Take the Stage at London A Cappella Festival 2015

For a number of years we at The Voice Festival have collaborated with our friends at London A Cappella Festival to put on a schools event during the 4 day LACF takeover of Kings Place. This year, things were a bit different… Instead of bringing established groups together, we invited some schools that are just starting their journeys forming new a cappella groups. And what a day it was!

The brilliant Michael Humphrey kicked off the workshops for the day helping students and teachers alike develop the skills to learn and write a cappella music – it was a cappella by numbers! Amazingly, after less than an hour, we were building tricky chords, singing any interval under the sun and had 3 part complex rhythms going on.

A brief break for everyone to catch their breath and we were off again learning an arrangement of Uptown Funk from scratch. You would never believe more than half of the group hadn’t even TRIED a cappella before. An hour later, there was a very impressive version of the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson hit being sung. Oh, and on top of that, a short mash up section incorporating some fabulous Michael Jackson, Clean Bandit, and Jessie J solos.

After lunch, the groups were treated to a rendition of Weather to Fly by The Swingles. There were LOTS of wide eyes and open mouths as they looked desperately round for the drum kit. There wasn’t time for the kids to hang around though as it was time for our new students to start writing their own music. Midway through the session the Swingles decided to recruit a new member from within the hall, but realised that their next tour to the US would be tricky as Callum had to be back at school on Monday. The day was wrapped up with a performance of Uptown Funk, a listen to Glyn School’s version of Forget You and a special song about that night’s takeaway menu.

But that’s not the end of our links with these, all the schools will now head off with their new found skills and start a cappella groups in school as members of this year’s VF-UK School Start-Up scheme. So watch this space – this won’t be the last you hear of Glyn School, St George’s RC School & William Ellis!


All the King’s Men get stuck into a cappella education

B2K3oWcCUAAnWq7 On Tuesday 11th November All the King’s Men journeyed to the Glyn School, in Surrey, to run a series of a cappella workshops across a range of age groups, including one made up exclusively of GCSE and A-Level music students. In each hour-long session the Men introduced the groups to a range of different aspects of a cappella music, including vocal percussion, harmony and breathing technique. As well as touching base with Dr. Couchman, the Glyn school’s head of curricular music and AtKM alumni Tom Hindmarch’s sister, we worked alongside other members of the music department staff to ensure the day ran smoothly. We were thrilled by both the enthusiasm of the students and the positive feedback from staff, and cannot wait to return to the school in the future.

For many of us, school workshops are a highlight of singing with AtKM. It gives us the opportunity to share our musical experiences, as well as introducing the next generation of musicians to areas of vocal music that are not included in the core curriculum. In a school such as the Glyn School, where years 7 to 11 are all-boys, one of the biggest challenges is dispelling the stigma around males singing. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of singing with the group when we get teenage boys to set aside their preconceptions about a cappella music, and join us in singing the All the King’s Men classic ‘In the Jungle’.

B2KfbSdIcAAdODyAll the King’s Men would like to thank the Glyn School for the warm welcome we received and to all of their music students for their tremendous energy. We look forward to continuing our involvement with schools and education over the forthcoming year and beyond.

A big thank you to Sam Lyons of All the King’s Men for sharing his experience of the day. If you think your group has done something noteworthy or unique with individuals from your community, and would like to write a blog post for us, email beth@thevoicefestival.co.uk for more details. Alternatively, if you’d like some tips on how to provide a cappella workshops for young people, or would like to be matched up with another group in your area, get in touch with amy@thevoicefestival.co.uk, who’d be delighted to help.


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.


Top 5 Reasons You Should Use our A Cappella Resources Page

1. It might spark some ideas – whether you have never sung a cappella before or have 30 years’ experience you’re probably looking to do something new – this might help you work out what that is. It might inspire you to help out – be that by producing your own arrangement and video for others, or by creating a brand new group – do get in touch with us by emailing resources@thevoicefestival.co.uk if you’re interested.

2. Our first arrangement is sung by the fabulous In the Smoke – one of the community groups who sang at our showcase in January – they’re brilliant. The arrangement is really, really good – we’re not putting something out there that’s second rate, we challenge your group to make it sound bad! And you’ll be able to correct those misheard lyrics in your head – the words to Bullet Proof and Titanium are definitely what we thought they were!

3. It’s an opportunity to give us a bit of feedback – have a watch, give our guides a read, and tell us what’s good and what you’d like next time. The VF-UK have an enormous amount of combined expertise, and are always on the lookout for new ideas and challenges.

