Meet our 2015 Youth Competition Champions, The Dreamettes

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.

IMG-20150411-WA0007The 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.


Goodbye Mabel – we wish you well!

We’ve recently said farewell to one of our star volunteers, Mabel, who has been Regional Event Manager for the last year for the Voice Festival. 

Some people don’t need very long to make an impact. Mabel is one of them. Only with us for a short time, Mabel’s supportive and friendly nature certainly made its mark on the team, and we wish her well as she returns to Singapore. 

Mabel joined the team in October 2014 in the midst of moving from her undergraduate life in Newcastle to the world of a Masters student in London.  

She said that, ‘the Voice Festival had provided her with the idea and inspiration to start an a cappella society at Newcastle University (team blush) and so I wanted to get involved with the team and support other groups’.

Thoughtful and thorough from the beginning, Mabel quickly became a treasured member of the team. Regional events involve a lot of logistics and a lot of problem solving, as well as much fun along the way. Mabel got stuck in from the start. With her supreme organisational skills she made it possible to bring the Voice Festival to Glasgow for the first time. She was always on hand at the Festival weekend, and willing to do whatever it would take so our singers could have a great time. 

Mabel – we thank you so much for giving us your time, organisation skills, and for being an all round star. For any groups planning a tour to Asia, Mabel has already offered up her help (so drop us an email if you’d like us to put you in touch!).  

The Voice Festival team is excited to see what happens to a cappella in Singapore now that Mabel has arrived and hope she will come back to see us again soon! 

If you would like to volunteer for our team and support the growing UK a cappella scene, contact us now at voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk. We would love to chat with you, hear your ideas, and welcome you to the team.


The University of Exeter’s Semi-Toned – VF-UK University Champions 2015

Semi-Toned 2015Semi-Toned have been involved with the Voice Festival UK since before I even went to university. In 2012, the group, barely eighteen months old, entered the South West regional of the competition in Bristol. Although they made a strong impression, taking home the awards for outstanding arrangement and vocal percussion, they lost out on a place in the final to Bristol’s HotTUBBS, a group Semi-Toned would not cross paths with again until 2015’s Voice Festival weekend. The following year—my first at university—the South West regional competition was held in Exeter. By then we had abandoned our barbershop roots and performed a much more contemporary set, consisting of Cee Lo Green, Hard-Fi, Stevie Wonder and Muse. It was in this performance that the group first began to realise its potential, with judge and former Swingle Singer Tobias Hug offering strong words of encouragement. However, the confidence we had gained was soon washed away at the London final, where it became clear that we had a long way to go to catch up with the other, more established university groups. We left empty-handed, but excited to have ‘broken in’ to the university a cappella circuit, even if the best compliment we received was Dominic Peckham’s observation that our outfits matched the stage curtains.

In the summer of 2013, Semi-Toned headed to Edinburgh to put on our first ever Fringe show. We improved massively in preparation for this, and the work paid off—the show was a huge success, and by the time Voice Festival 2014 rolled around, we had established ourselves as a group to watch out for. This improvement was well-timed, as the Voice Festival’s decision to scrap the regional competitions in favour of a video submission-based system meant that all groups were competing with each other, across the nation. As you can imagine, whilst this was fairer, the standard necessary to be invited to the London semi-final was suddenly much higher. Thankfully, we made it through both the video round and the semi-final. At the final, we made a much stronger impression than the year before, largely due to the outlandish nature of our set—our mash-up of Olly Murs’ “Dear Darling” and Ylvis’ “The Fox” certainly managed to a raise a few eyebrows, as well as our Tolkien-tinged version of John Newman’s “Cheating”. We managed to snatch two awards—including “Best Soloist” for the irreplaceable Michael Luya—but lost out on the ultimate prize to the professionalism and charm of Oxford’s Out of the Blue, whose stunning rendition of “The Sound of Silence” meant they became the first group to win the competition twice.

Having felt that we were so close to winning, it would be a lie to say we were not disappointed that day. It was becoming clear that the standard of UK collegiate a cappella was improving exponentially, and we certainly felt the pressure to get ourselves ahead of the curve in preparation for our second Edinburgh Fringe show that summer. Despite any internal doubts we had, the group managed to pull it off, and “Toned Up!” managed to cinch a Bobby Award, one of only a handful given out that year by review company Broadway Baby. This perfect end to the academic year was slightly foreboding for me, as I had just been elected as Semi-Toned’s first official musical director (the group had run itself somewhat anarchically since the departure of founding father and eternal president Eddie Henley). I knew when the 2014/2015 year began that the only way the group could outdo itself again was to win the Voice Festival.

