Judge Insight with Richard Eteson

Richard EtesonIf you were writing a who’s who of UK a cappella, The Swingle Singers line up over the years would be a good place to start. Richard Eteson sang High Tenor with the Swingles for over 10 years and can be heard on 8 of their albums. Not to mention that he is a Voice Festival stalwart – coming back time and time again to judge for us, so he’s seen his fair share of UK a cappella over the years. This year he was one third of the University Semi-Final judging team and enjoyed watching 12 groups perform 8 minutes each.

After the weekend Richard shared some reflection on his judging experience, as well as some hints and tips that he would absolutely love to tell groups as they are planning sets in the future.

So first things first, what did you think of what you saw at the Festival Weekend?
I really enjoyed it and although it is a cliche, the standard really does keep getting higher every year. There is now real quality throughout the semi-finals and finals which is fantastic to see, although it makes it much tougher for the judges of course.

Time is short in a set, so what do you wish groups made more time for?
I felt a lot of performances have become quite formulaic as competition showcases – “let’s show off what our group/our star soloist can do, and pick a good balance of fast/slow songs ticking as many boxes as possible”. In essence I feel there needs to be a solid reason to include anything in a set – ask yourselves, “What is the function of this song/solo/bit of VP/feature?” or “How should this make the audience react/feel?”.

Impressive skills and impeccable performance are now very much a given at this level, much more can be explored in transmitting the emotion/feeling/reason of a song.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a group telling a single story throughout the set – maybe reaching over into drama a little bit. While we know time is precious particularly when planning for the Voice Festival or an Edinburgh show, groups might consider making a brief announcement between songs to the audience (either to make it more personable, or to make it seem more like a gig, to tell us more about the group, the song, the soloist, the back story of an arrangement), to make a connection between the performers and the audience.

Most importantly – The Voice Festival has one of the best judging rubrics around – a third of this is devoted to creativity in any aspect of the performance – be bold and imaginative – if done well it really will make you stand out!

Musically, what makes the excellent stand out from the average?
The general quality of musicianship and performance is now extremely high – always try and go deeper and further in rehearsal preparation than the next group in terms of tuning, solid groove/time, blend, ensemble, dynamic range, balance of voices, contrast or unity of voicing, style of song. In rehearsal there should always be something else that you can refine when breaking down an arrangement. Remember though once you’ve done all that work, that the song needs to be put back together again and still make sense as a whole.

Arranging is getting more ambitious, but it would be great for groups to consider writing an original song from time to time (rather than an arrangement of a well known song)

We know that groups are thinking about the visual impact of their shows more and more; what do you wish groups would consider?
Couple of thoughts on this one – particularly for the University and Youth groups: How about getting away from the uniform-like costumes? Consider starting the set off stage (at the moment every group enters, lines up, blows a note then starts), or staggering the entry (starting with a few singers then adding more bit by bit as the song grows).

And what about something different that a group could incorporate into their set?
Well, no one has the monopoly of ideas on this one but what about some audience participation in a classy way – not just clapping along, but teaching them a chorus line, or a 2 part refrain, or some elaborate body percussion that adds an extra dimension to the performance?

You can follow Richard Eteson on Twitter @WillyEteson


Judging Lineups: University Semi-Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. These judges will have the tricky task of narrowing it from 12 University Groups on Friday to 5 for the Final on Saturday. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

Yvette Riby-Williams

Yvette-cropped-472x295

Yvette Riby-Williams appeared twice as a soloist at the royal Albert Hall before the age of twenty-one. Since then she has performed with a number of well-known musicians including Imogen Heap, Shlomo, Seb Rochford and Jarvis Cocker. In the last years she has made a name for herself in the beatbox and a’cappella circles with the ‘Boxettes’ selling out venues such as the Jazz Cafe, Cargo and the South Bank as well as performing in festivals all over the world. She is an experienced music educator, promoting creative learning for all ages.

 

Richard Eteson

RJEpromo2
Richard Eteson is one of London’s most versatile and accomplished tenors. From local beginnings as a choirboy in Bingley, West Yorkshire, he went on to become Head Chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, later returning there as a tenor Choral Scholar studying Japanese and English.

For over 10 years he sang high tenor with The Swingle Singers, travelling the world, recording 8 albums and performing in many of the world’s leading venues such as La Scala, Milan; The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; Suntory Hall, Tokyo; the Esplanade Centre, Singapore; and the Parco della Musica, Rome. In 2010 he founded the London A Cappella Festival.

