A message from Gareth Malone for the Voice Festival UK community

We are thrilled to share this message from Gareth Malone for supporters of the Voice Festival.

Many familiar faces from the Voice Festival UK, past and present, will be flying the flag for British a cappella on the BBC’s new TV show, The Naked Choir, hosted by Gareth Malone. The show starts tonight, 9pm, on BBC2.

Watch out for Choral Stimulation, who were awarded the Voice Festival’s Ward Swingle Award for Originality at this year’s University Championships, and the Sons of Pitches, who first took to the stage with the Voice Festival back in 2011. A number of our talented workshop leaders and competition judges have some very special roles in the show too. We’ll leave you to tune in and find out who.

Watch closely and you will also see some clips from our recent Festival Weekend, and a cappella showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe.

We hope you enjoy the singing!

WE’RE RECRUITING! Help us take UK a cappella to the next level…

Tobias beatboxing workshop 2We love welcoming new volunteers to the Voice Festival team. Having a dynamic, enthusiastic and dedicated team is critical to keeping our annual programme relevant and exciting year on year for the rapidly growing a cappella community in the UK.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that this Autumn we are recruiting for two new team members who can bring some new ideas to the table, help to lead a range of inclusive, educational and fun singing education programmes, and get on board with some of the exciting new projects we have in the pipeline for 2015-16.

There are two specific roles that we would like to fill. Read more about these roles – and learn a little more about the Voice Festival and the programmes we run – by downloading PDF files at the links below:

Community Programme Manager

University Programme Officer

If either of these take your fancy, then drop us an email at voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk telling us why you think you’re the perfect person for the role. These are voluntary, part-time, work-from-home positions and there’s no application form, but a CV would be useful in helping us to figure out who you are and what you do. You can also send any informal enquiries to the same address.

If you think you have something to offer that doesn’t quite fit into either of the roles listed above, do get in touch with us anyway. We’d love to welcome anyone into our fold who has the desire to inject passion, energy and innovative ideas into VF-UK’s programme.

Interested? Make sure you get in touch with us before midnight on Monday 31st August if you’d like to be considered for this opportunity. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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!

My a cappella adventure begins – by Jess Tansley

Jess seen here third from right with her group, The Kingstones

Jess seen here third from right with her group, The Kingstones

Our very own VF-UK team member Jess reflects on her journey to being in her very first a cappella group, her role within VF and more!

It’s no secret that I love a cappella.

It originated through late night YouTube searches of my favourite songs, but when I moved to London for university, I was introduced to a whole new world – a bubble of a cappella, if you will. Attending the Voice Festival weekend in 2014 and seeing so many incredible groups not only competing against each other, but also bonding as part of a community cemented it in my mind – I wanted to be part of a group myself.

But where did I start? I didn’t know anyone crazy enough to start a group with me, and I wasn’t sure how to do it by myself. I knew I wanted to be involved in any way I could, so I joined the Voice Festival team in June 2014. We published a guide a few months later on how to start your own a cappella group (which you can see if you click here), which included a list of questions to consider such as group size, group name etc. Reading it made me want to start even more!

In October 2014, a girl posted on a Kingston University Society page on Facebook saying that she wanted to start up an a cappella group. I couldn’t believe it! I contacted her straight away, and soon, The Kingstones was born.

We initially tried to start as soon as we had enough people (around six), but due to scheduling conflicts and commitment issues with some members, we stopped and retried at the beginning of this year. We’ve definitely hit roadblocks – deciding a name one of the big ones! – But on Wednesday 11th March we had our first public performance as a part of our University’s Global Week. Some of our group had never performed in front of a crowd before, so naturally we were nervous, but we all had loads of fun and the crowd were really supportive, too.

I’ve learnt a magnitude of new things since joining; promotional skills, countless new music skills, team building, composing, and obviously which syllables and sounds are best for an electric guitar (verdict: it’s beeyyyooowww. You’re welcome.)

I’ve taken on the role of media manager in which I manage all of our social media accounts (@KUKingstones and The Kingstones on Facebook, go follow/like us, yeah?) and make decisions on things such as logos, t-shirts etc. although we all help each other out, too. We sing such a wide range of music – from The Muppets to Hozier – which means that there’s never a dull moment in rehearsal! We’re already planning our next performance opportunities, and we can’t wait.

Joining a group and getting involved with VF-UK has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. It has not only enriched my university experience, but also taken me to places I would never have visited, opened me up to new experiences and challenge my leadership skills, too.

The recent Festival Weekend in Birmingham was such an incredible whirlwind. I’ve never been involved in something as big as this before, and even though it was hectic and so fast paced with 400 things happening at once, I loved every second of it. It actually made me a little bit emotional to see so many diverse, talented, wonderful people all in one place celebrating each other’s successes. The level of talent this year was insane, and I can’t wait to see how the UK a cappella scene progresses.

If you’re considering either starting or joining a group, or even just getting more involved in the a cappella world – my advice? Do it!

A Festival Weekend in Tweets

We loved reading your tweets over the Festival Weekend tweets and got a warm fuzzy feeling from some of the Twitter-love that was going on. Here’s a story of the Festival Weekend according to the wonderful world of twitter.

