How to be an a cappella champion – by former winners of the Voice Festival

It’s only ten days until our Festival Weekend, and our finalists (eighteen groups, to be exact) are all working their socks off to bring killer sets to the Voice Festival stage. As we write, they’ll be finalising last bits of choreography and polishing those tricky harmonies in order to impress our professional judges and become the 2017 champions.

So, we thought it would be a great time to get in touch with some of our former university champions to find out what the winning formula is for victory! Read on for five top tips from Andy Greer (Choral Stimulation, Ward Swingle Award for Originality, 2015) and Tim Jones (Out of the Blue, University Champions, 2009)…

1. Be Attentive
‘However your group is organised – whether you have a committee, a musical director or everyone gets involved with leading your rehearsals – give whoever’s taking you through your preparations the very best of your time.

People can sometimes lose interest because they see (or fear the onset of) a lack of focus. Make it your personal responsibility to avoid contributing to any unnecessary distractions.’ (Tim Jones)

2. Be Invested
‘…both in terms of effort and resources. As a university group we never had a lot of resources or funding, but we did have time and passion. This lead to the world’s first paradoxical original a cappella song – Who Even Listens to A Cappella? After winning the Ward Swingle Award at the VF-UK Final 2015 we produced the song as a music video. Both the production and content have since won international awards which would not have been possible without our winnings, but also the time and effort we put into it.’ (Andy Greer)

3. Be Gracious
‘Things will probably go wrong. Distraction can happen. Set lists might change and you may well find yourself behind. Sometimes people miss rehearsals or fail to learn music, or from personal experience they may even miss their train to the competition venue (!) and that’s not OK.

Even so, punishing yourself and falling out with one another over these things will not add anything to your preparations. Acknowledge what’s gone wrong and apologise well, absolutely, but forgive in equal measure and, if necessary, put in the extra time and thank one another for doing so.’ (Tim Jones)

4. Be Original
‘All champions have their own identity. You won’t stand out trying to emulate, and even if you emulate well the chances are that the originators have earned all the kudos – so always stay true, and never compromise your overarching theme. Choral Stimulation are renowned for partying (in fact, the first line of our website reads “a drinking group with a serious singing problem”). Despite our unorthodox brand, clients such as Formula 1 booked us as headliners for the main stage at the Grand Prix Final recently because our performance “made their hair stand on end” – a byproduct of the social and subsequent musical harmony at the heart of Choral Stimulation.’ (Andy Greer)

5. Be Real
‘Let’s face it, you’re in an a cappella group, you probably quite enjoy singing well with like-minded people in front of an audience who care about what you’re doing. As such, the Voice Festival is an incredible opportunity. You’re being encouraged to do what you love by a culture of people who love (and I mean genuinely love) what you do, especially when you do it well.

So – don’t miss that opportunity, but don’t make it out to be anything more or less than it is. In a “Pitch Perfect” world, a cappella can be over-dramatised and misrepresented – competitions especially. Don’t get caught up in the stories people tell.

Instead, get caught up in exactly what you’re doing, especially on stage – because believe me, it shows.’ (Tim Jones)