He has sung with many of London’s finest vocal groups, choirs and session groups (The Gabrieli Consort, Tenebrae, The Temple Church, Polyphony, Tonus Peregrinus, The Brabant Ensemble, The Eric Whitacre Singers, Heritage Voices, The Philharmonia Voices and London Voices), and regularly appears as a soloist of oratorio in the UK. He is frequently called upon as a judge of singing competitions and is a tutor for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.

The many varied projects he has been involved in have seen him work with artists such as Luciano Berio, Antonio Pappano, Jarvis Cocker, Scott Walker, Hans Zimmer, Sting, Aphex Twin and Goldie. He has made over 50 CD recordings and sung on numerous blockbuster movie soundtracks (e.g. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and James Bond Spectre).

He also has sleeve credits for dog whistling, playing coconut shells and the “Good Friday Clacker”.

 

Paul Smith

PaulSmith600

Paul Smith is an innovative and creative performer, an inspirational educator and an empowering public speaker. As CEO of the VCM Foundation, co-founder of VOCES8 and author of The VOCES8 Method he has enjoyed a decade of work including global travel to prestigious concert venues, schools and universities. Paul is passionate about the impact singing and the arts can have in the widest possible context – from academic improvement to social skills and building more cohesive communities. He uses that passion to design and deliver unique, inclusive and uplifting performance projects.

The VOCES8 Method, written by Paul, is published by Edition Peters in three languages, and is now being used in thousands of schools in nine countries. The Method is designed to link specific music-making activities with academic improvement in numeracy, literacy and linguistics.

Since its inception in 2007 the VCM Foundation has worked with more than 250,000 young people. Projects have included massed singing performances at the Royal Opera House (London), Cité de la Musique (Paris) and La Folle Journée (Nantes); and with ‘singing city’ projects in cities such as Torino, Wroclaw, Lyon, Hannover, Houston, Albuquerque, Dallas/Fort Worth, Bermuda, Nairobi, Lagos, Dubai, Tokyo, and Taipei. Working in partnership with the Diocese of London, Paul has spearheaded the creation of a home for the VCM Foundation at the Gresham Centre, a centre for excellence in vocal music performance, education and outreach in the heart of the City of London.

As an educator and public speaker, Paul has given speeches and created sessions on music and leadership, teamwork, health and wellbeing, music and creativity and The VOCES8 Method. In 2014 he gave a TEDx talk entitled “How can we use music to help us learn?”. Engagements at international conferences include the ACDA National and Regional conventions; Europa Cantat; the London Music Education Expo at the Barbican; Chor.com, Germany; the World Symposium of Singing in Budapest at the Liszt Music Academy; Singing Cities at BOZAR in Brussels; and at the Royal College of Music in London.

Paul has been singing for nearly 25 years, first as a boy chorister with the choir of Westminster Abbey, and, since 2005 with the group he co-founded with his brother, VOCES8. As a recording artist with Decca Classics, Paul has featured on bestselling, chart-topping albums and won a host of international awards.


Judging Lineups: Community Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. Here’s the judges who will be picking our Community Winner. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

James Davey

James Davey

James Davey is one of the UK’s most distinguished and respected young choral directors, in demand for his work as conductor, choir trainer, choral education practitioner, arranger and adjudicator.

A graduate of the MA Choral Education course at Roehampton University, James is Musical Director for; Chantage – BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year 2006, the Chandos Chamber Choir, the Aylesbury Festival Choir, the Fleet Singers and a number of work-place choirs, including staff choirs at Channel 4 TV and the London Mayor’s staff choir at the Greater London Authority.

Formerly the chief choral advisor for the BBC’s sheet music archives, James regularly conducts and prepares choirs for broadcasts on TV and Radio, and he is also a choir trainer for the Royal College of Music Junior Department, a Guest Conductor for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, and a tutor for the Cranleigh Choral Week, the Ingenium Academy and the Sherborne Summer School of Music.

 

Jo Marshall

03df96_9b4b91f3fdee4ce49c1cab6911bb3149

A graduate of The Royal Academy of Music, Jo began her singing career performing with the internationally acclaimed Swingle Singers and spent over six years touring world renowned music venues (La Scala, The Royal Albert Hall, and Ronnie Scott’s) and working with world class conductors such as Zubin Mehta and Antonio Pappano.

