Meet Beth

1. How did you get involved with the Voice Festival?Headshot photo of Beth

Back in 2010, during my second year at university, I became the President of the Oxford Belles. I left the group 18 months later, but never lost my love for everything a cappella, and kept popping up at Voice Festival University Programme regional rounds and finals to hand out programmes, help out front of house, or sell CDs… anything to stay involved! Of course, when a friend on the team told me about the exciting new roles advertised in 2013, I couldn’t wait to apply.

2. What is your role within the team?

I’m the Communications Manager – I work with our Communications Director, Cherith, to suss out the best channels to communicate to all of you what’s new in the exciting, ever changing and rapidly growing community that is the UK a cappella scene!

3. What has been your favourite Voice Festival moment so far?

Back when I was in the Belles, I attended a superb Voice Festival workshop led by VF-UK patron Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. It was a long time ago now, but stuck with me ever since. Participants were mixed up into new groups, and each group had a short time to come up with a fresh arrangement of the traditional ballad Scarborough Fair. For me, that’s what the Voice Festival is all about: it’s a forum for collaborating with new people and learning to adopt fearlessness when experimenting with new ideas.

4. Who is your favourite professional group?

I know we’ve heard it all before, but I can’t get enough of Pentatonix. They’re quirky and never fail to bring a smile to my face.

5. Have you got any secret talent/fact to share with everyone?

Usually I demonstrate my mediocre beatboxing skills – I think this is the only forum where that particular talent wouldn’t be considered very unique! I am something of a medievalist – I can reel off plenty of trivia from the Battle of Hastings to Game of Thrones, and could probably tell you a word or two in Old English…

6. Sum up the Voice Festival in 3 words

Animated, visionary, generous.

7. What do you do outside of the a cappella world?

I’m lucky enough to be doing a PhD in Anglo-Saxon Literature – finally putting those medieval skills to good use!


Meet Michael

1. How did you become part of the Voice Festival? headshot picture of Michael

I sing with In the Smoke, and we entered the Community Competition for the first time in 2012.  Once we saw the buzz that was brewing in the workshops and competitions over the weekend of the final we were immediately eager to become more involved, to lend a hand whatever way we could.  We have hosted the Youth Competition twice now which has been great fun but also a bit intimidating for us oldies to see the standard of the school groups!

2. What is your role within the team?

Education Resource Officer. My role is to create resources for young (or old) fledgling groups to get them started. I call on the fantastic groups already associated with the Voice Festival to help me produce demonstrations, rehearsal guide, tips, tricks, and whatever else people need to start singing together.

3. What has been your favourite Voice Festival moment so far?

Selfishly, winning the Ward Swingle Award with a great idea by one of my fellow In the Smoke singers, having rehearsed like crazy for months. Looking forward to my new favourite moment coming from somewhere other than the nervy competition stage.

 4. Who is your favourite professional group?

The Swingles are the first answer on most people’s lips, especially as they are so supportive of the Voice Festival, and Pentatonix are entertaining everyone at the moment – particularly with The Wizard Of Aahs (search it if you haven’t seen it yet!) – BUT I’m excited to see how US group Sonos are evolving their sound as ARORA

5. Have you got any secret talent/fact to share with everyone?

I have a great knack for coming up with a cappella dance moves that look great in my imagination but terrible in rehearsal, lucky In the Smoke has other people in charge of choreography…

6. Sum up the Voice Fesitval in 3 words

singing, happy people

7. What do you do outside of the a cappella world?

Head of Music at a NW London Secondary School


Meet Catherine

1. How did you become part of Voice Festival?Headshot photo of Catherine

I’ve admired VF-UK from a distance for quite some time while I was very involved in a cappella singing at Exeter Uni. Seeing the #VFbestself campaign for new volunteers I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get involved (I was also getting withdrawal symptoms from not having anything to organise). I’m really excited to shape the Youth programme over the next few years and start getting more young people involved in a cappella in the UK.

2. What is your role within the team?

I’m the Programme Manager – I work to establish partnerships with other organisations, and co-lead on our youth strategy.

3. What has been your favourite Voice Festival moment so far?

I’m going to have to say having Simon phone me and ask me to be the Youth Programme Manager!

4. Who is your favourite professional group?

I think I’d go for Voces8 but if you asked me again in 2 days’ time I think I’d pick the Swingle Singers and then 2 days later Straight No Chaser…

5. Have you got any secret talent/fact to share with everyone?

When I am not working/singing/organising I absolutely love baking with my speciality being brownies. I also support Leeds United…

6. Sum up the Voice Festival in 3 words

Inclusive, fun and inspirational

7. What do you do outside of the a cappella world?

I’m a civil servant and will spend the next few years working in a whole selection of different government departments.


