlight with a stellar arrangement of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ (if you haven’t watched it, watch it).
Our group had competed in the Voice Festival once before, last year in our first year as an ensemble. It was a thunderously eye-opening experience that reinvented the way we all approached a cappella. The talent of all the other groups inspired us all to work our noggins off to push the boundaries ever harder regarding our arrangements, our choreography, our performance and even our dynamics – as insisted by our MDs! We wanted nothing more than to deliver on the standard present at the University Competition that had been such a showcase of diverse, kickass talent in 2015.
The calibre of the competing groups was just as immense as we’d remembered, and we were thrilled to share a stage with so many groups that all had a unique style to bring. Being surrounded by such talent is a surreal experience, but we entered into the whole affair with a group mentality of aiming for enjoyment rather than victory. We knew that this would help settle the nerves and make it easier to convey our own goofy brand of humour. To have made it through the video auditions stage was a privilege in itself so we weren’t too stressed out by expectation.
For our semi-final set we had decided on one of our favourite pieces of the year, a comedic mash-up of ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Trouble’ arranged by one of our two MDs, Joe Pickin. This featured alongside one of our more experimental and recent additions to our repertoire, a medley of ‘Everything Everything’ numbers arranged by myself and our criminally modest beatboxer, Scott.
The hope was that the two arrangements would offset each other nicely and convey our ability to be both humorous and serious, although our decision not to perform any rendition of ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ had us feeling very left out!
Our progression to the finals was utterly unanticipated, and had us all absolutely giddy and gleeful. We leapt into the ‘aca-challenge’ with enthusiasm and had to rein in our joy and pride to avoid partying the night away, as we’d unexpectedly found that we had to save our voices for another stage of competition!
Workshops and the final!
We spent the following morning reclaiming our relaxed team environment by attending the various workshops and round table talks on offer at the festival. The choreo workshop especially highlighted the dazzling potential of certain group members. It’s all in the smile. Our last efforts were spent polishing our overall set, with the final addition of ‘Madness/Magic’ an arrangement the group had fallen in love with and the magnum opus of our other MD, Aliak Bedirian. It was the last piece of the puzzle that was our attempt to perform with a broad range of emotions, and sounded pretty neat too.
The standard at the final was phenomenal beyond our expectations. Bristol Suspensions were readily gushing backstage at what it meant for our group to even be appearing in a final with such honed and musical ensembles. To be counted among them was truly something else. We couldn’t stop grinning and that led to us performing our hearts out, giving it our all with complete trust in one another and generally having a #goodtimeonstage
And the winners are…
Evidently it came across, as, in some wacky fairy tale twist ending, we were immensely privileged to be announced as the champions. We also achieved awards for beatboxing and choreography and a beatboxing battle trophy along the way (to add to Scott’s list of achievements to humbly downplay).
We were so surprised and elated that, with true Bristol Suspensions class, we could only flop about the stage screaming like schoolchildren. We’d aimed only to have as enjoyable a weekend as possible, and ended up with an honour that blew our minds. Objective achieved.
With one last teary and bizarrely up-tempo encore performance of Madness/Magic, the competition was over, and we quickly elected to celebrate long past the early hours. A little too much cider and a little too much Singstar – the Bristol way. Amidst the revelry, a lot of pride was felt over our newest soprano, Eleanor, who made her debut as a group member at the event, as well as our MDs for all their hard work bearing fruit in such a positive way. The result validated the long hours of dedication, and that made us all feel absolutely on top of the world!
We’re completely indebted to the VF-UK team for delivering on such an entertaining and informative weekend. We’re so grateful for what we’ve achieved. Meeting and singing alongside other a cappella groups continues to be the highlight of such endeavours, and VF-UK is such an opportunity to get to know others, not to mention how useful and enjoyable the various workshops were. We had a blast.