4. You can use it as inspiration to record your own video – if you have a new arrangement that you want to share with the world, then upload it and reach new audiences! Get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter to start up some a cappella chatter.

5. It’ll whet your appetite for some of the workshops and performances at the Festival Weekend, Birmingham, in April 2015. We can’t wait to hear brand new groups, new talent that you’ve dug up from your schools, universities and local areas, and your exciting new arrangements!

Access our Resources page here, and tell us what content you’d like to see at @thevoicefestival.co.uk.


A Guide to Running Auditions for Your A Cappella Group

Groups often find running auditions nerve-wracking. What if no one shows up? What if we get lots of wannabe X Factor divas? What if they aren’t suited to a cappella? What if they think we are rubbish and they’re too good for us? What if the new people steal all my solos!?

Remember that, like a job interview, it’s a two-way process. You are responsible for making sure the process is fulfilling for all parties. An a cappella group that likes spending time singing together, irrespective of prior training, musical taste, favourite football team etc., is a successful a cappella group. This guide lists some things to consider – it’s by no means exhaustive, but is hopefully a help to those feeling like they don’t know how to start as well as those perhaps jaded by having been through the process a few too many times.

Think about what you want from a member – fun, cool, eclectic, strong soloist, non-awkward mover, arranger, dancer, choral singer, pop singer, musical theatre singer, solid intonation, strong sense of pulse/rhythm, control of the expressive power of their voice, good reader, sight singer, perfect pitch, has a trendy uncle who owns a recording studio, amazing tambourine player – wait, cancel that last one…

To give yourself the best chance of hooking the right people for your group, there are 3 main areas you should consider:

Scheduling & Promoting

A Guide to Running Auditions For Your A Cappella Group – Part I – Scheduling and Promoting

The format of the audition process

A Guide to Running Auditions For Your A Cappella Group – Part II – Audition Format

Deciding, Admitting & Getting Started

A Guide to Running Auditions For Your A Cappella Group – Part III – Deciding, Admitting and Getting Started


With thanks to Melissa, Hazel, Ian and James of In the Smoke for their helpful contributions.


VF-UK at Ed Fringe: Rachael’s Voices!

8 days to go! 

We hope you’re looking forward to our Fringe Festival workshop and showcase as much as we are. Recently we managed to have a chat with the lovely Rachael, the driving force behind Rachael’s Voices, who we’re delighted to have performing at Greyfriar’s Kirk alongside a whole host of other university groups, as well as those from our youth and community programmes, on the 8th August. 

Tell us a bit about your group. Where are you from? When did you start singing together?

The group used to be a high school choir and I was their teacher. When I moved to a different school we took the choir outside of school. They have been singing together for about 6 years but it used to be very different – a school 2 part harmony choir. We came up to Edinburgh last year and performed in a showcase with All The King’s Men and Sons of Pitches which was fabulous! The girls have had GCSEs and A-Levels this year so have been very busy, but they’re working hard to deliver a great show!

Is this your only appearance at the Fringe, or will you be performing elsewhere? 

We have a show at Symposium Hall 1st-6th at 3:05pm

 


Highlights from the Youth Programme, 2013-2014

Making plans for the next academic year has given us the opportunity to reflect back on all that’s been achieved over the past 12 months – which have flown past in a blur of a cappella magic! Over the next few weeks, our three fabulous programme managers will be sharing some of their favourite memories and moments from our most recent events.

Catherine

First up is Catherine, who has done a magnificent job of leading our youth groups and group leaders through a series of memorable workshops, webinars and competitions. Here’s what she had to say…

 

Well, what a year it’s been! From starting working with the Voice Festival at the end of September 2013, it’s been a year (well 8 months) spent living at 100 miles an hour ever since. I have been delighted by the quality and enthusiasm of all our Youth Groups this year so it’s really difficult to pick some highlights but here’s my top 10 (well I think it is anyway – ask me on a different day and I’ll tell you something else…)

1. The sheer number of brilliant boys that have been involved this year. Having never had a male Voice Festival Youth Champion before, it’s brilliant that we’ve had over 150 taking part in the Youth Programme this year.

Singers Limited and Swingles2. Seeing all our participants at Take the Stage standing on stage singing “Hallelujah” with the Swingle Singers.

3. During the Beatboxing workshop with Jack Blume at the Festival Weekend, seeing one of our teachers taking on a student in a beatboxing battle (the student won)

 

4. Hearing some of our teachers sharing stories and tips in a recent webinar about how they support a cappella in their schools.