This was also the year that the group underwent its most significant re-shuffle in terms of membership. With five new faces in a twelve-man group, first term was largely spent frantically learning repertoire to quickly crank the group up to the standard we were used to. I can’t praise our new members enough for the diligence and raw talent they displayed in the early weeks of this year, performing music at multiple large gigs which they had barely gotten a chance to learn. The upside of all this raw focus, of course, was that, even though almost half the group had changed since Edinburgh, Semi-Toned were back on form very quickly, and earned an excruciatingly close second place at the ICCA’s first British regional in January 2015. Our friends in All the King’s Men took the prize, and as they performed their victory song we began to set our sights on the only goal we had left—Voice Festival 2015.

As usual, our preparation was anything but structured. Having customised our ICCA set for a microphone-based performance, we knew we could not simply touch it up and take it to Birmingham in April for VF-UK. But the problem with knowing that you need new repertoire is that you have to actually write new repertoire—and waves of inspiration are few and far between. Thankfully, we already had a fantastic number arranged by Eddie Henley, an aggressive mash-up of “No Church in the Wild” and the theme from Game of Thrones which featured in our 2014 Edinburgh show. Newbie tenor Ted Bartram took on the seemingly impossible task of replacing Adam Carpenter in this song, and gave the solo an icy, characterful flavour that we knew was sure to impress.

Michael Luya Semi-TonedOur two other semi-final pieces turned up as and when we needed them, which is always the way. My mash-up of “Uptown Funk” and Flo Rida’s “Low” (“Lowtown Funk”, geddit?) meant we had the comic element we always strive for, and Rob Cross, who had previously only dabbled in arranging, surprised us all by turning up with a stunning arrangement of Regina Spektor’s “Samson”, meaning we had the Luya-bomb primed and ready to drop. However, we still had a big, gaping, four-minute hole that needed filling in case we got through to the final and had to perform for twelve minutes instead of eight. We began to wonder what old song we could slot in there—perhaps Mulan’s “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” would do it, or even Meat Loaf’s “Dead Ringer for Love” which went down so well in Edinburgh?

But then a thought struck me—in our Edinburgh show, a number that really pleased the audience was our rendition of “Cry me a River”, which replaced Justin Timberlake’s famous falsetto with a trio of basses. The general lack of solos for those of us blessed (or cursed) with lower voices was something I wanted to exploit again, and a few days later I had arranged a version of the famous bass solo “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, mixed up with Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl”. We decided to take a risk and make this song our ‘secret weapon’, opting not to perform it in the semi-final and just pray we got through to the final. We soon began to regret this when we saw the standard of the competition in the semi-final—every single group performed better than we had ever seen them perform. How on earth the judges managed to whittle the twelve competitors down to just five finalists is beyond me. We particularly enjoyed the other four groups at the festival representing the South West—our old friends from Bath Aquapella were classy as ever; the Bristol Suspensions had come on leaps and bounds since we first met them back in October; our female counterparts the Sweet Nothings absolutely raised the roof with their version of “Midnight Caller”; and we finally got to see the HotTUBBS perform again—their instruction “Don’t forget the Mexican spices” has quickly become something of an anthem for us.

Semi-Toned 2015If we thought the semi-finals were tough, the finals were on a different league altogether. Every year the Voice Festival UK gets better, but in 2015 the standard was unreal. At one point, when the judges were about to announce the over-all winner, I reassured my friend Tommy that any single one of the groups deserved to win, and that we should not be ashamed to be a runner-up amongst such stellar competition. When the judges announced that we had won, the room exploded—I honestly can’t remember much about what happened next, except that we performed “Rich Man” one more time, at a tempo that, as musical director and as the song’s soloist, I would definitely call ‘uncomfortable’. Nonetheless, it was the perfect end to a perfect weekend, and the next day, bleary-eyed and still not quite believing we’d finally done it, we headed down to Heathrow to begin our first ever international tour to the east coast of the USA.

Thanks to Edward Scott of Semi-Toned for contributing this guest post.


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)


Semi-Toned are University Champions for 2015

Everyone who attended the University Final this evening was bowled over by the incredible talent of our participants. We’re so proud to be part of a truly inspiration network of talented, supportive and creative individuals! With that in mind, we’re delighted to announce that not only were Semi-Toned crowned the University Champions for 2015, but Choral Stimulation were chosen to receive the Ward Swingle award for originality – a prize that is awarded rarely and that has taken on renewed significance now that Ward Swingle has sadly passed away.

Check out all the other awards that were given out during the competition, and come back here soon to read interviews with the winners, see pictures, and more.


The Dreamettes – winners of the VF-UK 2015 Youth Competition!