She has since been much in demand on the London session scene recording albums, TV and film soundtracks (Spectre, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) and often performs with London’s leading vocal ensembles.

Jo also works as a soloist and a jazz singer (The Jo Marshall Trio, Cubana Bop). She is a choral director and vocal tutor for Blackheath Centre for Singing and has led a cappella master classes and choral workshops all over the world.

 

Rachel Mason

Rachel Mason

Since gaining her Bachelor of Music, Rachel has been teaching singing, composing songs and performing extensively. Rachel has also been the BRIT awards correspondent for BBC Somerset, and has judged choral contests, Show Choir Championships and taught Musical Theatre masterclasses in the UK, Canada and Ireland. She also composed the music and lyrics for two musicals that were performed in Somerset.

For four years Rachel was the Musical Director of the UK’s top show choir, Euphoria. The group won many awards and performed in New York, Dublin, Hollywood and at the Royal Albert Hall. In addition to arranging and teaching all the music for Euphoria, Rachel also composed original songs that were recorded by the choir for the album Hollywood Bound. One of these songs was the anti bullying anthem Body On Mute which won numerous awards, was the anthem for the charity Beat Bullying and has now been adopted by The Diana Trust to help raise funds for their anti bullying projects.

Body On Mute was performed by Rachel and the choir on stage in New York, Dublin on BBC radio, live television in Canada and on Sky television. Some of the performances were filmed and have received wonderful comments on YouTube from those currently struggling with the effects of bullying. The lyrics for the song have also been featured in an article written about the choir in the top American Show Choir magazine, and are now on a range of American Apparel t shirts. Body On Mute has also been played on radio stations across America as part of Songs for Social Causes.

Rachel is also a prolific arranger, and has been commissioned to write custom arrangements for vocal groups and show choirs across the world.

Rachel is currently studying for her Masters in Songwriting. She enjoys collaborating with other artists on new songs, and is currently working on a new album. Rachel is honoured to have been made a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in 2014 and a member of BASCA (The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) in 2013.


Judging Lineups: University Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. Here’s the judges who will be picking our University Winner. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

Nic Doodson

Nic-Doodson

Nic Doodson has been at the forefront of the global a cappella scene for the past 20 years as a performer, director, competition judge and producer. As a performer he founded The Magnets and took the group from amateur student beginnings to the most successful a cappella group to ever emerge from UK. The Magnets were the first contemporary a cappella group to land a major record deal when they signed with EMI in 2001 and went on to release three ground breaking and award winning records. Notching up over 2000 performances throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia, The Magnets set the template for contemporary a cappella performances which is now followed by up and coming vocal bands the world over; in many countries The Magnets were the first a cappella group to break through to the mainstream pop field and have performed to sold out crowds in cities such as Mumbai, Jerusalem, Harare (Zimbabwe), Moscow, Calcutta, Shanghai, Nanjing (China), Sydney, Auckland, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Singapore and many others.

As a producer Nic has created and managed a cappella shows at festivals throughout Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and as one of the most experienced a cappella performers in the world has judged multiple national and international a cappella competitions.

 

Grace Savage

grace-savage

Having established a world-class reputation in the beatboxing scene with THREE British Beatboxing Championship titles under her belt, Grace is set to break into the music industry by harnessing her extraordinary vocal power in a melodic blend of edgy electronic pop. Her Debut EP is a beautifully crafted selection of dreamy, atmospheric pop which perfectly showcases Savage’s ethereal vocals alongside her beatboxing talent. With crashing beats, brooding production and hypnotic synth, the lead track ‘Diamonds on Your Skin’ was crowned the favourite of the show by the panel on BBC INTRODUCING Devon.

Fronting a live band and singing, Grace has shared the main stage at festivals with the likes of Rita Ora and Katy B, supported Labrinth and Newton Faulkner on his solo tour, as well as performing at the Glastonbury Festival and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Grace’s loop station cover of BANKS ‘Waiting Game’ recently caught the eye of SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, leading to her SBTV debut and a request from the man himself to make a follow up which will feature on the website very soon.

Savage’s extraordinary creativity spans across her singing, acting and beatboxing alike, with Grace recently been listed as one of ELLE UK’s ‘Top 100 inspiring women’ alongside the likes of Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. Following success at The National Theatre and a solo show at SOHO Theatre, Grace is receiving repeated high praise from the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph, The independent, Metro, London Evening Standard to name but a few and is now signed to UNITED agents as an actor.