5. Seeing some spectacular creativity at Take the Stage where some of our Youth Participants did some on the spot improvisation and enjoying some spectacular results

6. Some powerful solos throughout the year from every single group that’s taken part.

P10406717. The Tiffinians performance of Colder Weather in the Youth Competition Finals which was quite simply spine tingling.

8. Seeing the progress that both The King’s Barbers and Vocal Grange made between Take the Stage and the Youth Competition – just a month apart. (“Soul Sister” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” sticking in the mind).

9. Seeing some ex-participants from the youth programme singing in university groups and watching them support their former groups.

P104072810. Speaking to lots of youth participants completely enthused by a cappella with aspirations to carry on singing in groups way beyond their time at school.

So now we’re winding down for the year and starting to plan next year’s season! If you’ve got ideas then we’d really like to hear from you so do email me at catherine@thevoicefestival.co.uk. The next big thing that the Voice Festival team has been planning is going to be a showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a workshop in the afternoon – if you were going to go to sample some quality a cappella then why not try to fit August 8th at Greyfriars Kirk into your schedule!


VF-UK in your living room!

Teachers and youth group leaders, listen up… to brighten up your Mondays, our Programme Manager Catherine brings you some exciting news about the latest event in the VF-UK Youth Programme. Have some new ideas? Want to share some handy hints? Now’s the chance to have your voice heard!

 

It’s Catherine here – I’ll be blogging soon about all the fantastic things that have happened within the youth programme in the last year but I just wanted to let you know a bit about an event that is happening on Wednesday 21st May, in your living room. Never afraid to try something new, the Voice Festival UK is going to be hosting its first webinar and if you’re a teacher or run a youth group we want you to join in!

We’re going to have a discussion in 2 parts. In the first part we’ll be asking you all to share tips about running an a cappella group – from recruitment, to running rehearsals and everything inbetween. In the second half, we’re going to be talking about what the Voice Festival does and what you’d like from us. It’s your chance to shape our programme for next year!

Keep an eye out next week for a summary of this season’s youth programme and some of my personal highlights!

 

Contact Catherine if you have any questions, or simply sign up here.


Youth Groups Take the Stage at Kings Place!

Singers Limited and Swingles

 

In January 2014, the Voice Festival UK teamed up with our fantastic friends at the London A Cappella Festival to bring youth a cappella groups the opportunity to attend a full day of a cappella music making with the Grammy-award winning Swingle Singers.


Vocal Grange
Almost 100 singers joined the Swingle Singers and the University of Denver group MIX to take part in workshops. The day culminated in a performance for friends and family in the main concert hall at Kings Place. We had students aged from 11 to 18 (and a few teachers a tad older than that), some students travelling less than 50 miles, and some travelling more than 250 miles and so it was a pretty special day out for everyone!

Man BandIf you want to hear about events like this in the future, or have any burning ideas for how to get youth groups excited about singing, then let Catherine know about your group – she’ll make sure you’re kept in the loop!


The Wellingtones: What We Did As Voice Festival Youth Champions 2013

Wellingtones 2The Voice Festival team are really excited that preparations for the 2014 Youth Competition are underway and applications are open – so we thought we’d take a look back to 2013 and find out what last year’s champions have learnt from their experience, and what they are up to now. Martha Gray, last year’s leader of the group, had this to say…

The Voice Festival UK was an amazing opportunity for us to meet other groups and take part in an extremely beneficial workshop which allowed us to develop not only our arrangement skills but also focus on the importance of musicality within the group. The help and guidance that we received from In The Smoke and Dominic Peckham was hugely valuable for us. The workshops throughout the day geared us up for the competition which took place in the afternoon. The competition itself showcased the immense talent of all groups who entered and we were hugely surprised and proud to win. 
Collectively we would like to thank the Voice Festival UK for allowing us to take part in such a fun and beneficial day.

Xavier Iles told us a little bit about the group’s latest exciting activities…

Since the competition, the group have performed in many events, including to 3500 people in a huge tent here at Wellington. They have continued to work with younger children from other schools, introducing them to the world of A Cappella by teaching them songs and performing alongside them.

The highlight since the competition was the recording session with Liquid 5th Productions. This was kindly given as a prize for being chosen as Youth Champions in 2013. We recorded the 2 songs as sung in the final and they are available on iTunes and Amazon. They reached No.4 in the iTunes vocal chart for a while before Christmas.

All proceeds go to the Jimmy Higham Bursary Fund – set up in memory of a young teacher at Wellington who died 2 years ago. 

Congratulations to the group for all they’ve achieved in the past year, and do go ahead and download their record – it’s for a wonderful cause!