2013 Community Champions: What it’s meant to us – by Original Sing

Original Sing, Community Champions 2013When we first heard about the Voice Festival UK, I was excited that at last, many more people were getting into a cappella singing and taking it seriously. And that of course would mean new friends, new opportunities, new chances to learn. But most of all, it meant we (my lot, Original Sing) weren’t doing it on our own any more. Nearly all of us were formerly members of the group Naked Voices, which grooved up and down the country gigging everywhere for 10 years up until 2008, including the Edinburgh Fest 3 times, having a ball. But during all this time we were sitting in a bubble talking to only ourselves, because we so rarely encountered any other a cappella singers.
 
When Naked Voices closed down with the retirement of the MD, 2/3 of us were desperate to keep singing. For various reasons we couldn’t keep the old name and had to start a new group. But in so doing, we had to start again from scratch to build up a new reputation. Our self esteem took a *big* hit. Without the name, would anyone come to our shows? Would we be able to actually make it without our old leader, teacher and mentor Dee? Were we *good enough* on our own?
 
We spent a LONG time taking our music apart, piece by piece, going back to absolute basics to work out what we could improve, how and where. I only ended up as MD by dint of being the one who refused to give up or give in no matter what, flying by the seat of my pants the entire way! 
 
So you see, we went from success to collapse, to rebirth but with confidence dented and no way to know if we were on the right track. And that’s why the Voice Festival accolade has meant so much – it is VALIDATION and uplift. Recognition from our peers and from such sh*t hot judges means we that CAN still do it and all the work we’ve put in trying to rebuild ourselves has paid off. The VF Community Championship win has been a massive shot in the arm of adrenaline and confidence. And that is priceless. 
 
The 6 months since then has been a bit slow for various reasons, but we’ve had some fab moments. We brought the house down in London for the Brandenburg Choral Festival in March. And in recent Bristol gigs we’ve been keeping up our sob rate of 10% (that’s the % of the audience who are openly sobbing by the end of the show – for some reason they find what we do rather moving). We’re currently working towards our annual outing at the Bristol based Festival of Song (see www.festivalofsong.org.uk), a massive 120 singing shows in 9 days. A blast if you’re out this way in October.
 
So thank you to everyone at VF-UK for your kind support. We look forward to being part of the Voice Festival for many years to come I hope and to sharing together this gorgeous thing that we all do with new friends up everywhere.  See you all again in the new year.
 
By David Green, Original Sing 


We want the best of you!

Most people are at their best when doing something they love.  We’re looking for some new Voice Festival team members – people who can bring some of their ‘Best self’ to the Voice Festival. Are you interested? #VFbestself

 

Our story

 In April The Voice Festival UK celebrated 5 years.  That’s 5 years of growing, supporting and connecting the UK a cappella community through workshops, mentoring schemes, masterclasses, performance opportunities, competitions, networking events and much much more. That makes for quite a story. But it’s only the beginning…

 We’ve now reached a juncture.  Our communities and participants have grown incredibly.  As we set out on an exciting time of discovery into the next part of our story, we need your input, your ideas, and your talent to help keep the Voice Festival going.

 5 years time.  The Voice Festival UK 2018. What will we be? Join our team and help us figure it out! 

 

Our team 

 It takes a small team of brilliant people playing different roles to make the Voice Festival happen. Some key facts you should know: 

 
  • We’re all volunteers who do this for the love of it. We think this is important, and think you probably do too.  Without staff costs, we are able to put our funds where they’ll be best used. 
 
  • We all have friends, families, jobs and studies, and other interests. These keep us busy too.  This means we understand the need to be flexible with each other and how we work.  
 
  • We’ve developed new skills by joining the Voice Festival team.  Outside of careers and studies, the Voice Festival provides an opportunity to explore who we are and work with people from other walks of live. It’s a melting pot for creativity. Employers like it too.   And it’s fun.
 
  • We live in various places across the UK- a reflection of the communities we work with.  This, and the fact that we have a virtual HQ, makes it easy to be part of the team irrespective of where you’re based. 
 
  • We all love a cappella and the opportunity to help share the artform more widely, grow a cappella singers across the UK and recruit more singers to join the fun.  Pretty simple really.

 

We think we come together very nicely, indeed. A ‘one team, one dream’ kind of place.  But there’s definitely room on this dream team for more ideas and action. 

 

Does that whet your appetite? Get in touch and tell us about who you are at your best!

 

1) Check out the three role profiles:

VoiceFestivalUK-YouthProgrammeManager,

VF-UKUniversityProgrammeManager-advert-1

VoiceFestivalUK-DigitalMediaOfficer

If these strike a chord, then write to us at voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk and tell us why you are interested and why you would be a good fit for the role profile. We don’t need you to complete an application form, but sending a CV is also helpful- it give us some more colour as to who you are. 