 

Russell Scott

12400625_10153251626012109_4942345283913466121_n

Russell Scott has been in the music industry, professionally, for over 35 years working in the worlds of Classical and Musical Theatre. He is not only a Producer and Musical Director, but an accomplished Singer and Vocal Coach.

As a performer he has performed all over the world, as a soloist and with leading choirs and orchestras. With over 100,000 record sales across his 4 solo albums, he’s also appeared on countless film soundtracks, opera, pop and musical theatre recordings.

His company, Russell Scott Entertainment Limited has developed into a successful and reputable entertainment production company specialising in creating and producing high profile, high-end productions. It has produced a number of hugely successful shows across the UK including ‘An Evening of Don Black’, ‘An Evening of Tim Rice’, ‘The Wonderful World of Ashman, Menken & Schwartz, and ‘From Stage And Screen… And Back Again!’ which raised over £15,000 for charity. He produced the critically acclaimed ‘Godspell In Concert’ at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End in 2014 which went on to tour the UK in 2015.

Specialising in ‘performance’, he regularly directs masterclasses and workshops, and has worked with choirs and ensembles around the UK including the acclaimed Military Wives Choir. He is Musical Director of Next Stage Choir and Waddesdon Manor Choir.

Russell leads an enormously busy life having achieved great success in the cross-over of genres. Music is his soul and his passion, and he is committed to finding and developing new musical talent, giving opportunity to those with the ability and dedication to succeed at the highest level.

For more information about Russell Scott, please visit www.russellscottentertainment.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @RussellScottUK and presents his own YouTube blog, A Life In Music with Russell Scott, aimed at performers who strive to be the best they can be.


Judging Lineups: Youth Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. Here’s the judges who will be picking our Youth Winner. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

TobiAS Hug

Tobi

Tobias Hug has been singing, teaching, travelling for almost 20 years – an a cappella journeyman and beatbox gypsy. He is deeply involved in the a cappella and choral music scene around the globe, a connecting and well-connected figure. Based in London, Tobias has performed or collaborated with The Swingle Singers, Bobby McFerrin, World Music stars Zap Mama, the Puppini Sisters, the London Voices, Jazzchor Freiburg and many more. He currently performs with his The Beatbox Collective, with his own Loop Solo Programme and focusses on Master Studies in ‘Rhythmic Choir Conducting’at the Royal Conservatory of Aalborg, Denmark. His new group Beatvox recently won the UK Event Entertainment Award 2014 for Best New Act (‘Beat the Brief’ Competition).

His deep passion and commitment to teaching leads to workshops and residencies in places as diverse as Singapore, Norway, China and Kenya. Italy though has always been an important centre of his work. As session singer and member of London Voices he has performed on numerous movie soundtracks including The Hobbit and Interstellar. As a voice-over artist, Tobias has been featured on several BBC Radio programmes and commercial computer games.

From 2001-2012, Tobias sang with Grammy-Award winning a cappella group The Swingle Singers and was one of their longest-serving members. As their bass and vocal percussionist he was part of seven studio albums, and performed more than 700 concerts in the great concert halls (from Teatro alla Scala to the Kremlin Palace), with the great orchestras (from the Vienna Philharmonic to the Academia di Santa Cecilia) and with great artists (from Zubin Mehta to Jamie Cullum). As their former Artistic Director he set up collaborations and projects, as well as TV appearances. Together with beatboxer Shlomo (featured on Björk’s album “Medúlla”) he founded the world’s first beatbox choir (now the “Vocal Orchestra”). The Swingles’ or Tobias’ arrangements and voices can be heard on TV show “Glee”, on the most recent Monty Python movie as well as adverts (T-Mobile’s “Welcome home” Flashmob campaign, with 14 Million hits on YouTube).

Born in the midst of the Black Forest, in Freiburg, Germany, Tobias studied Music Education and never limited himself to one particular form of music, exploring anything from throat singing to vocal jazz, from Early Music to beatboxing. Beyond the a cappella world, worked or performed with German techno legend Tiefschwarz, experimental music artist Aphex Twin, classical pianist Katia Labeque, the late Les Paul, loop wizard and Imogen Heap-Collaborator Tim Exile…and many more.

Tobias is co-founder of the London A Cappella Festival and EVA, the European Voices Association and most recently of the italian a cappella festival Vocalemente which he is also Artistic Director and Executive Producer. He advises and adjudicates at festivals like VocalAsia (China), Terem Crossover Competition (St.Petersburg/Russia) the UK Beatbox Championships, Solevoci (Italy), The Voice Festival UK and the CARAs (Recording Awards).

