Ardú at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

We’re sure you’ve seen a whole barrage of tweets, videos and pictures from last week’s enormously successful Edinburgh Fringe Festival a cappella showcase. Amongst our performing groups was Ardú, a 6-piece a cappella group hailing all the way from Ireland! Read on to find out more about the group and their experiences at the Fringe. Thanks to Leanne for writing this piece for us.Ardu Edinburgh

Let me introduce the group – I’m Leanne and I am a member of Ardú (Arr-doo). We are an Irish a cappella vocal ensemble with roots in classical choral singing.

The ‘a cappella’ genre is something we all individually have been interested in for a long time and so taking inspiration from groups like The Swingle Singers (or as they are now known The Swingles) and The King’s Singers, we formed our small ensemble of six singers. Although we are still actively involved on the classical choral scene, we are loving the challenge of ‘a cappella’ more and more with every rehearsal!

We were only at the Fringe Festival for one weekend only so we had quite a hectic schedule!First we performed a lunchtime recital at the gorgeous St. Giles’ Cathedral right in the heart of Edinburgh. We also took to the stage at St. Andrew’s Square where we sang a mix of our own arrangements of Clean Bandit’s song ‘Rather Be’, and our jazzy numbers of ‘Libertango’ and ‘Mack the Knife’. In between this, we were diligently rehearsing for and promoting our Pledge Music campaign for our upcoming debut album (phew!).

Taking part in the Voice Festival UK a cappella showcase was definitely the highlight of our weekend and we were delighted to be the only ‘international’ group in the line-up. We were so excited to perform alongside the amazing ensembles from the UK like Semi-Toned, The Sons of Pitches and Out of the Blue! One thing we took away from the experience was the sense of a strong a cappella community at the heart of the Voice Festival that we want to be a part of!Ardu

At the showcase, we performed two of our favourite songs. The first was ‘Under Pressure’, an arrangement of the well-known Queen classic, the lyrics of which were very apt for our first UK outing..! This is definitely our party piece and the audience really responded to the opening riff of ‘Dum-dum-dum-digga-dum-dum’ by our mega-bass Colm.

The second arrangement is rather special for us as it was written by our friend Ollie Lambert. Ollie is a young composer from Sussex and after hearing his awesome arrangement of ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson Five, we just knew we had to perform it in Edinburgh!

The melody is shared amongst the group with the solo line jumping from our lead tenor extraordinaire Ciarán, to the amazing mezzo Laura before finally giving me a chance to belt out the high notes. Our favourite moment in the arrangement is definitely the surprise change to ‘ABC’ (another Jackson Five hit!) towards the end. The whole texture of the piece suddenly becomes much more exposed and articulated before jumping right back into the lush harmonies of the chorus and ending on one last declaration of ‘I Want You Back’. Luckily for us, Ollie came along with us to Edinburgh and having the opportunity to premiere his piece in front of the Voice Festival UK audience was simply amazing!Ardu

What’s next for Ardú? We are currently crowdfunding for our full length debut album due to be launched in November 2015. Check out our campaign here or keep up with our shenanigans on Twitter (@ArduVocal) or Facebook (/ArduMusic).

We will definitely be back for more singing with Voice Festival next year and will be keeping a close eye out for all the groups we met at the showcase!


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!


The University of Exeter’s Semi-Toned – VF-UK University Champions 2015

Semi-Toned 2015Semi-Toned have been involved with the Voice Festival UK since before I even went to university. In 2012, the group, barely eighteen months old, entered the South West regional of the competition in Bristol. Although they made a strong impression, taking home the awards for outstanding arrangement and vocal percussion, they lost out on a place in the final to Bristol’s HotTUBBS, a group Semi-Toned would not cross paths with again until 2015’s Voice Festival weekend. The following year—my first at university—the South West regional competition was held in Exeter. By then we had abandoned our barbershop roots and performed a much more contemporary set, consisting of Cee Lo Green, Hard-Fi, Stevie Wonder and Muse. It was in this performance that the group first began to realise its potential, with judge and former Swingle Singer Tobias Hug offering strong words of encouragement. However, the confidence we had gained was soon washed away at the London final, where it became clear that we had a long way to go to catch up with the other, more established university groups. We left empty-handed, but excited to have ‘broken in’ to the university a cappella circuit, even if the best compliment we received was Dominic Peckham’s observation that our outfits matched the stage curtains.