 

2) Or maybe you’ve looked and you don’t see anything to suit your best self.   Never worry. There are many other opportunities for digi-sorts, event types, creative folks, social leaders, producers, storytellers and grafters etc.  Get in touch and tell us a little more about your best-self.  

 

If interested, please reply to voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk by midnight on Friday 16 August!  We’ll then be in touch with next steps. 

 

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

x The Voice Festival Team

 

 


Man Band – Let’s Get Guys Singing!

Here’s a story that will warm the soul – one man’s bold and inspiring vision for boosting a cappella singing inside and outside of the classroom. Drop us a line if you have stories to share of how a cappella is growing in your schools and communities.

 In September 2011 I joined The Queen Katherine School in Kendal as a teacher of music and then was fortunate to become Head of Department in September 2012. One of my aims for the department was to develop the extra curricular programme and try and encourage more lads to get involved with singing. The department already had a strong singing culture but there was a lack of guys singing in the choirs on offer.

I already had a strong interest in a cappella singing; I had been fortunate enough to see the Swingle Singers and The Real Group in concert and had attended a workshop with the Swingle Singers. I am also a big fan of American male a cappella group Straight No Chaser. Therefore, I planned to start a new group in September 2012 that would be a male a cappella group. As for a name, the only thing that I could think of was Man Band! I did envisage this name to be changed by the lads in the future but it seems as if the name has been a hit and it has stuck!

I started by bringing the ‘classics’ to rehearsals; Lion Sleeps Tonight, In The Still of the Night etc. Things were going well but there wasn’t really a spark or buzz that I wanted. I then decided to scrap these songs and start making my own arrangements. The charts that I had been bringing were quite challenging and I had brought with me a lot of sheet music that I had bought. However, over half the lads involved can’t actually read music all too well and so sheet music actually became an obstacle. Also, I wanted the lads to get their heads out of the music in front of them and perform and focus on listening to what they are producing rather than seeing if they are singing the correct note on paper. Therefore, I started with an arrangement of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. As I had to take into account that more than half of the group could not read music too well, I had to make the parts accessible for all, challenging for those more accomplished singers and yet at the same time, when put together, sound like the entire piece was the most complicated and refined a cappella piece of music there was! As soon as I brought this song to the group and as the lads began learning the individual parts, the buzz that I wanted grew and suddenly it clicked. Soon enough the lads were performing in their first concert in October and they were a hit!

Moving on from this first performance we have now worked on arrangements of Fix You by Coldplay and a mash up of Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars and Stand By Me by Ben E. King. As always, the arrangements are ones that I create with the lads in mind; in effect, the music we sing is differentiated for all abilities in the group! We have performed in all school music concerts and have performed on two occasions for the Kendal Town Mayor. We are booked for another Mayor’s event in July and we are also planning a flash mob at our local shopping centre. I am working on two new arrangements, Wonderwall by Oasis and I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc. I am also now using software like Sibelius when writing these arrangements so that in rehearsals, using a projector and speaker the lads can sing along with their part and the more advanced musicians can actually read the music.

Man Band has been a real success and a tad selfishly, a dream come true for me. We now have 26 lads in the group, three members of staff and even the head teacher who comes down every now and then. I am fortunate to have Kevin Bell (a DT teacher and member of Man Band) who manages publicity and bookings and having this manager and director ‘kind-of’ system gives the group a little more professional feeling, which the lads like as it makes the group feel more than just a ‘school group’.

What is next for Man Band? Well, the lads can now sing together and they can sing well with expression. It is now about turning the group into a visual delight as well as auditory delight! We do a lot of standing and clicking at the moment and so some movements are planned for next year. Kevin Bell is going to help the band get involved in more performances and a cappella festivals and we are hopefully going to simply spread the name of Man Band.

My overall goal is to make singing fun, engaging and accessible to all. I knew this group was a success when in one of my year 9 music lessons when doing arrangements of the Alton Towers Theme Tune, one of the Man Band members rallied up a group of his friends to create an a cappella arrangement. Yes it was a little silly and rough around the edges, but I could not believe my eyes to see a group of lads who had nothing really to do with singing, trying to create bass lines, drum parts, pitch correctly and sing in front of their class! If this is what comes from Man Band then I am happy!

 

Rob Shillitoe Head of Music The Queen Katherine School


Meet Vive: Voice Festival UK University Champions 2013

UK Voice Festival champions 2013- ViceIt has only been a week since Vive’s crowning as ‘VF-UK University Champions 2013’, and it has changed our lives.