 

Ben Sawyer

ben_sawyer

Ben is quickly gaining an enviable reputation as a dynamic conductor and choir trainer, always able to draw the best from his singers. Having left his role of Head of Music at Tewkesbury School in August 2012, he has been in regular demand to lead workshops, start new choirs and conduct existing ones.

He has been Chorus Master for Gloucestershire Music’s Massed Chorus of 500 students which performed at the Royal Albert Hall in the ‘Music For Youth’ in November 2012. This has led to him being a founder conductor of the new Gloucestershire Youth Choir. Ben was also Assistant Conductor for Cheltenham Festival’s production of Benjamin Britten’s community opera, ‘Noye’s Fludde’, and he regularly conducts Tyndale Choral Society, Hanley Voices and Tewkesbury Voices.

Aside from conducting, Ben sings countertenor. He is a member of the international award winning male voice a cappella group, The Songmen. With The Songmen, he has toured America, China, much of Europe and performs regularly in the UK. He is also the group’s composer-in-residence and has had a number of his compositions and arrangements played on national radio. Ben has been a lay clerk at Birmingham and Gloucester Cathedrals and sings with Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum, as well as being in demand as a countertenor soloist.

 

Andrew Panton

Andrew-Panton-2-239x300

Award winning director Andrew Panton has held residencies at The Royal & Derngate Theatres, Perth Theatre, Stage Door (New York) and The Stephen Joseph Theatre, where he directed a premiere season of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s work.

He is the creative director, vocal & performance coach for Susan Boyle who shot to fame following her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 and went on to have the fastest selling UK debut album of all time.

Andrew is the Artistic Director of Musical Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.


A Comprehensive Guide to A Cappella at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015

A Cappella has fast become a regular feature at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and groups are getting top notch reviews from music and non-music fans alike. We’ve trawled the programme for all the a cappella that we could find and listed it in one place for you with a few top tips too!

Of course if you’re only able to make one show, come and see The Voice Festival’s very own showcase on 9 August at Greyfriars Kirk. This way you’ll be able to see 10 smashing a cappella groups doing their thing! There’s also a workshop during the day so if you fancy having a try at a cappella then come and join the fun.

IMG_7486

If you’re looking for a last minute booking, we reckon there are the most options in the first week. But, if you’re heading to Edinburgh later in the Festival there are still some absolutely phenomenal acts that you’ll be able to enjoy – and as groups reach the end of their run they tend to have really finessed their performance. Edinburgh is a great opportunity to see something different, so go and try a new group and get inspired for your next a cappella adventure!

Starting between 1pm-2pm

Who? The Oxford Gargoyles (University Champions 2010)
What? Jazz a Cappella
When? 13:00, 5-15 August
Where? C, Adam House
What do we know about them? Always smooth, always polished and with some unusual a cappella arrangements.

Starting between 2pm-3pm

Who? Out of the Blue (University Champions 2009, 2014)
When? 14:15, 6-31 August (except 12, 18 & 25)
Where? Assembly George Square Theatre
What do we know about them? Tight and polished a cappella with slick (and cheesy) choreography.

Who? The Alternotives (University Group Oxford)
What? Alternotive a Cappella
When? 14:30, 5-22 August
Where? C, Adam House
What do we know about them? Oxford’s oldest a cappella group who have won numerous Voice Festival awards.

Who? Voices of Lions (Youth Finalists 2015)
When? 14:30, 7-14 August
Where? Old Saint Paul’s Church
What do we know about them? Lush harmonies, strong male voices and we know there are future stars in this group.

Who? Aberdeen Chorus of Sweet Adelines
What? Aberdeen Calling!
When? 14:30, 29 August
Where? St Andrew’s and St George’s West, George St
What do we know about them? Barbershop, barbershop, barbershop! Expect sparkling jewellery, sparkling smiles and songs & harmonies you’ll know and love.

Who? Northern Lights (University Group, Durham)
What? The Northern Lights Display
When? 14:40, 11-15 August
Where? The Space on Niddry Street
What do we know about them? Some of the videos we’ve seen suggest they’ll have an exciting show.

Who? The Alleycats
What? A Cappella 2.0
When? 14:50, 6-31 August (except 12, 19, 26)
Where? Assembly George Square Studios
What do we know about them? Standing up, lying down, this group can sing and dance! (If you don’t know what we’re talking about catch this video from 8:10 onwards).