Congratulations to The Dreamettes of Putney High School, who have just won our Youth Competition at Birmingham Conservatoire! The standard was unbelievably high this year and we don’t envy our judges having to pick a winner. A big well done to all who took part.

Have a watch of The Dreamettes’ fantastic versions of ‘Some Nights’ and ‘Pompeii’ and check back here soon for an interview with the winning group.


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

Meet the Judges (Community Final 2015)

SARA COLMAN

Sara ColmanWriting music has always been central to Sara Colman. Across all three of her albums, original music has been a consistent theme. During 2010-11 whilst studying for an MA in Songwriting, Sara collaborated with her brothers Mat and Andrew on Sem Amor and Some Other Wonder for the eponymous Colman Brothers album.

She also co-wrote the track Stay for Karen Street’s album Another Story. ‘After growing up in Bristol I studied piano at Birmingham Conservatoire and gained a solid grounding in theory and harmony. I then spent several years working in a duo with the fine pianist Al Gurr and together we gradually undid a lot of our classical training to make way for the jazz music we had both fallen in love with. Gradually the duo expanded and I enjoyed the spontaneity and creativity of working with improvising musicians.’

Sara has also completed several commissions for larger vocal groups: Seven Songs for Seven Colours for Black Voices, as well as Celebrate and Amen for choral projects presented at Lichfield Cathedral and Birmingham Town Hall.

Sara was a recipient of an inaugural Birmingham Jazz award, a Jerwood Rising Star at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and one of 10 finalists from 15,000 entries in the BBC Radio 2 songwriting competition ‘Sold on Song’. She was also Kevin Mahogany’s chosen artist in the Jazz Connect Vocal competition in the US.

DOMINIC PECKHAM

DP-tutor-photo imageDominic Peckham is regarded as one of the UK’s finest young and dynamic orchestral and choral conductors. Hailed as ‘one of the most exciting conductors of his generation’, Peckham has been commended at home and abroad for his ‘freshness and vitality’, directing both orchestras and choirs whilst delivering ‘gutsy, raw and exciting performances’. A conductor of immense energy and focus, Peckham is renowned for his dedication to the Renaissance and Baroque era, whilst also passionate about the delivery of new works and inspirational collaborations.

Peckham has been commended by reviewers as ‘a lithe and modern Handelian…’ and ‘a latent star…’. He has worked with orchestras including BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, The London Mozart Players, The British Federation of Youth Orchestras, Scottish Opera and has marked his debut at The Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Usher Hall, Bridgewater Hall and Wigmore Hall. In addition, he has prepared performances for contemporary conductors Stephane Deneve, Richard Hickox OBE, Bernard Labadie, Edward Gardner, Simon Halsey, David Hill, Christopher Bell, Vassily Sinaisky, Sir David Willcocks, Lorin Maazel, Stefan Bevier and John Rutter.

In 2014, Peckham was invited to be Guest Chorus Master at English National Opera and worked on the highly acclaimed world première of ‘Thebans’ by Julian Anderson for the company in their 2013/14 season. The production received fantastic reviews and critics praised Peckham and the chorus for ‘their immense levels of intensity’. In autumn 2014, Peckham returned to the London Coliseum for productions of ‘Xerxes’ and ‘The Girl of the Golden West, working with leading lights such as Nicholas Hytner, Keri-Lynn Wilson and Michael Hofstetter.

In addition to his Musical Directorship at The London Oriana Choir, Peckham holds an impressive array of posts including Artistic Director of The Royal Opera House’s ‘RM19’ Youth Chorus, Assistant Music Director of The National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (with whom he conducted a critically acclaimed recording of Benjamin Britten’s Choral and Organ works), Artistic Director and Founder of iSingUK, Artistic Director of The Fourth Choir, Director of The Ulster Youth Training Choir and Guest Conductor for Aldeburgh Music, for whom he recently premièred their ‘Friday Afternoons’ commissions with the Jubilee Opera Chorus.

Always keen to promote and support new music, Peckham has comissioned many new composers and conducted an array world premieres, notably Oliver Searle’s ‘Pride, Poverty and Pianos’ for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Tpby Young’s ‘Love and Harmony’ for The London Mozart Players. As a talented composer and arranger himself, Peckham’s most recent premières include works with The National Youth Jazz Collective and The National Choirs of Great Britain at the Barbican. Dominic was Chair of the judging panel for The 2014 British Composer of the Year Choral Category.