Looking back to where we began in the basements of Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I am proud to be honouring this title with five of the most talented and amicable people I know. In every rehearsal, we always try to push ourselves and cross the comfort line, for better or worse. Our musical ambitions and messages are very personal: we write and sing about motivation, self-acceptance and perseverance, and we use a cappella as our platform to deliver it. Winning has brought us an incredible accolade and we wear it humbly.

Our next steps on the path include recording a second CD, gigging around the UK and touring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. However, above all, I think that we all share a drive to want to change people’s perspectives of what a cappella can be; something that touches people through the evocation of different colours and emotions in the listener, and where the musicality is sovereign. The future is open to us and we hope to keep singing together and writing music that explores new frontiers and that takes a cappella to new audiences.


Why we loved the opportunity to ‘Take the Stage’ – by The Gist

Image of all singing participants who took part in Take the Stage

Credit: Haydn Wheeler and LACF

 

Lancaster Barbershop Quartet, The Gist, are one of many youth a cappella groups who took part in ‘Take the Stage’ – a day of a cappella learning and performing which was organised by the Voice Festival UK and the London A Cappella Festival.  Here’s what The Gist had to say about it:

The Gist had looked forward to the London A Cappella Festival for a long time. We arrived at King’s Place in London on Friday morning having arrived in London from Lancaster the previous night. We received a warm welcome from the team, and we followed the other school groups into the first rehearsal room. Within minutes any nerves we had were lost, and we were all very excited to see what the day would bring. We started with big group warm up with the Swingle Singers and the five other school age a cappella groups. This proved to be very entertaining and a great way to break the ice. We were then split up into  groups, with two professional singers per two groups, for the rest of the morning. We were taken by Oli from the Swingle Singers and Tine from Postyr. They certainly put us through our paces! We were given a great deal of advice, guidance and different ways of singing together as a group, including many novel techniques we had never attempted before. We have benefited hugely from all their suggestions and they helped us to improve as individual singers and as a group. The day culminated in an afternoon performance where we could see the other groups involved. We also sang together with all the other school groups and the Swingle Singers themselves in a performance of ‘Lady Madonna’, which was a fantastic experience.

The ‘Take the Stage’ workshop provided us with unprecedented exposure to a wealth of knowledge of a cappella music, an incredible opportunity for which we will always be hugely grateful.

Thanks to The Gist! 

To find out about other opportunities for school age a cappella singers, please contact alexandra@thevoicefestival.co.uk


Voice Festival UK recording partnership with Liquid 5th

Liquid 5th ProductionsThe Voice Festival UK are thrilled to announce that for our 2013 season we will be working in partnership with Liquid 5th, who have generously offered to record, mix and master a free single for the three winning groups from the Voice Festival’s Youth, University and Community competitions!

Liquid 5th, based in the US, provide a cappella services of all kinds – recording, production, editing, mixing and mastering, as well as live sound, arranging and coaching. Like the Voice Festival UK, they recognise and understand the multiple ways in which a cappella singers need support to develop, and we are delighted to be working with them this year.


Launch of the Voice Collection

Today sees the launch of The Voice Collection 2013 – the UK’s first a cappella compilation album. This is a project that has been in the VF-UK pipeline for a while now, and we are very excited that it has finally really happened!

We’ve always been extremely proud of the fantastic quality and diversity of the UK contemporary a cappella scene, and we felt that it was about time that this was captured on an album for listeners all over the UK and beyond to enjoy.

The Voice Collection 2013 features a mixture of professional, university and community acts performing everything from traditional barbershop and jazz standards to pop, rock, r&b and dubstep. As if that isn’t enough we’ve even included some original compositions, solo looping and some live beatbox improvisations for your listening pleasure!

The album provides a ground-breaking opportunity for UK groups to showcase their music, for newcomers to the art form to be inspired by the a cappella versatility, and for singers and listeners to discover a whole host of exciting new groups and genres.

All profits from the sale of The Voice Collection 2013 go towards funding studio time for groups who haven’t had the opportunity to record before.

And if you like what you hear you can catch most of the featured groups during the Voice Festival competition season in February to March this year – watch this space for more details!

Huge congratulations to the university and community groups who fought off tough competition to earn their spot on the album, thank you to the Voice Festival’s patrons for taking on the unenviable task of selecting the tracks so brilliantly, and huge thanks to all the professional and non-professional groups who donated their tracks to the album for such a good cause!

 

The Voice Collection 2013 launch: 

Friday 25th January 2013,  7.55-9.00pm,  at Kings Place, London as part of the London A Cappella Festival

Grab a drink from the bar and enjoy performances from four of the featured groups to celebrate the launch of The Voice Collection 2013.

See you there?