We’ve got some plans in the works, as we’ve got to live up to our title now! We’ll be taking our EdFringe show, ‘Netflix and Trill’, up to the festival at the beginning of August, and we’ll be popping our heads into VF-UK’s own Edinburgh showcase as well. There are whispers within the group of some other surprises in store so keep an eye (and ear) out…
But for now, thank you to VF-UK and all the other groups for a fantastic weekend. The Bristol Suspensions can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!
Last year I was kind of a ‘Birmingham Consultant’- I showed a member of the team around Birmingham Conservatoire before the venue had been decided for the finals in 2015. When it was announced I just helped out in whatever way I could. I also got to MC the semi-finals this year (which was an experience!) along with helping out at the Edinburgh Showcase this Summer gone. When I heard there were openings in the team I thought it would be great to get involved in VFUK in a more official way – so here I am!
2. What is your role within the team?
Fringe Festival Officer. I’m going to be working with other members of the team to organise events (such as showcases, workshops and other events) and try to support and promote UK a cappella up in Edinburgh.
3. What has been you favourite VFUK moment so far?
Probably the atmosphere at the showcase up in Edinburgh. As shown by their self arranged football tournament- every group is just up there to have a good time. It was great to be up there, and I can’t wait to start the planning for next year!
4. Who is your favourite professional group?
I was lucky enough to shadow the Swingle Singers at the LACF 2015 for an academic project I was doing, and I still find their ability to sing in such a dynamic range of styles to be pretty captivating. There are some amazing groups out there (Pentatonix, The Real Group… and I’m a big fan of Voiceplay) but the Swingles just tip it for me.
5. Have you got any secret talent/fact to share with everyone?
I unintentionally found myself doing stand-up at the fringe festival this year… and sadly that isn’t a joke.
6. Sum up VFUK in 3 words
Inclusive, Growing and Bonkers
7. What do you do outside of the a cappella world?
I’m a final year vocal and operatic student at Birmingham Conservatoire. I also run vocal and outreach workshops at local schools, societies and events.
We want to start our Day 2 blog post with possibly the loveliest image of the weekend so far, which is just a great indication of the way our groups support and encourage each other, even in the face of formidable competition.
We had a load of great stuff going on during the day – Andrew Panton had singers up on their feet working on choreography, Tobias Hug and Grace Savage shared their unique vocal percussion sounds with groups of all ages, and some lucky participants appeared onscreen in a music video that will be coming soon to our YouTube channel! Meanwhile singers had the benefit of Russell Scott’s expertise in performance, and we held some useful round table discussions on the challenges of being an MD and the highs and lows of taking a group to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
So, to the news we know you’ve al been waiting for.
The Youth champions, for the second time since the Youth Competition began, are the Tiffinians!
Special prizes were awarded to: Annabelle Brooks of Grace Notes for Outstanding Soloist with ‘Feeling Good’ Grace Notes for Outstanding Performance The Tiffinians for Outstanding Arrangement with ‘Sunny Afternoon’ License to Trill for Outstanding Choreography
And – the University champions 2016 are the Bristol Suspensions!
The standard was ridiculously high and the judges couldn’t help but give out not one, not two, but FIVE special awards to commend the amazing talent of our groups. Aquapella for Outstanding Musicality Bristol Suspensions for Outstanding Choreography Alex from Cadenza for Outstanding Arrangement with ‘Hide and Seek’ Ben Drinkwater from the Songsmiths for Best Soloist with ‘Hello’ Scott from Bristol Suspensions for Best Vocal Percussionist
Well, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for our University singers today. We saw an extraordinary range of music, from songs in a foreign language (Tous les Memes by Stromae) to some killer versions of Adele’s Hello.
We didn’t envy the job of our judges, Yvette, Paul and Richard, who had to pick only five of the twelve groups to proceed to tomorrow’s final. Congratulations to
The Bristol Suspensions
The Rolling Tones
who succeeded in impressing the judges and will be battling it out to become the next University champions!
Special awards also went to:
The Songsmiths for Outstanding Overall Performance Cadenza for Outstanding Musicality with their performance of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ Zara Tso from The Rolling Tones for Outstanding Individual (a brand new award for this year!)
