Michael Humphrey at Take the Stage 2016

This blog post originally appeared on MDHmusic on February 12 2016, and was reprinted with permission.

Michael Humphrey at Take the StageThe Voice Festival UK‘s Youth co-ordinator Amy set up this year’s Take the Stage, where schools could come to King’s Place in London, home of the London A Cappella Festival, to participate in a day of a cappella workshopping, arranging and performing. I had a great time working on some musicianship things and a mass performance with this incredibly able group of students from a mix of state and private schools.

We also had the privilege of hearing (they were impressive, as ever), being critiqued by (they were impressed) and even jamming with The Swingles. When we performed our arrangement of Walk the Earth’s Shut Up and Dance With Me we inserted an improvisation section to be kicked off by The Swingles. We ambitiously decided that it would last for as many bars as felt right in the moment, and wow, it was incredible – layers of sound reacting and interacting, finding a gentle zone then building and building filling the room with harmonious sound.

Michael Humphrey at Take the Stage 2016Thanks to the Voice Festival for organising, to LACF and The Swingles, especially Sara, Clare and Nick who stuck around to hear the schools perform and gave really thorough and practical feedback, and to the students and teachers at Halsted, Marist, Southband Intl and Boroughbridge – keep up the amazing work!

Michael grew up in Northern Ireland learning the bassoon and saxophone from teachers and tutors in the area before broadening out into piano lessons and self-taught guitar and singing. He studied at the University of Oxford where he enjoyed the extra-curricular life of orchestras, choirs, plays and open mics, and directed a cappella group Out of the Blue. After 2 years teacher training in Edinburgh he moved to London where he works as a successful freelance writer, arranger, director, producer, composer and performer.


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.


The Voice Collection II – apply now!

We’re really excited to announce that applications are now open for the follow-up to our first compilation album, The Voice Collection 2013! We’re thrilled to once again be showcasing the quality and breadth of contemporary a cappella art form in the UK in 2015 and beyond in an album that we hope will delight, entertain, and inspire future generations of singers.

Any a cappella group based in the United Kingdom, whether youth, university, community or professional, is welcome to submit up to two pre-mixed tracks for inclusion on our compilation album. The final listing will be selected by our stellar line-up of judges and announced in December.

The Voice Collection II is due for release in January, and will be mastered by a cappella experts Liquid 5th Productions. For general queries, or for assistance with your application, please email voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

HOW TO APPLY

1. Fill in our online Application Form (please read the Declaration carefully, and confirm)
2. Submit your chosen track(s) (max 2) in WAV and MP3 formats. Please upload these to Dropbox, WeTransfer or another file sharing solution of your choice and email voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk with the link to your track.
3. All application forms and tracks in the required format need to be received by Saturday 7th November at midnight. Any applications received after this time unfortunately cannot be considered for judging.
4. If your track is selected, you will be required to sign a release form giving us permission to use the track.

COSTS

There are no application costs involved, but successful groups will be required to purchase 15 CDs each for a total cost of £100, which they can sell on at a suggested price of £10 per CD at their own performances.

We look forward to hearing what you have to offer!


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.


WE’RE RECRUITING! Help us take UK a cappella to the next level…

Tobias beatboxing workshop 2We love welcoming new volunteers to the Voice Festival team. Having a dynamic, enthusiastic and dedicated team is critical to keeping our annual programme relevant and exciting year on year for the rapidly growing a cappella community in the UK.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that this Autumn we are recruiting for two new team members who can bring some new ideas to the table, help to lead a range of inclusive, educational and fun singing education programmes, and get on board with some of the exciting new projects we have in the pipeline for 2015-16.

There are two specific roles that we would like to fill. Read more about these roles – and learn a little more about the Voice Festival and the programmes we run – by downloading PDF files at the links below:

Community Programme Manager

University Programme Officer

If either of these take your fancy, then drop us an email at voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk telling us why you think you’re the perfect person for the role. These are voluntary, part-time, work-from-home positions and there’s no application form, but a CV would be useful in helping us to figure out who you are and what you do. You can also send any informal enquiries to the same address.

If you think you have something to offer that doesn’t quite fit into either of the roles listed above, do get in touch with us anyway. We’d love to welcome anyone into our fold who has the desire to inject passion, energy and innovative ideas into VF-UK’s programme.

Interested? Make sure you get in touch with us before midnight on Monday 31st August if you’d like to be considered for this opportunity. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


Ardú at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We’re sure you’ve seen a whole barrage of tweets, videos and pictures from last week’s enormously successful Edinburgh Fringe Festival a cappella showcase. Amongst our performing groups was Ardú, a 6-piece a cappella group hailing all the way from Ireland! Read on to find out more about the group and their experiences at the Fringe. Thanks to Leanne for writing this piece for us.Ardu Edinburgh

Let me introduce the group – I’m Leanne and I am a member of Ardú (Arr-doo). We are an Irish a cappella vocal ensemble with roots in classical choral singing.