In the summer of 2013, Semi-Toned headed to Edinburgh to put on our first ever Fringe show. We improved massively in preparation for this, and the work paid off—the show was a huge success, and by the time Voice Festival 2014 rolled around, we had established ourselves as a group to watch out for. This improvement was well-timed, as the Voice Festival’s decision to scrap the regional competitions in favour of a video submission-based system meant that all groups were competing with each other, across the nation. As you can imagine, whilst this was fairer, the standard necessary to be invited to the London semi-final was suddenly much higher. Thankfully, we made it through both the video round and the semi-final. At the final, we made a much stronger impression than the year before, largely due to the outlandish nature of our set—our mash-up of Olly Murs’ “Dear Darling” and Ylvis’ “The Fox” certainly managed to a raise a few eyebrows, as well as our Tolkien-tinged version of John Newman’s “Cheating”. We managed to snatch two awards—including “Best Soloist” for the irreplaceable Michael Luya—but lost out on the ultimate prize to the professionalism and charm of Oxford’s Out of the Blue, whose stunning rendition of “The Sound of Silence” meant they became the first group to win the competition twice.

Having felt that we were so close to winning, it would be a lie to say we were not disappointed that day. It was becoming clear that the standard of UK collegiate a cappella was improving exponentially, and we certainly felt the pressure to get ourselves ahead of the curve in preparation for our second Edinburgh Fringe show that summer. Despite any internal doubts we had, the group managed to pull it off, and “Toned Up!” managed to cinch a Bobby Award, one of only a handful given out that year by review company Broadway Baby. This perfect end to the academic year was slightly foreboding for me, as I had just been elected as Semi-Toned’s first official musical director (the group had run itself somewhat anarchically since the departure of founding father and eternal president Eddie Henley). I knew when the 2014/2015 year began that the only way the group could outdo itself again was to win the Voice Festival.

This was also the year that the group underwent its most significant re-shuffle in terms of membership. With five new faces in a twelve-man group, first term was largely spent frantically learning repertoire to quickly crank the group up to the standard we were used to. I can’t praise our new members enough for the diligence and raw talent they displayed in the early weeks of this year, performing music at multiple large gigs which they had barely gotten a chance to learn. The upside of all this raw focus, of course, was that, even though almost half the group had changed since Edinburgh, Semi-Toned were back on form very quickly, and earned an excruciatingly close second place at the ICCA’s first British regional in January 2015. Our friends in All the King’s Men took the prize, and as they performed their victory song we began to set our sights on the only goal we had left—Voice Festival 2015.

As usual, our preparation was anything but structured. Having customised our ICCA set for a microphone-based performance, we knew we could not simply touch it up and take it to Birmingham in April for VF-UK. But the problem with knowing that you need new repertoire is that you have to actually write new repertoire—and waves of inspiration are few and far between. Thankfully, we already had a fantastic number arranged by Eddie Henley, an aggressive mash-up of “No Church in the Wild” and the theme from Game of Thrones which featured in our 2014 Edinburgh show. Newbie tenor Ted Bartram took on the seemingly impossible task of replacing Adam Carpenter in this song, and gave the solo an icy, characterful flavour that we knew was sure to impress.

Michael Luya Semi-TonedOur two other semi-final pieces turned up as and when we needed them, which is always the way. My mash-up of “Uptown Funk” and Flo Rida’s “Low” (“Lowtown Funk”, geddit?) meant we had the comic element we always strive for, and Rob Cross, who had previously only dabbled in arranging, surprised us all by turning up with a stunning arrangement of Regina Spektor’s “Samson”, meaning we had the Luya-bomb primed and ready to drop. However, we still had a big, gaping, four-minute hole that needed filling in case we got through to the final and had to perform for twelve minutes instead of eight. We began to wonder what old song we could slot in there—perhaps Mulan’s “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” would do it, or even Meat Loaf’s “Dead Ringer for Love” which went down so well in Edinburgh?

