Bristol Regional Festival – meet workshop leader Paul Davies!

pdWith only a few days to go until our Bristol Regional Festival, we took a few moments to get to know our leader for the afternoon workshop, Paul Davies. We’re delighted to have him on board and can’t wait to see him work his magic with our participating groups!

Tell us a little bit about your experiences with a cappella singing…
It’s been non-stop from about the age of five when Mum, Dad, my sister and I used to attempt four-part around the kitchen table. I was in a cappelIa groups at school and as a cathedral chorister, then joined the Barbershop Association where I’ve been a Music judge for almost 30 years. The most thrilling moment was winning Choir of the World and the Pavarotti trophy with Cambridge Chord Company, a vocal group I started as 12 mates singing in the back room of a pub.

What is your all-time favourite a cappella or barbershop arrangement?
Oh gosh. Since it’s nearly Christmas let’s go for Pentatonix “Little Drummer Boy”. A supreme example of how to take a simple song and turn it into a masterpiece through imaginative arrangement, creative use of dynamics and vocal colour, subtle VP, perfect tuning and balance, and entrancing facial expressions. The YouTube video is dubbed but who cares? If it can draw… let’s see… 30,010,017 people to a cappella that can only be a good thing.

Can you give us a hint of what we might expect from your workshop on Saturday?
The central message is that good vocal technique is essential whatever your style. We’ll be looking at basic vocal craft and how to maintain it through demanding stage routines. I’m also hoping to do “coaching under glass” with any established groups who come to the workshop. We’ll also face the ultimate challenge – learn a choreographed song in half an hour and perform it on the evening show!

That’s all for now, but if you like what you hear and are dying to find out what Paul can teach you, don’t hesitate to come along to the workshop. It’s open to the general public and you’ll get the chance to sing with some fantastic a cappella groups (you can find out a bit more about them here). Tickets are still available, and there will be a limited number to purchase on the door – click here for prices and payment options.


Bristol Regional Festival – Meet the Groups!

Another Voice Festival event – a whole new bunch of a cappella groups for you to meet!

Browse our brand new slideshow to read more about the tremendous participating groups in our Bristol Regional Festival: Avon Harmony, The Bristol Suspensions, Semi-Toned and Aquapella. It’s going to be a blast!

It’s not too late to purchase your tickets for the showcase – and the general public are also invited to join the groups for an afternoon workshop with arranger Paul Davies.

BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE.

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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.


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