VF-UK at Ed Fringe: Out of the Blue!

P1040937The 2014 University Champions Out of the Blue managed to find some time in their busy schedules to give us a couple of tantalising teasers about the set that they will be performing at the Voice Festival Edinburgh Showcase this August! Read on…

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

Out of the Blue is an all-male group of students from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes. The group was founded in 2000 and has changed and developed every academic year. This year is an unusually fresh group with eleven new faces joining back in October. This year-group has had a particularly successful year, touring California and India and being crowned champions of the Voice Festival University Competition.

Can you give us any hints about what you’ll be singing in the showcase?

We like to keep our set-lists a surprise at all costs! But we can promise a diverse set of comedy numbers, tear-jerkers and crowd-pleasers!

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

Out of the Blue will be performing every day of the Fringe at 2pm at Assembly, George Square (except August 13th) 

 

 

 


Man Band – Let’s Get Guys Singing!

Here’s a story that will warm the soul – one man’s bold and inspiring vision for boosting a cappella singing inside and outside of the classroom. Drop us a line if you have stories to share of how a cappella is growing in your schools and communities.

 In September 2011 I joined The Queen Katherine School in Kendal as a teacher of music and then was fortunate to become Head of Department in September 2012. One of my aims for the department was to develop the extra curricular programme and try and encourage more lads to get involved with singing. The department already had a strong singing culture but there was a lack of guys singing in the choirs on offer.

I already had a strong interest in a cappella singing; I had been fortunate enough to see the Swingle Singers and The Real Group in concert and had attended a workshop with the Swingle Singers. I am also a big fan of American male a cappella group Straight No Chaser. Therefore, I planned to start a new group in September 2012 that would be a male a cappella group. As for a name, the only thing that I could think of was Man Band! I did envisage this name to be changed by the lads in the future but it seems as if the name has been a hit and it has stuck!

I started by bringing the ‘classics’ to rehearsals; Lion Sleeps Tonight, In The Still of the Night etc. Things were going well but there wasn’t really a spark or buzz that I wanted. I then decided to scrap these songs and start making my own arrangements. The charts that I had been bringing were quite challenging and I had brought with me a lot of sheet music that I had bought. However, over half the lads involved can’t actually read music all too well and so sheet music actually became an obstacle. Also, I wanted the lads to get their heads out of the music in front of them and perform and focus on listening to what they are producing rather than seeing if they are singing the correct note on paper. Therefore, I started with an arrangement of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. As I had to take into account that more than half of the group could not read music too well, I had to make the parts accessible for all, challenging for those more accomplished singers and yet at the same time, when put together, sound like the entire piece was the most complicated and refined a cappella piece of music there was! As soon as I brought this song to the group and as the lads began learning the individual parts, the buzz that I wanted grew and suddenly it clicked. Soon enough the lads were performing in their first concert in October and they were a hit!

Moving on from this first performance we have now worked on arrangements of Fix You by Coldplay and a mash up of Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars and Stand By Me by Ben E. King. As always, the arrangements are ones that I create with the lads in mind; in effect, the music we sing is differentiated for all abilities in the group! We have performed in all school music concerts and have performed on two occasions for the Kendal Town Mayor. We are booked for another Mayor’s event in July and we are also planning a flash mob at our local shopping centre. I am working on two new arrangements, Wonderwall by Oasis and I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc. I am also now using software like Sibelius when writing these arrangements so that in rehearsals, using a projector and speaker the lads can sing along with their part and the more advanced musicians can actually read the music.

Man Band has been a real success and a tad selfishly, a dream come true for me. We now have 26 lads in the group, three members of staff and even the head teacher who comes down every now and then. I am fortunate to have Kevin Bell (a DT teacher and member of Man Band) who manages publicity and bookings and having this manager and director ‘kind-of’ system gives the group a little more professional feeling, which the lads like as it makes the group feel more than just a ‘school group’.

What is next for Man Band? Well, the lads can now sing together and they can sing well with expression. It is now about turning the group into a visual delight as well as auditory delight! We do a lot of standing and clicking at the moment and so some movements are planned for next year. Kevin Bell is going to help the band get involved in more performances and a cappella festivals and we are hopefully going to simply spread the name of Man Band.

My overall goal is to make singing fun, engaging and accessible to all. I knew this group was a success when in one of my year 9 music lessons when doing arrangements of the Alton Towers Theme Tune, one of the Man Band members rallied up a group of his friends to create an a cappella arrangement. Yes it was a little silly and rough around the edges, but I could not believe my eyes to see a group of lads who had nothing really to do with singing, trying to create bass lines, drum parts, pitch correctly and sing in front of their class! If this is what comes from Man Band then I am happy!

 

Rob Shillitoe Head of Music The Queen Katherine School


Meet Vive: Voice Festival UK University Champions 2013

UK Voice Festival champions 2013- ViceIt has only been a week since Vive’s crowning as ‘VF-UK University Champions 2013’, and it has changed our lives.

Looking back to where we began in the basements of Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I am proud to be honouring this title with five of the most talented and amicable people I know. In every rehearsal, we always try to push ourselves and cross the comfort line, for better or worse. Our musical ambitions and messages are very personal: we write and sing about motivation, self-acceptance and perseverance, and we use a cappella as our platform to deliver it. Winning has brought us an incredible accolade and we wear it humbly.

Our next steps on the path include recording a second CD, gigging around the UK and touring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. However, above all, I think that we all share a drive to want to change people’s perspectives of what a cappella can be; something that touches people through the evocation of different colours and emotions in the listener, and where the musicality is sovereign. The future is open to us and we hope to keep singing together and writing music that explores new frontiers and that takes a cappella to new audiences.


Voice Festival UK recording partnership with Liquid 5th

Liquid 5th ProductionsThe Voice Festival UK are thrilled to announce that for our 2013 season we will be working in partnership with Liquid 5th, who have generously offered to record, mix and master a free single for the three winning groups from the Voice Festival’s Youth, University and Community competitions!

Liquid 5th, based in the US, provide a cappella services of all kinds – recording, production, editing, mixing and mastering, as well as live sound, arranging and coaching. Like the Voice Festival UK, they recognise and understand the multiple ways in which a cappella singers need support to develop, and we are delighted to be working with them this year.