But then a thought struck me—in our Edinburgh show, a number that really pleased the audience was our rendition of “Cry me a River”, which replaced Justin Timberlake’s famous falsetto with a trio of basses. The general lack of solos for those of us blessed (or cursed) with lower voices was something I wanted to exploit again, and a few days later I had arranged a version of the famous bass solo “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof, mixed up with Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl”. We decided to take a risk and make this song our ‘secret weapon’, opting not to perform it in the semi-final and just pray we got through to the final. We soon began to regret this when we saw the standard of the competition in the semi-final—every single group performed better than we had ever seen them perform. How on earth the judges managed to whittle the twelve competitors down to just five finalists is beyond me. We particularly enjoyed the other four groups at the festival representing the South West—our old friends from Bath Aquapella were classy as ever; the Bristol Suspensions had come on leaps and bounds since we first met them back in October; our female counterparts the Sweet Nothings absolutely raised the roof with their version of “Midnight Caller”; and we finally got to see the HotTUBBS perform again—their instruction “Don’t forget the Mexican spices” has quickly become something of an anthem for us.

Semi-Toned 2015If we thought the semi-finals were tough, the finals were on a different league altogether. Every year the Voice Festival UK gets better, but in 2015 the standard was unreal. At one point, when the judges were about to announce the over-all winner, I reassured my friend Tommy that any single one of the groups deserved to win, and that we should not be ashamed to be a runner-up amongst such stellar competition. When the judges announced that we had won, the room exploded—I honestly can’t remember much about what happened next, except that we performed “Rich Man” one more time, at a tempo that, as musical director and as the song’s soloist, I would definitely call ‘uncomfortable’. Nonetheless, it was the perfect end to a perfect weekend, and the next day, bleary-eyed and still not quite believing we’d finally done it, we headed down to Heathrow to begin our first ever international tour to the east coast of the USA.

Thanks to Edward Scott of Semi-Toned for contributing this guest post.


VF-UK at Ed Fringe: Semi-Toned!

P1040823We’re delighted to announce that VF-UK University Finalists Semi-Toned will be joining us this Friday for our Edinburgh Fringe Showcase. With two days to go, they tell us a little bit about themselves and give us a frankly ridiculously exciting teaser about their set, which can only mean one thing…

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

Semi-Toned is an all-male A Cappella group from the University of Exeter. It started 4 years ago as a barbershop quintet, at a time when the university abolished its music department. Since then the group has gone from strength to strength, growing to 12 in number and now prides itself on its wide repertoire, ranging from Justin Timberlake to Ylvis, Quincy Jones to Jay-Z. This year the group has returned to Edinburgh once again to showcase their trademark musical charisma and wit, fresh from their 5 star debut at the fringe last year and their award-winning performances at the Voice Festival’s UK finals last year.

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

1 hint: Winter is coming…

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

Semi-Toned are performing their 5 star show ‘Toned Up’ (Broadway Baby, 2014) everyday this week at the Space Symposium Hall at 4pm. Get your tickets fast before they run out!

 


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

 


VF-UK at Ed Fringe: The Vocalites!

VocalitesNext up in our series of spotlights on our fabulous Fringe Festival performers is a peek at the ladies four-part community a cappella group The Vocalites. They share some of their favourite moments from the last year and tell us what lies ahead for the rest of 2014!

Remember, the VF-UK workshop and a cappella showcase – featuring the Vocalites and much more – takes place at Greyfriar’s Kirk, Edinburgh, on the 8th August, and there’s still time to grab your tickets. Don’t miss out!

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

There are 4 people (of course!) and they have been together for about 4.5 years. They are Alicia Tindal (lead), Juliet Erskine (tenor), Kate McGeoch (baritone) and Jacqui King (bass).

Last year they sang in the Spiegeltent at Edinburgh Literary Festival and in the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow amongst other venues, and competed in Llandudno and Bangor, N.I. The Vocalites are part of the choir singing for the baton relay celebrations at both Inverary and Dumbarton Castles this month, and have recently won through to the semi finals of this year’s Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) national competition so will be heading down to Harrogate in October for that. They also hope to be in the finals of Scottish Power’s Got Talent, but that has yet to be decided!

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

They won’t be appearing anywhere else in Edinburgh, sadly, but are looking forward to their appearance at the VF-UK Edinburgh Fringe Showcase this year. 


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)