Starting between 3pm-4pm

Who? Semi-Toned (Current University Champions)
What? Game of Tones
When? 15:05, 7-16 August (except 9 August when performance is 13:05)
Where? The Space @ Symposium Hall
What do we know about them? This year’s champs really put on a show. I reckon the name suggests there’ll be more where this came from.

Who? The Bluebelles (University Group, Exeter)
What? Get Jazzy On It!
When? 15:10, 7-15 August (except 9 August)
Where? Space Triplex
What do we know about them? A new all-female group from Exeter (which we know is a haven for a cappella groups to develop) who are in Edinburgh for the first time.

Who? All the King’s Men (University Champions 2012)
What? Radio Gaga
When? 15:20, 5-22 August
Where? C, Adam House
What do we know about them? They’ve been to the USA this year so they’ll be at the top of their game. We’re expecting songs at breakneck speed but most looking forward to slower numbers like Hide and Seek or Hallelujah.

Who? Verity Standen
What? HUG
When? 15:30-15:55 and 16:15-16:40, 24-28 August
Where? Forest Centre Plus (part of the Forest Fringe)
What do we know about them? Something a bit off the wall… audience members sit blindfolded and are hugged by the performers, apparently so as to experience the performance through sound, breath and the vibrations of singers’ body. If not at the Fringe then where, eh?

Starting between 4pm-5pm

Who? Alabaster Box (Ghanaian Group)
What? Afropella Night
When? 16:00, 7-31 August (excluding 9, 30 August)
Where? St John’s Church
What do we know about them? We don’t know that much but a show that promises to make us feel the spirit of Ghana is bound to bring a smile to the face of anyone on a rainy Edinburgh day.

Who? The Buzztones (Community Group, London)
What? Buzzology
When? 16:00, 7-21 August
Where? Gilded Balloon Teviot
What do we know about them? Bang up to the minute songs and moves to match.

Who? Sweet Nothings (University Semi-Finalists 2015)
What? Unwrapped
When? 16:05, 7-16 August (except 9 August)
Where? The Space @ Symposium Hall
What do we know about them? This all-female group have really developed over the last 18 months and they aren’t afraid to try daring arrangements. Expect some first class beatboxing too!

Who? The Bristol Suspensions (University Semi-Finalist 2015)
What? A Suspension of Disbelief
When? 16:10, 17-22 August
Where? Greenside @ Nicolson Square
What do we know about them? A group that made it to the University Semi-Finals in the first year of their existence has got to be worth a list. Oh and they sang Anaconda.

Who? Auditioned Cast
What? Gobsmacked!
When? 16:30, 6-31 August (except 17)
Where? Underbelly George Square
What do we know about them? We know Jack Blume is involved (of Liquid 5th and formerly of Sons of Pitches) and he’s just brilliant at creating new, exciting and innovative a cappella.

Who? In the Pink A Cappella (University Group, Oxford)
What? Tuniversity Challenge
When? 16:40, 17-29 August
Where? The Space @ Surgeons Hall
What do we know about them? This group always delivers at Edinburgh and all their experience means their show never disappoints.

Starting between 5pm-6pm

Who? Aquapella (University Semi-Finalist 2015)
What? PDA: Public Displays of A Cappella
When? 17:10, 6-15 August
Where? Spotlites
What do we know about them? A group that has got better each year we’ve seen them are taking their first trip to the Fringe. Memorably their beatboxer won the Voice Festival’s inaugural beatboxing battle, and did a pirouette in the process.

Who? TUBBS A Cappella (University Group, Bristol)
When? 17:10, 24-29 August
Where? The Space @ Symposium Hall
What do we know about them? TUBBS bring boundless energy to their performance. You will definitely come out smiling!

Starting between 6pm-7pm

Who? A megamix of 10 groups
What? The Voice Festival Showcase
When? 18:00, 9 August
Where? Greyfriars Kirk
What do we know about them? It’s the only place all festival you’ll get to see this much variety in a cappella in 90 minutes.

Who? Simply Soweto Encha (Workshop leaders for the Voice Festival in 2014)
When? 18:30, 7-31 August (except 16, 30)
Where? Central Hall
What do we know about them? So natural. So free. Look like they are BORN to perform.