1. Friday started with a whole load of bushy tailed university groups

2. But things soon got messy

3. When some of our University groups braved Birmingham City Centre. And weird things happened.

4. The judges had a tough time deciding so the team made sure they were looked after

5. And for some of our audience, they couldn’t believe they weren’t in a film

6. Some participants had a whole lotta love for all their acafriends

7. And 120 people couldn’t bear to be separated

9. Elsewhere some primary school children joined the fun

10. And some of our University groups were blown away by the standard of the Youth groups snapping at their heels.

11. The time came to crown our first Champions of the weekend.

12. The standard of the University Final blew everyone away

13. And Choral Stimulation won the Voice Festival award for originality.

14. But the cup was heading to Exeter for the first time

15. On Sunday, we had a chance to reflect on quite how lucky we all are

16. So we went outside to sing to the people of Birmingham

17. Then to top it all off, our third champions of the weekend were crowned

And we all went home.

(18. And were sad)

Interactive guide to the Festival Weekend, with added Happy!

For those of you unsure as to what our Festival Weekend will entail – or for those who just want to learn a little bit more about our judges, workshop leaders and competing participants, we’ve put together a useful guide which provides at-a-glance information on all of our workshop and competition sessions, as well as links to other web pages and details on how to purchase tickets.

Make sure you turn up your speakers, because the guide also includes a first listen of our collaborative recording of the chart topper ‘Happy’, as sung by participating a cappella singers from the 2014 Festival Weekend. Once again, our 2015 Weekend will include collaborative recording sessions with Liquid 5th Productions, so make sure you come along to give those vocal chords a stretch.

A Cappella in the Midlands – it’s time to discover Birmingham!

Though the main draw to Birmingham this spring is obviously the thrilling and ground-breaking event taking place from the 10th-12th April at Birmingham Conservatoire, there are lots of other reasons to visit the city too. Why not come along to all or part of the Festival Weekend and combine it with a sightseeing tour of the 2nd most populous city in Britain?

Birmingham has an astonishing industrial heritage, having catapulted into existence almost from nothing in the nineteenth century. The city was at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution; history buffs will love Sarehole Mill (which apparently inspired locations in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit) and the Birmingham Back to Backs, the last surviving court of back-to-back houses which were constructed for the rapidly increasing working class population of Britain’s industrial cities.

If you want architecture and art, you’ve come to the right place. The city was an important centre of art in the Victorian period and was instrumental in the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements, both of which were closely linked to applied arts, high-quality design, and their relationship with industry. Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum is a collection of enormous international importance, with the largest collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones in the world. For something a little more quirky, head to the Custard Factory; it’s a hip art and design hub set in the converted factory that used to produce Bird’s Custard, and is full of small galleries, independent shops and affordable cafes.

For those with a sweet tooth, a visit to Cadbury World is a must. 4 miles south of Birmingham, the attraction aims to educate visitors about the history of cocoa and the Cadbury family – but if history’s not your thing, the free chocolate is a draw in itself.

If you’re hoping for a cheeky shopping spree (or you make a last-minute decision to buy those essential matching accessories for your a cappella group) then there’s plenty in Birmingham to keep you occupied – from the world-famous Bullring to the Jewellery Quarter (the home of British jewellery), with plenty of high street stores and independent boutiques in between.

Tickets are still available for our Festival Weekend, so buy yours now to avoid disappointment! Whether you want to come along for the whole weekend’s programme of workshops and competitions, or you just want to come along to one of our competition slots and still fit in an afternoon of gorging Cadbury’s treats and filling your culture quota, we have a ticket option for you.

The Voice Festival UK returns to Scotland

After the blinding success of our event at Edinburgh Fringe last August, the Voice Festival team decided that one trip to Scotland each year just wasn’t enough! February 22nd, therefore, saw VF-UK team members once again braving the overnight buses, this time to Glasgow, for the second of our Regional Festivals.

The afternoon saw an excellent and unique workshop from celebrated tenor Alistair Digges. It’s certainly the first time we’ve ever seen an a cappella workshop that has used straws! The participants worked on strengthening their vocal technique and looked at all sorts of exercises to look after their voices. You can catch a glimpse of one of the pieces they learnt together here:

If you’re coming to the Festival Weekend, download the Vyclone app so we can have lots of fun with collaborative videos.

The evening saw a showcase of Scotland’s (and North Tyneside’s) finest with performances from University and Community Groups. Some fun facts about our participants:

– The Festival represented VF-UK’s newest team member Mabel’s debut event, and she was delighted to see a performance from the group she co-founded in Newcastle

– For 4 out of 6 groups it was their first Voice Festival event

– Half the groups had never performed outside their home city

– Half the groups had been in existence less than a year though the average length of a groups existence was over 8 years!

– 2 groups travelled over 300 miles on the day (and 2 Voice Festival team members travelled over 800 miles)

There were some very impressive debuts from the new groups the Killer Quines from Aberdeen University, Royal Blues from Newcastle University and In Toon from Northumbria University: we even enjoyed a Voice Festival first in the form of a headstand performed at the end of Royal Blues’ set! But the groups who have existed for that bit longer weren’t going to be shown up – Close Shave Chorus from Glasgow treated us to some real Barbershop classics, Tartan Harmony from Helensburgh sung a diverse set including a powerful version of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah and Choral Stimulation from Glasgow University did what they do best and showed off some INSANE mash-ups.

All in all, we had a brilliant day and are so pleased we went back to Scotland. If you can’t wait for your next a cappella fix we’ll be in Birmingham in just a few short weeks time!

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.