A message from the Voice Festival Directors

Dear friends,

We are writing to share some news with you from Voice Festival HQ.

After ten glorious years of Voice Festival Weekends, we have decided that we are going to take the charity in a different direction from this season onwards.

We are currently doing a lot of strategic thinking about what the future of the charity is going to look like, and will be sharing news about that as soon as we can, but in the short-term, as many of you are likely planning your year ahead, we wanted to let you know that there will not be a Festival Weekend or competition in 2019. As for what else will be happening – watch this space.
 
In the mean time we have an exciting invitation for you.
 
We are offering groups, institutions or individuals, the opportunity to bid for up to £500 of funding for an a cappella project of your choice. The only stipulations are that it must meet one or more of the Voice Festival UK’s charitable aims:

1. Recruiting and supporting new participants: fostering the development of new school, university and community singers and groups

2. Developing new audiences: providing opportunities for new a cappella audiences to learn about and experience the art form

3. Supporting and educating existing participants: providing performance, competition, workshop, masterclass and networking opportunities for a cappella singers

4. Building UK A Cappella Communities: creating opportunities for new and existing a cappella singers to meet, collaborate, and share ideas

To apply, please submit a project proposal of up to 500 words outlining:

 

* Your objectives

* Who is involved, and their roles

* What you would plan to do and how it meets one of more of VF’s aims

* How you would measure your success

* Your timeframe

* Your budget, including specifying if the project were to be solely funded by VF, or whether other sources of funding were being sought

Projects can take place at any point during 2019. Deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 14th December, and you will be informed early in 2019 if you have been successful.

We hope that everything is going well for you, and look forward to staying in touch with more of our news in the coming months.

In the mean time, have you checked out the resources on our website and YouTube channel? There’s plenty of inspiration there, from videos of past Voice Festival performances and collaborative projects to ‘how to’ guides, tips and hints for how to take your group to the next level.

And finally, have you got your tickets for Club A Cappella in London on 27th November, and LACF in January? Maybe we’ll see you there!

 
With best wishes,

Alexandra, Cherith and Simon

Voice Festival Director team


Voice Festival Weekend 2018 groups announced!

 

It’s that time of year again!

This year, VF-UK are headed up to the University of Birmingham for our annual Festival Weekend, being held this year on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th April 2018. We loved it back in 2015, and we can’t wait to be back again.

Our wonderful judges have spent the last few weeks deliberating and viewing entrants’ audition videos, and we are pleased to announce the groups who will be competing at this year’s Festival Weekend.

We’re pleased to announce that the groups through to our Youth Final on Saturday 14th April are…
From Coombe Boys School
Vox
From King’s Ely
The Kings Barbers
From Putney High School
License to Trill
Polyphonics
The Rolling Tones

And finally, the University groups through to our semi finals on Friday 13th April are…
Semi Final I:
From the University of Nottingham
Aca-Pocalypse
From the University of Manchester
Fantastic Beats and Where To Find Them 
From the University of Edinburgh
Licence to Trill
Tone Up
From University of Bristol
Pitch Fight
From University of Leeds
The Cosmopolitones 

Semi final II:
From University of Bristol
Academy A Cappella
From University of Bath
Aquapella
From Cardiff University
Decibelles
From University of Nottingham
RadioOctave
From University of Oxford
The Oxford Commas

Congratulations to all of our groups!
 
Tickets are on sale RIGHT NOW, and you can grab yours by clicking this link – if you buy before 1st April, you can benefit from a special Earlybird discount too!

See you all there!


And the University Finalists are…

‘Groups absolutely blew us away with their energy. It was fantastic.’ – Jo Marshall

Just a quick blog post from us this evening to let all you aca fans out there know that the five university groups performing in the final tomorrow will be:

– Sweet Nothings
– The Rolling Tones
– In The Pink
– The Songsmiths
– Tone Up

There were also certificates awarded in several categories:
– Outstanding Soloist: Beth Chalmers of the Sweet Nothings for ‘Chandelier’
– Outstanding Arrangement: David Culpin, friend of RadioOctave, for ‘Space Oddity’
– Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Josceline Edwards of The Rolling Tones

Congratulations to everyone that competed, with a special thanks to Zara Tso, Leo Diebel, Jack Remmington and Joel Fishel for their fabulous MCing and performances.

Tickets have come back on sale on our website and will be available to purchase until 9am on 22nd April. All remaining tickets will be available on the door on a first-come, first-served basis.


Earlybird tickets released for our Festival Weekend

For the second year in a row, our annual Festival Weekend will be taking place at the beautiful Hammond Theatre at Hampton School, West London, on the 21st and 22nd April 2017.

The Festival Weekend is undoubtedly the highlight of The Voice Festival’s calendar. The weekend, which includes our annual championships, brings together hundreds of participants and audience members in a celebration of singing and creativity. While it’s too late to apply to compete this year, members of the public can still get involved in other ways. Read on to find out how!
 

1) Cheer on your favourite group as it competes to become VF-UK champion

We have three separate competition categories – Youth, University, and Community. You can purchase tickets to each individual final – get yours here, from £12 (get 25% off before 7 April).
 

2) Rub shoulders with fellow singers and attend our series of workshops and forums across the weekend

Throughout the weekend, internationally renowned a cappella professionals will lead a series of workshops on improvisation, beatboxing, vocal health, dancing, recording, and more. These workshops are open for everyone to attend – purchase your Weekend Pass to join us in the workshops, and gain access to all the competition finals too, from £39 (get 25% off before 7 April).
 