Starting between 7pm-8pm

Who? The Accidentals (University Semi-Finalists 2015)
What? Pitch Please
When? 19:20, 17-22 August
Where? The Space @ Symposium Hall
What do we know about them? These ladies are tremendous fun (and unquestionably have the best trousers of any a cappella group) and their shows always have a strong theme or narrative.

Who? Simply Blue (University Group from Cape Town)
When? 19:45, 8-12 August
Where? Sweet, 31-35 Grassmarket Street
What do we know about them? Not all that much, but the group have got rich musical backgrounds and promise close harmonies in songs from 50s to the present day.

Starting between 10pm-11pm

Who? Sons of Pitches (UK Professional Group who started out competing in the University Competition)
When? 22:30, 7-13 August
Where? Gilded Balloon Teviot
What do we know about them? The Sons are going from strength to strength. Headlining the Youth Final this year they improvised a song that included the line “Pizza. Not traditionally a Russian delicacy”. Seeing is believing.

Who? Face (US Group who competed on The Sing Off)
What? All Vocal Rock
When? 22:25, 23-27 August
Where? Spotlites
What do we know about them? Again, very little! But we’re pretty sure that the show that brought us the Pentatonix has got it right!


A Festival Weekend in Tweets

We loved reading your tweets over the Festival Weekend tweets and got a warm fuzzy feeling from some of the Twitter-love that was going on. Here’s a story of the Festival Weekend according to the wonderful world of twitter.

1. Friday started with a whole load of bushy tailed university groups

2. But things soon got messy

3. When some of our University groups braved Birmingham City Centre. And weird things happened.

4. The judges had a tough time deciding so the team made sure they were looked after

5. And for some of our audience, they couldn’t believe they weren’t in a film

6. Some participants had a whole lotta love for all their acafriends

7. And 120 people couldn’t bear to be separated

9. Elsewhere some primary school children joined the fun

10. And some of our University groups were blown away by the standard of the Youth groups snapping at their heels.

11. The time came to crown our first Champions of the weekend.

12. The standard of the University Final blew everyone away

13. And Choral Stimulation won the Voice Festival award for originality.

14. But the cup was heading to Exeter for the first time

15. On Sunday, we had a chance to reflect on quite how lucky we all are

16. So we went outside to sing to the people of Birmingham

17. Then to top it all off, our third champions of the weekend were crowned

And we all went home.

(18. And were sad)


Festival Weekend – Interview with Andy Wilson

Link

Did we mention that we’re going to Birmingham for our Festival Weekend? We caught up with Andy Wilson, a current student at Birmingham Conservatoire who gave us a bit of insight into what he is most looking forward to over the weekend.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Andrew Wilson and I’m currently on the Vocal and Operatic degree course at Birmingham Conservatoire. I’ve sung with various groups in the Northampton and Birmingham areas; at School, Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham University.

When did you first get involved in the Voice Festival and in which cities have you been to with VF-UK?

My first experience of the Voice Festival was watching my sister’s old a cappella group ‘HotTUBBS’ performing their Mcfly medley on youtube- I think it was from the 2012 Bristol Regional…?! The following year I took a start-up group from the Conservatoire to the Birmingham competition, winning the award for ‘Best Audience Engagement’.

What’s the a cappella scene normally like in Birmingham?

The a cappella scene in Birmingham is a strong one; being the country’s second city there is always performance opportunities going for those groups that look for them. From local charity gigs to the annual Vale Festival, a cappella performance is never too far away. There are still 4 active groups at UoB, with perhaps the most previously well-known, ‘The Sons of Pitches’, having graduated just last year.

Are you involved over the weekend?

I’m looking forward to MCing both of the University semi-finals at the Voice Festival this year, as well as running a workshop, Groove: The Rhythm Section, with the Sons of Pitches beatboxer Mide Adenaike.
It is looking like a fantastic festival line-up, bringing in the best groups from up and down the country as well as some incredible workshops and masterclasses from top level professionals like Claire Wheeler (The Swingle Singers). I believe that particular masterclass is by sign-up only, so make sure to get your name down quick!

What else should participants do when they’ve got a spare hour over the weekend in Birmingham?