The ‘a cappella’ genre is something we all individually have been interested in for a long time and so taking inspiration from groups like The Swingle Singers (or as they are now known The Swingles) and The King’s Singers, we formed our small ensemble of six singers. Although we are still actively involved on the classical choral scene, we are loving the challenge of ‘a cappella’ more and more with every rehearsal!

We were only at the Fringe Festival for one weekend only so we had quite a hectic schedule!First we performed a lunchtime recital at the gorgeous St. Giles’ Cathedral right in the heart of Edinburgh. We also took to the stage at St. Andrew’s Square where we sang a mix of our own arrangements of Clean Bandit’s song ‘Rather Be’, and our jazzy numbers of ‘Libertango’ and ‘Mack the Knife’. In between this, we were diligently rehearsing for and promoting our Pledge Music campaign for our upcoming debut album (phew!).

Taking part in the Voice Festival UK a cappella showcase was definitely the highlight of our weekend and we were delighted to be the only ‘international’ group in the line-up. We were so excited to perform alongside the amazing ensembles from the UK like Semi-Toned, The Sons of Pitches and Out of the Blue! One thing we took away from the experience was the sense of a strong a cappella community at the heart of the Voice Festival that we want to be a part of!Ardu

At the showcase, we performed two of our favourite songs. The first was ‘Under Pressure’, an arrangement of the well-known Queen classic, the lyrics of which were very apt for our first UK outing..! This is definitely our party piece and the audience really responded to the opening riff of ‘Dum-dum-dum-digga-dum-dum’ by our mega-bass Colm.

The second arrangement is rather special for us as it was written by our friend Ollie Lambert. Ollie is a young composer from Sussex and after hearing his awesome arrangement of ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson Five, we just knew we had to perform it in Edinburgh!

The melody is shared amongst the group with the solo line jumping from our lead tenor extraordinaire Ciarán, to the amazing mezzo Laura before finally giving me a chance to belt out the high notes. Our favourite moment in the arrangement is definitely the surprise change to ‘ABC’ (another Jackson Five hit!) towards the end. The whole texture of the piece suddenly becomes much more exposed and articulated before jumping right back into the lush harmonies of the chorus and ending on one last declaration of ‘I Want You Back’. Luckily for us, Ollie came along with us to Edinburgh and having the opportunity to premiere his piece in front of the Voice Festival UK audience was simply amazing!Ardu

What’s next for Ardú? We are currently crowdfunding for our full length debut album due to be launched in November 2015. Check out our campaign here or keep up with our shenanigans on Twitter (@ArduVocal) or Facebook (/ArduMusic).

We will definitely be back for more singing with Voice Festival next year and will be keeping a close eye out for all the groups we met at the showcase!


Facebook Giveaway!

Do you ‘like’ us on Facebook? We use it to share news, interesting posts and general excitement about all things a cappella. And this week, we gained our 1000th follower!

To celebrate, we’re doing a special book giveaway of the terrific Icebreakers. Just click here to like our page, share the post, and be in with a chance of winning a book worth £36. Hurry – you have until Saturday.


Ever wondered what it’s like to attend a Voice Festival workshop?

Attending a singing workshop may seem like an intimidating prospect for beginners – so find out a little more about what they involve by reading our latest guest blog by Kam Sandhu and Houmaa Chaudry. As well as enthusiastically volunteering to help out at our Festival Weekend, the girls found the time to attend Tobias Hug’s unforgettable beatboxing workshop – and loved every second. If you like what you read, why not stop by our workshop at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August?

Amongst the non-stop rehearsals and performances at the Voice Festival weekend, groups and guests alike had the opportunity to attend workshops hosted by some rather prominent members of the a cappella community. On Saturday morning, Tobias Hug (a former member of The Swingle Singers, University Final judge and inspiration to many young a cappella singers) led a 2 hour workshop on the art of beatboxing. Despite the room being filled (a huge turnout meant for some fantastic group performances) with a range of beginners and fully fledged beatboxers alike, the workshop catered for all abilities.

Tobias beatboxing workshop 1To begin with, a lesson on the basics of beatboxing – and mimicry. Explaining the requirements for a good vocal percussion beat, Tobias walked the attendees through how to form popular sounds without using your actual voice. Even for the beginners in the group (ourselves included), this was a simple way to follow the lead of the more experienced. Through practice and repetition, these sounds were then combined to create short beats of varying genres – even samba was included! After experimenting with different samba beats (and some questionable dance moves on one side of the room) incorporating a vocal version of the seemingly underrated instrument that is the cowbell, it was time to put to use the large turnout at the workshop. The room was split into four groups. One group were allocated a ‘dm’ sound, another a strong ‘ka’ sound, a cymbal-resembling group and the timing-controlling hi-hats. What did this get us? Only a human drum kit! Tobias, along with Ed Scott (Semi-Toned), Tegan Creedy (The Rolling Tones) and a young guest at the workshop, then conducted this ‘beatbox choir’ for some impromptu upbeat music.

