Meet University Champions 2016 – The Bristol Suspensions

The Bristol Suspensions are still lost for words after an unforgettable weekend at VF-UK. So, they thought they’d let one of their more talkative (shall we say?) members, Stanford, share his experience of the competition in the way that only he can. We hope you enjoy…

Heading into the Voice Festival Weekend was a manic blur. With Suspensions jetting in from across the globe, our perennial organisational monarch Rafaella Barratt had a mammoth task in ensuring our collective arrival at Hampton School, but we made it and (lack of sleep notwithstanding) arrived in high spirits.

Back in 2015…

Our group had competed in the Voice Festival once before, last year in our first year as an ensemble, and it was a thunderously eye-opening experience that reinvented the way we all approached a cappella. The talent of all the other groups inspired us all to work our noggins off to push the boundaries ever harder regarding our arrangements, our choreography, our performance and even our dynamics – as insisted by our MDs! We wanted nothing more than to deliver on the standard present at the University Competition that had been such a showcase of diverse, kickass talent in 2015.

And to 2016!

This year was no different – the Sweet Nothings sizzled sass, Aquapella delivered on their reputation for next-level musicality, RadioOctave dropped musical puns and swag, and our Bristol-based buddies Pitch Fight made their VoiceFest debut and absolutely rocked our socks off. The Rolling Tones also provided a personal highlight with a stellar arrangement of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ (if you haven’t watched it, watch it).

Our group had competed in the Voice Festival once before, last year in our first year as an ensemble. It was a thunderously eye-opening experience that reinvented the way we all approached a cappella. The talent of all the other groups inspired us all to work our noggins off to push the boundaries ever harder regarding our arrangements, our choreography, our performance and even our dynamics – as insisted by our MDs! We wanted nothing more than to deliver on the standard present at the University Competition that had been such a showcase of diverse, kickass talent in 2015.

The calibre of the competing groups was just as immense as we’d remembered, and we were thrilled to share a stage with so many groups that all had a unique style to bring. Being surrounded by such talent is a surreal experience, but we entered into the whole affair with a group mentality of aiming for enjoyment rather than victory. We knew that this would help settle the nerves and make it easier to convey our own goofy brand of humour. To have made it through the video auditions stage was a privilege in itself so we weren’t too stressed out by expectation.

Our set

For our semi-final set we had decided on one of our favourite pieces of the year, a comedic mash-up of ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Trouble’ arranged by one of our two MDs, Joe Pickin. This featured alongside one of our more experimental and recent additions to our repertoire, a medley of ‘Everything Everything’ numbers arranged by myself and our criminally modest beatboxer, Scott.

The hope was that the two arrangements would offset each other nicely and convey our ability to be both humorous and serious, although our decision not to perform any rendition of ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ had us feeling very left out!

Our progression to the finals was utterly unanticipated, and had us all absolutely giddy and gleeful. We leapt into the ‘aca-challenge’ with enthusiasm and had to rein in our joy and pride to avoid partying the night away, as we’d unexpectedly found that we had to save our voices for another stage of competition!

Workshops and the final!

We spent the following morning reclaiming our relaxed team environment by attending the various workshops and round table talks on offer at the festival. The choreo workshop especially highlighted the dazzling potential of certain group members. It’s all in the smile. Our last efforts were spent polishing our overall set, with the final addition of ‘Madness/Magic’ an arrangement the group had fallen in love with and the magnum opus of our other MD, Aliak Bedirian. It was the last piece of the puzzle that was our attempt to perform with a broad range of emotions, and sounded pretty neat too.

The standard at the final was phenomenal beyond our expectations. Bristol Suspensions were readily gushing backstage at what it meant for our group to even be appearing in a final with such honed and musical ensembles. To be counted among them was truly something else. We couldn’t stop grinning and that led to us performing our hearts out, giving it our all with complete trust in one another and generally having a #goodtimeonstage

And the winners are…

Evidently it came across, as, in some wacky fairy tale twist ending, we were immensely privileged to be announced as the champions. We also achieved awards for beatboxing and choreography and a beatboxing battle trophy along the way (to add to Scott’s list of achievements to humbly downplay).