If you have a spare hour over the weekend there are a great number of things to check out which are all in easy walking distance;
• The Bullring Shopping Centre: it has over 160 shops and there’s always something going on
• Birmingham Museum and Art gallery is literally across the road- well worth an hour or two of browsing
• The secret garden atop the brand new Birmingham Library is a hidden jewel, and would perhaps be a great place for a scratch a cappella video… The views not too shabby either…
• St Phillip’s Cathedral and square is parallel to New Street and a lovely spot to waste an hour with a coffee, again just up the road from Conservatoire via an aptly placed Costa
Of course there are plenty of pubs, bars, restaurants and the like on or around New Street. If anyone has any questions about the Conservatoire or surrounding areas over the weekend please don’t hesitate to ask- it was painstaking trying out all the local pubs… but I don’t mind sharing my research.

Best of luck to all the groups competing, I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

If you want to catch Andy’s A Cappella Express Talk it will be at 5:30pm on Saturday where he’ll be exploring the role of the rhythm section in an a cappella group. Tickets for the Festival Weekend are available here

The Voice Festival UK returns to Scotland

After the blinding success of our event at Edinburgh Fringe last August, the Voice Festival team decided that one trip to Scotland each year just wasn’t enough! February 22nd, therefore, saw VF-UK team members once again braving the overnight buses, this time to Glasgow, for the second of our Regional Festivals.

The afternoon saw an excellent and unique workshop from celebrated tenor Alistair Digges. It’s certainly the first time we’ve ever seen an a cappella workshop that has used straws! The participants worked on strengthening their vocal technique and looked at all sorts of exercises to look after their voices. You can catch a glimpse of one of the pieces they learnt together here:

If you’re coming to the Festival Weekend, download the Vyclone app so we can have lots of fun with collaborative videos.

The evening saw a showcase of Scotland’s (and North Tyneside’s) finest with performances from University and Community Groups. Some fun facts about our participants:

– The Festival represented VF-UK’s newest team member Mabel’s debut event, and she was delighted to see a performance from the group she co-founded in Newcastle

– For 4 out of 6 groups it was their first Voice Festival event

– Half the groups had never performed outside their home city

– Half the groups had been in existence less than a year though the average length of a groups existence was over 8 years!

– 2 groups travelled over 300 miles on the day (and 2 Voice Festival team members travelled over 800 miles)

There were some very impressive debuts from the new groups the Killer Quines from Aberdeen University, Royal Blues from Newcastle University and In Toon from Northumbria University: we even enjoyed a Voice Festival first in the form of a headstand performed at the end of Royal Blues’ set! But the groups who have existed for that bit longer weren’t going to be shown up – Close Shave Chorus from Glasgow treated us to some real Barbershop classics, Tartan Harmony from Helensburgh sung a diverse set including a powerful version of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah and Choral Stimulation from Glasgow University did what they do best and showed off some INSANE mash-ups.

All in all, we had a brilliant day and are so pleased we went back to Scotland. If you can’t wait for your next a cappella fix we’ll be in Birmingham in just a few short weeks time!


Take the Stage at London A Cappella Festival 2015

For a number of years we at The Voice Festival have collaborated with our friends at London A Cappella Festival to put on a schools event during the 4 day LACF takeover of Kings Place. This year, things were a bit different… Instead of bringing established groups together, we invited some schools that are just starting their journeys forming new a cappella groups. And what a day it was!

The brilliant Michael Humphrey kicked off the workshops for the day helping students and teachers alike develop the skills to learn and write a cappella music – it was a cappella by numbers! Amazingly, after less than an hour, we were building tricky chords, singing any interval under the sun and had 3 part complex rhythms going on.

A brief break for everyone to catch their breath and we were off again learning an arrangement of Uptown Funk from scratch. You would never believe more than half of the group hadn’t even TRIED a cappella before. An hour later, there was a very impressive version of the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit being sung. Oh, and on top of that, a short mash up section incorporating some fabulous Michael Jackson, Clean Bandit, and Jessie J solos.

After lunch, the groups were treated to a rendition of Weather to Fly by The Swingles. There were LOTS of wide eyes and open mouths as they looked desperately round for the drum kit. There wasn’t time for the kids to hang around though as it was time for our new students to start writing their own music. Midway through the session the Swingles decided to recruit a new member from within the hall, but realised that their next tour to the US would be tricky as Callum had to be back at school on Monday. The day was wrapped up with a performance of Uptown Funk, a listen to Glyn School’s version of Forget You and a special song about that night’s takeaway menu.

But that’s not the end of our links with these, all the schools will now head off with their new found skills and start a cappella groups in school as members of this year’s VF-UK School Start-Up scheme. So watch this space – this won’t be the last you hear of Glyn School, St George’s RC School & William Ellis!