Tobias beatboxing workshop 2Moving away from the entirely musical aspect of beatboxing, the group then began to recreate the sounds of a tropical thunderstorm, leading onto an extravagant movie plot to which we could create an entirely vocal soundtrack. About 15 minutes later, the movie soundtrack in all its finished glory was performed. Had you been standing on the other side of the door, you would be forgiven for thinking we were watching an award-winning film (albeit with a very strange plot) inside. Beginning with a perfect rendition of the 20th Century Fox tune, the scene was then set in a rainforest from which marched an army. It was a battle of humans versus animals. Arrows were shot, grenades were thrown and even a cannonball was launched. The conclusion of the story was that the opera singers broke the glass and won the battle. No, it didn’t make any more sense had you witnessed it in person, but it provided an incredible soundtrack nonetheless! Some of the standout solo sounds from the soundtrack had to be an oddly-placed (but ingenious) rendition of Rue’s Whistle (From The Hunger Games), a dolphin impression, an eagle whistle and a scarily good impersonation of Chewbacca (Star Wars) – so if any of those were your doing, give yourself a pat on the back!

Tobias beatboxing workshop 3The workshop was rounded off with an improv circle (it wasn’t really a circle – more like a line) where 4 singers were asked to create a part (on the spot!) to complement the parts created by the others. Together, this created a musical piece that could be conducted by Tobias to vary the volumes and add news sounds, therefore experimenting with the sound as a whole. And in case you don’t have enough people to recreate a whole musical piece for yourself, Tobias then demonstrated how you can do this yourself with the help of a loop pedal! Using a 5 channel loop pedal, and with a little help from those in the audience, the final product of the workshop was a well-timed, brand new tune that will be playing in our minds for weeks to come.

As always, thank you to Tobias Hug for hosting the workshop with such success, as well as to the volunteers that bravely agreed to stand up in front of the rest of the group and conduct or sing/beatbox on the spot! We’re sure we don’t just speak for ourselves when we say that it was a truly incredible and invaluable experience.


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.


My a cappella adventure begins – by Jess Tansley

Jess seen here third from right with her group, The Kingstones

Jess seen here third from right with her group, The Kingstones

Our very own VF-UK team member Jess reflects on her journey to being in her very first a cappella group, her role within VF and more!

It’s no secret that I love a cappella.

It originated through late night YouTube searches of my favourite songs, but when I moved to London for university, I was introduced to a whole new world – a bubble of a cappella, if you will. Attending the Voice Festival weekend in 2014 and seeing so many incredible groups not only competing against each other, but also bonding as part of a community cemented it in my mind – I wanted to be part of a group myself.

But where did I start? I didn’t know anyone crazy enough to start a group with me, and I wasn’t sure how to do it by myself. I knew I wanted to be involved in any way I could, so I joined the Voice Festival team in June 2014. We published a guide a few months later on how to start your own a cappella group (which you can see if you click here), which included a list of questions to consider such as group size, group name etc. Reading it made me want to start even more!

In October 2014, a girl posted on a Kingston University Society page on Facebook saying that she wanted to start up an a cappella group. I couldn’t believe it! I contacted her straight away, and soon, The Kingstones was born.

We initially tried to start as soon as we had enough people (around six), but due to scheduling conflicts and commitment issues with some members, we stopped and retried at the beginning of this year. We’ve definitely hit roadblocks – deciding a name one of the big ones! – But on Wednesday 11th March we had our first public performance as a part of our University’s Global Week. Some of our group had never performed in front of a crowd before, so naturally we were nervous, but we all had loads of fun and the crowd were really supportive, too.

I’ve learnt a magnitude of new things since joining; promotional skills, countless new music skills, team building, composing, and obviously which syllables and sounds are best for an electric guitar (verdict: it’s beeyyyooowww. You’re welcome.)

I’ve taken on the role of media manager in which I manage all of our social media accounts (@KUKingstones and The Kingstones on Facebook, go follow/like us, yeah?) and make decisions on things such as logos, t-shirts etc. although we all help each other out, too. We sing such a wide range of music – from The Muppets to Hozier – which means that there’s never a dull moment in rehearsal! We’re already planning our next performance opportunities, and we can’t wait.

Joining a group and getting involved with VF-UK has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. It has not only enriched my university experience, but also taken me to places I would never have visited, opened me up to new experiences and challenge my leadership skills, too.

The recent Festival Weekend in Birmingham was such an incredible whirlwind. I’ve never been involved in something as big as this before, and even though it was hectic and so fast paced with 400 things happening at once, I loved every second of it. It actually made me a little bit emotional to see so many diverse, talented, wonderful people all in one place celebrating each other’s successes. The level of talent this year was insane, and I can’t wait to see how the UK a cappella scene progresses.

If you’re considering either starting or joining a group, or even just getting more involved in the a cappella world – my advice? Do it!