We were so surprised and elated that, with true Bristol Suspensions class, we could only flop about the stage screaming like schoolchildren. We’d aimed only to have as enjoyable a weekend as possible, and ended up with an honour that blew our minds. Objective achieved.

With one last teary and bizarrely up-tempo encore performance of Madness/Magic, the competition was over, and we quickly elected to celebrate long past the early hours. A little too much cider and a little too much Singstar – the Bristol way. Amidst the revelry, a lot of pride was felt over our newest soprano, Eleanor, who made her debut as a group member at the event, as well as our MDs for all their hard work bearing fruit in such a positive way. The result validated the long hours of dedication, and that made us all feel absolutely on top of the world!

What’s next?

We’re completely indebted to the VF-UK team for delivering on such an entertaining and informative weekend. We’re so grateful for what we’ve achieved. Meeting and singing alongside other a cappella groups continues to be the highlight of such endeavours, and VF-UK is such an opportunity to get to know others, not to mention how useful and enjoyable the various workshops were. We had a blast.

We’ve got some plans in the works, as we’ve got to live up to our title now! We’ll be taking our EdFringe show, ‘Netflix and Trill’, up to the festival at the beginning of August, and we’ll be popping our heads into VF-UK’s own Edinburgh showcase as well. There are whispers within the group of some other surprises in store so keep an eye (and ear) out…

But for now, thank you to VF-UK and all the other groups for a fantastic weekend. The Bristol Suspensions can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!

The Bristol Suspensions - University Champions 2016


Judging Lineups: University Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. Here’s the judges who will be picking our University Winner. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

Nic Doodson

Nic-Doodson

Nic Doodson has been at the forefront of the global a cappella scene for the past 20 years as a performer, director, competition judge and producer. As a performer he founded The Magnets and took the group from amateur student beginnings to the most successful a cappella group to ever emerge from UK. The Magnets were the first contemporary a cappella group to land a major record deal when they signed with EMI in 2001 and went on to release three ground breaking and award winning records. Notching up over 2000 performances throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia, The Magnets set the template for contemporary a cappella performances which is now followed by up and coming vocal bands the world over; in many countries The Magnets were the first a cappella group to break through to the mainstream pop field and have performed to sold out crowds in cities such as Mumbai, Jerusalem, Harare (Zimbabwe), Moscow, Calcutta, Shanghai, Nanjing (China), Sydney, Auckland, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Singapore and many others.

As a producer Nic has created and managed a cappella shows at festivals throughout Europe, Australia, and New Zealand and as one of the most experienced a cappella performers in the world has judged multiple national and international a cappella competitions.

 

Grace Savage

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Having established a world-class reputation in the beatboxing scene with THREE British Beatboxing Championship titles under her belt, Grace is set to break into the music industry by harnessing her extraordinary vocal power in a melodic blend of edgy electronic pop. Her Debut EP is a beautifully crafted selection of dreamy, atmospheric pop which perfectly showcases Savage’s ethereal vocals alongside her beatboxing talent. With crashing beats, brooding production and hypnotic synth, the lead track ‘Diamonds on Your Skin’ was crowned the favourite of the show by the panel on BBC INTRODUCING Devon.

Fronting a live band and singing, Grace has shared the main stage at festivals with the likes of Rita Ora and Katy B, supported Labrinth and Newton Faulkner on his solo tour, as well as performing at the Glastonbury Festival and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Grace’s loop station cover of BANKS ‘Waiting Game’ recently caught the eye of SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, leading to her SBTV debut and a request from the man himself to make a follow up which will feature on the website very soon.

Savage’s extraordinary creativity spans across her singing, acting and beatboxing alike, with Grace recently been listed as one of ELLE UK’s ‘Top 100 inspiring women’ alongside the likes of Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. Following success at The National Theatre and a solo show at SOHO Theatre, Grace is receiving repeated high praise from the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph, The independent, Metro, London Evening Standard to name but a few and is now signed to UNITED agents as an actor.

 

Russell Scott

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Russell Scott has been in the music industry, professionally, for over 35 years working in the worlds of Classical and Musical Theatre. He is not only a Producer and Musical Director, but an accomplished Singer and Vocal Coach.