For those that have been asking – we don’t have many tickets left for the University Final, but the limited few available will go on sale at Box Office tomorrow at 10am.
To celebrate the success of all our singers (who totally did themselves proud today, no matter the result), we’re wrapping up the evening with the ‘Acachallenge’. It’s traditionally lead by our very own Michael Humphrey but he’s disappeared to the Caribbean this year (huff) so the wonderful Ed Scott is taking up the mantle and leading our singers through a well-deserved relaxed singing and dancing sesh!
Not sure what to expect from our Festival Weekend? Trying to decide which of our fabulous participant groups you want to win the youth, university and community competitions? Fancy learning a little more about the workshops on offer?
In classic Voice Festival style, we’ve popped together an interactive guide for all you a cappella fans so you can explore the world of our annual Festival Weekend in a bit more depth.
If that’s not enough for you, at the weekend itself there will be programmes available for purchase that offer biographies, schedules, photographs and more!
This blog post originally appeared on MDHmusic on February 12 2016, and was reprinted with permission.
The Voice Festival UK‘s Youth co-ordinator Amy set up this year’s Take the Stage, where schools could come to King’s Place in London, home of the London A Cappella Festival, to participate in a day of a cappella workshopping, arranging and performing. I had a great time working on some musicianship things and a mass performance with this incredibly able group of students from a mix of state and private schools.
We also had the privilege of hearing (they were impressive, as ever), being critiqued by (they were impressed) and even jamming with The Swingles. When we performed our arrangement of Walk the Earth’s Shut Up and Dance With Me we inserted an improvisation section to be kicked off by The Swingles. We ambitiously decided that it would last for as many bars as felt right in the moment, and wow, it was incredible – layers of sound reacting and interacting, finding a gentle zone then building and building filling the room with harmonious sound.
Thanks to the Voice Festival for organising, to LACF and The Swingles, especially Sara, Clare and Nick who stuck around to hear the schools perform and gave really thorough and practical feedback, and to the students and teachers at Halsted, Marist, Southband Intl and Boroughbridge – keep up the amazing work!
Michael grew up in Northern Ireland learning the bassoon and saxophone from teachers and tutors in the area before broadening out into piano lessons and self-taught guitar and singing. He studied at the University of Oxford where he enjoyed the extra-curricular life of orchestras, choirs, plays and open mics, and directed a cappella group Out of the Blue. After 2 years teacher training in Edinburgh he moved to London where he works as a successful freelance writer, arranger, director, producer, composer and performer.
What’s it like to win the VF-UK youth competition? The Dreamettes tell us here in their guest blog. If you’re feeling inspired by the girls’ successes and would like to get involved with the Voice Festival’s youth programme, check out our dedicated page here, or take a peek at our plans for VF-UK’s annual Take the Stage event.
The Dreamettes was formed back when we were in Y7 at Putney High School (now all in Y13). Our music department is unusual in that every single year group is represented by at least one a cappella group, if not two in most cases. Thanks to this strong a cappella tradition in the school, the Dreamettes have flourished, growing in membership and ability year by year, as well as triumphing in school music competitions.
But it was taking part in the Voice Festival UK that pushed us to our limits and made us realise what we could achieve. Suddenly a cappella became so much more than standing in a semicircle to sing a pop arrangement, and our motivation was raised to a new level. Heated discussions about choreography and presentation, which would have been given nowhere near as detailed thought a year ago, became the norm. Musical details such as note lengths, tuning and dynamics were now more vital than they had ever been before. We even dedicated some of the Easter Holidays to rehearsing for the VF-UK finals at group members’ houses (in hope that the neighbours would enjoy our heart-melting rendition of ‘Make you feel my love’)!
Soon the day of the Finals arrived, and Dreamettes set off to Birmingham, all squeezed onto a minibus with the two other a cappella groups from Putney High taking part, not forgetting three of our teachers. Many were still half asleep, but after being perked up by a trip to Costa Express en route, excitement levels began to peak. The whole coach was singing in full voice as we drew nearer towards the city.
