Visual guide to the 2016 Festival Weekend

Not sure what to expect from our Festival Weekend? Trying to decide which of our fabulous participant groups you want to win the youth, university and community competitions? Fancy learning a little more about the workshops on offer?

In classic Voice Festival style, we’ve popped together an interactive guide for all you a cappella fans so you can explore the world of our annual Festival Weekend in a bit more depth.

If that’s not enough for you, at the weekend itself there will be programmes available for purchase that offer biographies, schedules, photographs and more!


What next for the Voice Festival?

Thanks for stopping by thevoicefestival.co.uk.

In 2017 the Voice Festival (VF-UK) will celebrate 10 years.  We’re preparing for this by taking stock  – looking back to where we’ve come from, and what we have achieved, and considering what we should do next.

We’ve created a short survey to understand more about how people experience the Voice Festival. We want to know your thoughts on what our focus should be for the future. So, we ask that you please spare 5 minutes to give us a little about your opinions and experiences of the Voice Festival. Please click here to take part in our survey.

We thank you in advance for your insight.


A message from Gareth Malone for the Voice Festival UK community

We are thrilled to share this message from Gareth Malone for supporters of the Voice Festival.

Many familiar faces from the Voice Festival UK, past and present, will be flying the flag for British a cappella on the BBC’s new TV show, The Naked Choir, hosted by Gareth Malone. The show starts tonight, 9pm, on BBC2.

Watch out for Choral Stimulation, who were awarded the Voice Festival’s Ward Swingle Award for Originality at this year’s University Championships, and the Sons of Pitches, who first took to the stage with the Voice Festival back in 2011. A number of our talented workshop leaders and competition judges have some very special roles in the show too. We’ll leave you to tune in and find out who.

Watch closely and you will also see some clips from our recent Festival Weekend, and a cappella showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe.

We hope you enjoy the singing!


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

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

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

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

Starting between 1pm-2pm

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

Starting between 2pm-3pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting between 3pm-4pm

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

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

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

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

Starting between 4pm-5pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting between 5pm-6pm

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

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

Starting between 6pm-7pm

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

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

Starting between 7pm-8pm

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

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

Starting between 10pm-11pm

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

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


A Festival Weekend in Tweets

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

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

2. But things soon got messy

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

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

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

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

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

9. Elsewhere some primary school children joined the fun

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

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

12. The standard of the University Final blew everyone away

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

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

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

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

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

And we all went home.

(18. And were sad)


Festival Weekend – Interview with Andy Wilson

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

Tell us a bit about yourself

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

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

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

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

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

Are you involved over the weekend?

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

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

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

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

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

The Voice Festival UK returns to Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Half the groups had never performed outside their home city

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

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

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

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


Meet Jes

Jes Sadler is an educator, singer and vocal percussionist from London, UK. He’s also one of our wonderful Patrons.

Jes spent nine years touring with a cappella group The Swingle Singers as Baritone and Vocal Percussionist, giving concerts in many of the world’s top venues, recording seven albums and serving as the group’s Technical Director.

Jes left Swingles in 2006 and became a founder member of ‘Beatbox Choir’ The Vocal Orchestra – a collective comprising some of the UK’s outstanding human beatboxers and vocalists. Founded by the beatboxer Shlomo, the ensemble’s debut performance was headlining the International Human Beatbox Convention at London’s South Bank Centre in 2007. Over the following years they played to thousands at The Big Chill and Glastonbury festivals, the South Bank Centre’s Chorus vocal festival and The Udderbelly and collaborated with artists as diverse as Jarvis Cocker, Ashley Walters, Mutya Buena, Cleveland Watkiss and Imogen Heap. 2010 saw Shlomo & The Vocal Orchestra take things to another level with the premiere performances of human beatbox musical ‘BOXED’ and the groundbreaking Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra by composer Anna Meredith.

An accomplished educator, Jes was Lead Tutor with Battersea Arts Centre’s pioneering project the BAC Beatbox Academy. This project continues to find and work with young people in South London by introducing them to beatboxing, enhancing their skills and developing their musicianship and collaborative abilities. Jes was also involved with the SPARK and Sing Up! UK education programmes, encouraging primary-aged children to find and experiment with their voices with his courses “My Voice – My Instrument” and “If You Can Speak, You Can Beatbox!”.
Since 2008, Jes has regularly led workshops for and judged the Voice Festival UK collegiate a cappella championships. He became a patron of Voice Festival UK in 2011.

Jes moved with his wife to Verona, Italy in 2012 and now works full-time teaching English to a wide range of learners using the Speak Your Mind method at the school’s headquarters in the centre of the city, as well as continuing to pursue various musical and spoken-word projects.

He is much in demand as a session vocalist for film, commercials and recordings and – being an ensemble specialist – Jes has performed with a number of other groups, the most recent and notable being a four-year stint in elite a cappella band The Magnets.

 

You can follow Jes on Twitter @thejesmeister

 

Why do you support the Voice Festival UK?

There is no better-organised, more enthusiastic, more professional, or more collegiate vocal competition in the world today as the annual Voice Festival Championships.  The love for vocal music is perfectly expressed through the dedication of the organisers and participants, the joy of the crowd, and the expansion of VF-UK into a beautiful support network for all those in the UK who love this thing called singing.

 


School Start-Up 2015 – What’s it all about?

P1040736Are you a teacher or do you work in schools? Want to get your boys and girls singing music that they want to sing while still working on harmonies, rhythm and allowing them to be creative? Then we would love for you to take part in School Start-Up. As ever, the Voice Festival is offering something bigger and better than ever before.

We know that getting young people singing can sometimes be tricky. Or what they want to sing doesn’t allow for collaboration and creativity. An a cappella group is THE perfect way to stimulate singing within schools. Over the last year within the Voice Festival Youth Programme we’ve seen groups of 40 boys from schools singing a cappella arrangements alongside their headteacher; we’ve seen some beatboxing by school students that you would not believe wasn’t coming from a beatboxer in a professional group; and we’ve seen lots of young groups performing arrangements that students of only 15/16 have written. It really is inspirational to see young people loving the music that they are singing.

Man BandSo how can you bring this to your school? We’re teaming up with our lovely friends at the London A Cappella Festival to offer you a launch event which will be the group’s first taste of a cappella. We’ll then send you away with a handbook and a mentor who has heaps of a cappella experience and will be on hand to answer questions and give you support on your a cappella journey. Then we’ll bring you back together with your new a cappella pals, introduce you to some University and Community groups and give you a performance event in which you can try out some of your new skills. If you like the sound of this then drop Amy an email on amy@thevoicefestival.co.uk and we’ll get back to you with some more information.