As a performer he has performed all over the world, as a soloist and with leading choirs and orchestras. With over 100,000 record sales across his 4 solo albums, he’s also appeared on countless film soundtracks, opera, pop and musical theatre recordings.

His company, Russell Scott Entertainment Limited has developed into a successful and reputable entertainment production company specialising in creating and producing high profile, high-end productions. It has produced a number of hugely successful shows across the UK including ‘An Evening of Don Black’, ‘An Evening of Tim Rice’, ‘The Wonderful World of Ashman, Menken & Schwartz, and ‘From Stage And Screen… And Back Again!’ which raised over £15,000 for charity. He produced the critically acclaimed ‘Godspell In Concert’ at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End in 2014 which went on to tour the UK in 2015.

Specialising in ‘performance’, he regularly directs masterclasses and workshops, and has worked with choirs and ensembles around the UK including the acclaimed Military Wives Choir. He is Musical Director of Next Stage Choir and Waddesdon Manor Choir.

Russell leads an enormously busy life having achieved great success in the cross-over of genres. Music is his soul and his passion, and he is committed to finding and developing new musical talent, giving opportunity to those with the ability and dedication to succeed at the highest level.

For more information about Russell Scott, please visit www.russellscottentertainment.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @RussellScottUK and presents his own YouTube blog, A Life In Music with Russell Scott, aimed at performers who strive to be the best they can be.


Judging Lineups: Youth Final

We’re really excited to be able to announce our judging lineups. Here’s the judges who will be picking our Youth Winner. Remember you can get tickets here.

 

TobiAS Hug

Tobi

Tobias Hug has been singing, teaching, travelling for almost 20 years – an a cappella journeyman and beatbox gypsy. He is deeply involved in the a cappella and choral music scene around the globe, a connecting and well-connected figure. Based in London, Tobias has performed or collaborated with The Swingle Singers, Bobby McFerrin, World Music stars Zap Mama, the Puppini Sisters, the London Voices, Jazzchor Freiburg and many more. He currently performs with his The Beatbox Collective, with his own Loop Solo Programme and focusses on Master Studies in ‘Rhythmic Choir Conducting’at the Royal Conservatory of Aalborg, Denmark. His new group Beatvox recently won the UK Event Entertainment Award 2014 for Best New Act (‘Beat the Brief’ Competition).

His deep passion and commitment to teaching leads to workshops and residencies in places as diverse as Singapore, Norway, China and Kenya. Italy though has always been an important centre of his work. As session singer and member of London Voices he has performed on numerous movie soundtracks including The Hobbit and Interstellar. As a voice-over artist, Tobias has been featured on several BBC Radio programmes and commercial computer games.

From 2001-2012, Tobias sang with Grammy-Award winning a cappella group The Swingle Singers and was one of their longest-serving members. As their bass and vocal percussionist he was part of seven studio albums, and performed more than 700 concerts in the great concert halls (from Teatro alla Scala to the Kremlin Palace), with the great orchestras (from the Vienna Philharmonic to the Academia di Santa Cecilia) and with great artists (from Zubin Mehta to Jamie Cullum). As their former Artistic Director he set up collaborations and projects, as well as TV appearances. Together with beatboxer Shlomo (featured on Björk’s album “Medúlla”) he founded the world’s first beatbox choir (now the “Vocal Orchestra”). The Swingles’ or Tobias’ arrangements and voices can be heard on TV show “Glee”, on the most recent Monty Python movie as well as adverts (T-Mobile’s “Welcome home” Flashmob campaign, with 14 Million hits on YouTube).

Born in the midst of the Black Forest, in Freiburg, Germany, Tobias studied Music Education and never limited himself to one particular form of music, exploring anything from throat singing to vocal jazz, from Early Music to beatboxing. Beyond the a cappella world, worked or performed with German techno legend Tiefschwarz, experimental music artist Aphex Twin, classical pianist Katia Labeque, the late Les Paul, loop wizard and Imogen Heap-Collaborator Tim Exile…and many more.