We finally reached Birmingham Conservatoire, where the VF-UK organisers and participants were met by a crowd of 30 excited girls, ready to sing it out. The day began with some highly energised workshops on stage presence and beat boxing. With boots and cats flying all over the place, hundreds of participants united to form one unstoppable human drum kit, and let’s not forget that R600 loop machine which made us all turn green with envy.
Before we knew it we were whisked straight off to rehearsals and a sound check in the Adrian Boult Hall. Minutes passed and the nerves began to kick in. We were more excited about singing together than we ever had been before, but as we waited by the stage door it was as if we were shaking as a single body, all feeling both the same adrenalin and fright at performing in front of hundreds of people. Then one of us said ‘Guys, it doesn’t matter whether we win or not. Let’s just go out there and sing’. So that is what we did. We didn’t know whether it was our best or worst performance – all we knew is that we were out there doing what we have always known and loved.
Everything after that was a blur, and suddenly we found ourselves back on stage alongside the five other groups competing in the Youth Finals. With no idea what to expect and tension rising, we waited anxiously as various thank yous and awards were being given. There was an especially big applause from us for Jo Nicholls, the founder of the Dreamettes and the rest of Putney High’s a cappella groups, who received a special award for one of 10 arrangements she contributed towards the VFUK Finals. Emily Hazrati, a budding young composer in the Dreamettes, also won an award for her arrangement of ‘Budapest’ by George Ezra.
‘The winners brought the programme to life and made great use of the performing space’. This was the moment of truth. As soon as we heard the word ‘Dreamettes’ we all screamed at the top of our voices with shock and pure joy. There was lots of hugging, crying and laughing as we organised ourselves into formation for an encore of ‘Some Nights’. I still can’t find the words to describe how amazed and happy we felt at that time.
Photos, interviews, more hugging and crying, yet it still didn’t end there! After a celebratory dinner at Wagamamas, many of us stayed to watch the University Finals. To say that we were completely awe-struck by the groups we saw performing is an understatement – the genius arrangements, professional-level choreography and musicality blew us away and gave us something even higher to aspire to. We’ve all decided to make our University application based on places where there’s a good a cappella culture! Hosting the evening was the Sons of Pitches, and they were awesome. This made us realise that a cappella carries on even after school and University.
Taking part in the VF-UK finals has helped our group come together and given us inspiration for the future. We’d like to thank Voice Festival UK kindly for such an incredible experience, encouraging us to achieve great things as a group and providing a platform for young a cappella groups across the nation.
We’re really excited to announce that applications are now open for the follow-up to our first compilation album, The Voice Collection 2013! We’re thrilled to once again be showcasing the quality and breadth of contemporary a cappella art form in the UK in 2015 and beyond in an album that we hope will delight, entertain, and inspire future generations of singers.
Any a cappella group based in the United Kingdom, whether youth, university, community or professional, is welcome to submit up to two pre-mixed tracks for inclusion on our compilation album. The final listing will be selected by our stellar line-up of judges and announced in December.
The Voice Collection II is due for release in January, and will be mastered by a cappella experts Liquid 5th Productions. For general queries, or for assistance with your application, please email email@example.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
HOW TO APPLY
1. Fill in our online Application Form (please read the Declaration carefully, and confirm)
2. Submit your chosen track(s) (max 2) in WAV and MP3 formats. Please upload these to Dropbox, WeTransfer or another file sharing solution of your choice and email firstname.lastname@example.org with the link to your track.
3. All application forms and tracks in the required format need to be received by Saturday 7th November at midnight. Any applications received after this time unfortunately cannot be considered for judging.
4. If your track is selected, you will be required to sign a release form giving us permission to use the track.
There are no application costs involved, but successful groups will be required to purchase 15 CDs each for a total cost of £100, which they can sell on at a suggested price of £10 per CD at their own performances.
We look forward to hearing what you have to offer!