CLARE WHEELER

Clare WheelerClare grew up in Kenya before moving to Manchester to attend Chethams School of Music, where she trained as a classical violinist and also studied classical voice. During this time she met bassist Steve Berry of Loose Tubes, and started getting into jazz. She followed on to Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London to study composition and voice on the jazz course under Lee Gibson, Pete Churchill and Tim Garland, as well as classical singing with Penny Mackay. Clare freelanced in London as a jazz singer, composer and arranger, and taught Music Theory and Harmony at the Academy of Contemporary Music, before joining the internationally renowned Swingle Singers in the summer of 2007. Although the group takes her abroad for much of the year, she still writes prolifically for her own ensembles.


Meet the Judges (University Semi-Finals 2015)

Sheona Urquhart

SheonaSheona Urquhart has enjoyed many various facets of the Entertainment industry. After graduating from Victorian College of the Arts, Sheona traveled the world as a singer onboard P&O and Princess Cruise ships. After deciding to return to solid ground, she then tried her hand at television, landing herself a role on Neighbours as Candace Carey. Sheona has also written and performed in the live and online comedy duo hit TV Live On Stage. Boasting over 340,000 Youtube views and two sell-out seasons of their live show, TV Live on Stage showcased Sheona’s natural knack for comedy, characterization and writing music parodies.
From 2010-2014, Sheona was founding member of Australia’s sensational pop a cappella group Ginger and Tonic. Sheona was also the choreographer and occasional music arranger for the group. After debuting on Australia’s Got Talent, Ginger and Tonic has since performed all over Australia, earning various a cappella awards. The group’s first album ‘Shake It!’ was released in 2011, just before the group’s tour to Germany, representing Australia in the International A Cappella Competition in Leipzig. Ginger and Tonic has featured at many festivals including Queenscliffe Music Festival, Midsumma, Port Fairy Folk Festival and Adelaide Fringe festival, where their show ’50 Shades of Gay’ was awarded Best Music by the Adelaide Advertiser. Ginger and Tonic will be releasing their second album in 2015.
Sheona has recently relocated to London, where she works a session vocalist, providing backing vocals and arrangements for various commercial artists, as well as test driving new Musical Theatre soundtracks. She is absolutely thrilled to play a part in this year’s Voice Festival.

James Davey

James DaveyJames 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 FreemantleMedia.

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.

Willy Eteson

Willy EtesonRichard 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 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 Terme di Caracalle, Rome.

He sings with many of London’s finest vocal groups (The Gabrieli Consort, Tenebrae, Polyphony, Opus Anglicanum, Tonus Peregrinus, The Brabant Ensemble, The Eric Whitacre Singers, Heritage Voices, Philharmonia Voices and London Voices), and is regularly in demand as a soloist of oratorio.

The many varied projects he has been involved in have seen him work with artists such as Luciano Berio, Zubin Mehta, Jarvis Cocker, Scott Walker, Frank Zappa and Goldie. He has made over 50 CD recordings and sung on numerous blockbuster movie soundtracks, flashmobs & adverts. He also has sleeve credits for dog whistling, playing coconut shells and the Good Friday Clacker.

Richard is an avid supporter of a cappella, being a co-founder of the London A Cappella Festival in his final year in the Swingle Singers in 2010, and appears frequently as an adjudicator of singing competitions in schools in the UK and as a coach for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.


Out of the Blue – 2014 University Champions

Now that we’ve all had a chance to recover from the buzz of the Festival Weekend, 2nd-time University Champions Out of the Blue have taken the time to reflect on their success, as well as the Festival Weekend in general…

Out of the BlueWinning the Voice Festival University Competition was undoubtedly the most exhilarating feeling of the year so far! The fresh group – containing eleven new members – got off to a flying start in October and grew in confidence and togetherness in the December UK Tour. Our second term until the Festival Weekend, however, had been one of high stress and intensity, with seemingly little gain due to a frustratingly small amount of performance opportunities compared to the previous term. The competition provided a much-needed goal towards which the group could work, and the members bonded through a great deal of blood, sweat and tears (especially sweat in choreography rehearsals!) to come to the Festival Weekend in high spirits.

The weekend itself was a fantastic opportunity for the group to spend time together away from the pressures of usual Oxford term-time life and also to socialise with other university groups. This meant that, by the time we arrived backstage immediately before our Final performance, we all felt a unified collective buzz and a complete confidence in one another. That was perhaps the most exciting thing – looking around at each member before the performance, and knowing we had a really good chance of winning. 

Not even that inner trust could have prepared us for the feeling when our name was announced as the winner, and for the special awards we received on top of that. All of intense work we had put in that term was now worth it and we returned to Oxford with a new drive to continue working and succeeding. Off the back of this achievement, we are thoroughly excited to take what we have learnt from the Voice Festival experience away with us on our Easter tour to California, and also on our month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August!