3) Join the conversation on social media

Can’t be there on the weekend? We’ll be sad to miss you, but we’ll be sharing all the best bits of the weekend on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as live-streaming the results announcements on Facebook Live, so you don’t get that FOMO feeling. Got something to say? Use the hashtag #VFUK2017.
 
We’re looking forward to welcoming you to West London in just 6 weeks!


Merry Christmas Everyone! A Run Down of Our Favourite Festive A Cappella

As much as we love a good Christmas tune, there’s only so much Wham! we can take… so it’s always really exciting when a cappella groups embrace the festive spirit and put a new and unique spin on a well-known seasonal song.

This year especially, groups have been pulling out all the stops to produce brilliant sounding, visually stunning performances of classic songs, so we thought the time was ripe to share with you some of our favourite offerings. Why don’t you hit us up on Facebook or Twitter and tell us some of yours?

Beatvox – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I love this catchy and original reinvention of a classic carol and the fact that it features Voice Festival participants and professionals working together – it sums up everything that is great about the UK a cappella scene! – Alex

The Bristol Suspensions – Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin’ Stevens)

It’s great to see last year’s VF-UK University Champions in their element and having kept their uniquely fun spirit despite the loss of some incredible members. The combination of the arrangement and one of the cutest videos of 2016 means you can’t help but feel warm, fuzzy and festive! – Houmaa

Eclipse 6 – Hamildolph (An American Christmas Story)

If a cappella is my number one love, then musical theatre is my second – Hamilton being my one of favourite shows. Mash up a cappella, Hamilton and Christmas, and I’m a very happy gal! One of the things I love most about a cappella is that it gives you an outlet to defy the norm in a way that other art forms don’t allow. The costumes are amazing here, and everything has been executed with such care and skill that you can’t help but smile! – Jess

Pentatonix – Mary, Did You Know? (Michael English)

I love this song from a group that truly have taken a cappella into the mainstream. This comes from a fantastic Christmas album, and I love this particular track because it is more stripped back than some of their other offerings. I hope this album inspires more groups to start up, and existing groups to try something out of their comfort zone. – Catherine

AfterParty – Last Christmas (Wham!)

I like this cover because the video is well thought-out and has a story to it that keeps you interested. I think it’s great when a group uses video to do something more than they could do with an audio recording and I think this one demonstrates that well! – Simon


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


#VFUK2016 DAY 2

We want to start our Day 2 blog post with possibly the loveliest image of the weekend so far, which is just a great indication of the way our groups support and encourage each other, even in the face of formidable competition.

We had a load of great stuff going on during the day – Andrew Panton had singers up on their feet working on choreography, Tobias Hug and Grace Savage shared their unique vocal percussion sounds with groups of all ages, and some lucky participants appeared onscreen in a music video that will be coming soon to our YouTube channel! Meanwhile singers had the benefit of Russell Scott’s expertise in performance, and we held some useful round table discussions on the challenges of being an MD and the highs and lows of taking a group to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

So, to the news we know you’ve al been waiting for.

The Youth champions, for the second time since the Youth Competition began, are the Tiffinians!

Special prizes were awarded to:
Annabelle Brooks of Grace Notes for Outstanding Soloist with ‘Feeling Good’
Grace Notes for Outstanding Performance
The Tiffinians for Outstanding Arrangement with ‘Sunny Afternoon’
License to Trill for Outstanding Choreography

And – the University champions 2016 are the Bristol Suspensions!

The standard was ridiculously high and the judges couldn’t help but give out not one, not two, but FIVE special awards to commend the amazing talent of our groups.
Aquapella for Outstanding Musicality
Bristol Suspensions for Outstanding Choreography
Alex from Cadenza for Outstanding Arrangement with ‘Hide and Seek’
Ben Drinkwater from the Songsmiths for Best Soloist with ‘Hello’
Scott from Bristol Suspensions for Best Vocal Percussionist


#vfuk2016 Day 1

Well, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for our University singers today. We saw an extraordinary range of music, from songs in a foreign language (Tous les Memes by Stromae) to some killer versions of Adele’s Hello.

We didn’t envy the job of our judges, Yvette, Paul and Richard, who had to pick only five of the twelve groups to proceed to tomorrow’s final. Congratulations to

The Bristol Suspensions
The Songsmiths
Cadenza
Aquapella
The Rolling Tones

who succeeded in impressing the judges and will be battling it out to become the next University champions!

Special awards also went to:

The Songsmiths for Outstanding Overall Performance
Cadenza for Outstanding Musicality with their performance of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’
Zara Tso from The Rolling Tones for Outstanding Individual (a brand new award for this year!)

For those that have been asking – we don’t have many tickets left for the University Final, but the limited few available will go on sale at Box Office tomorrow at 10am.

To celebrate the success of all our singers (who totally did themselves proud today, no matter the result), we’re wrapping up the evening with the ‘Acachallenge’. It’s traditionally lead by our very own Michael Humphrey but he’s disappeared to the Caribbean this year (huff) so the wonderful Ed Scott is taking up the mantle and leading our singers through a well-deserved relaxed singing and dancing sesh!


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

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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

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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

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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

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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.