Tobias is co-founder of the London A Cappella Festival and EVA, the European Voices Association and most recently of the italian a cappella festival Vocalemente which he is also Artistic Director and Executive Producer. He advises and adjudicates at festivals like VocalAsia (China), Terem Crossover Competition (St.Petersburg/Russia) the UK Beatbox Championships, Solevoci (Italy), The Voice Festival UK and the CARAs (Recording Awards).

 

Ben Sawyer

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Ben is quickly gaining an enviable reputation as a dynamic conductor and choir trainer, always able to draw the best from his singers. Having left his role of Head of Music at Tewkesbury School in August 2012, he has been in regular demand to lead workshops, start new choirs and conduct existing ones.

He has been Chorus Master for Gloucestershire Music’s Massed Chorus of 500 students which performed at the Royal Albert Hall in the ‘Music For Youth’ in November 2012. This has led to him being a founder conductor of the new Gloucestershire Youth Choir. Ben was also Assistant Conductor for Cheltenham Festival’s production of Benjamin Britten’s community opera, ‘Noye’s Fludde’, and he regularly conducts Tyndale Choral Society, Hanley Voices and Tewkesbury Voices.

Aside from conducting, Ben sings countertenor. He is a member of the international award winning male voice a cappella group, The Songmen. With The Songmen, he has toured America, China, much of Europe and performs regularly in the UK. He is also the group’s composer-in-residence and has had a number of his compositions and arrangements played on national radio. Ben has been a lay clerk at Birmingham and Gloucester Cathedrals and sings with Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum, as well as being in demand as a countertenor soloist.

 

Andrew Panton

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Award winning director Andrew Panton has held residencies at The Royal & Derngate Theatres, Perth Theatre, Stage Door (New York) and The Stephen Joseph Theatre, where he directed a premiere season of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s work.

He is the creative director, vocal & performance coach for Susan Boyle who shot to fame following her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 and went on to have the fastest selling UK debut album of all time.

Andrew is the Artistic Director of Musical Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.


Primary school children begin their a cappella journeys with Out of the Blue!

We always love it when groups from across programmes meet up to learn from each other – so imagine our delight when we heard that Out of the Blue – veritable a cappella celebs and current Voice Festival Champions – were heading to Eynsham Community Primary School in Oxfordshire to show them some a cappella basics.

What follows makes Voice Festival blogging history – our first guest post written by primary school children! Congratulations to everyone involved in the day – we hope it inspires other groups to get stuck in with a cappella collaboration and education.

We were lucky enough to have Out of the Blue come to Eynsham Primary School on Thursday 18th December to teach us some songs and warm-up exercises.

First OOTB performed in assembly to the whole school. The song that they sang was called ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and everybody loved it. After that they did a quick piece about themselves so that we knew who they all were, although some of us had already learnt their names! Then every class had the chance to take part in a workshop with them.

The workshop began with Out of the Blue singing us one of their songs and the best part was Jack’s dancing. Then we did some warm-ups such as an exercise to warm up our bodies where we had to shake different parts of our body and count down from 8. Next Joel gave us a quick tutorial about beatboxing which really improved our original skills. Finally Roshan taught us how to sing one of their songs – ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. We were all very sad when we had to leave, but glad for the concert in the evening.

We were really lucky because OOTB came down to our class and we got to ask them questions. A few boys in our class also performed two songs for them (‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and ‘C’est La Vie’) with dance moves – it was so funny. They want to be in Out of the Blue when they are older.

In the evening Out of the Blue performed a concert in our school hall and lots of people attended. They sang lots of brilliant songs including ‘Silent Night’, ‘Rolling on the River’ and ‘Lady Marmalade’.

During the concert all children in the audience were able to perform ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ on stage with them. It was AMAZING and we had so much fun!

Here are a few quotes from some children about their time with OOTB:

“Absolutely wonderful! The best part was teaching us how to beatbox.”

“The best part of the day was when Singing Squad got to sing to Out of the Blue in assembly.”

“I really enjoyed Domhnall teaching us the song ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ and we had to bob up and down when a word started with ‘b’.”

“My favourite part was when a few of us sang and danced for Out of the Blue.”

 

OOTB Eynsham OOTB Eynsham OOTB Eynsham


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) 

 

 

 


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.