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


Meet our 2015 Youth Competition Champions, The Dreamettes

What’s it like to win the VF-UK youth competition? The Dreamettes tell us here in their guest blog. If you’re feeling inspired by the girls’ successes and would like to get involved with the Voice Festival’s youth programme, check out our dedicated page here, or take a peek at our plans for VF-UK’s annual Take the Stage event.

IMG-20150411-WA0007The Dreamettes was formed back when we were in Y7 at Putney High School (now all in Y13). Our music department is unusual in that every single year group is represented by at least one a cappella group, if not two in most cases. Thanks to this strong a cappella tradition in the school, the Dreamettes have flourished, growing in membership and ability year by year, as well as triumphing in school music competitions.

But it was taking part in the Voice Festival UK that pushed us to our limits and made us realise what we could achieve. Suddenly a cappella became so much more than standing in a semicircle to sing a pop arrangement, and our motivation was raised to a new level. Heated discussions about choreography and presentation, which would have been given nowhere near as detailed thought a year ago, became the norm. Musical details such as note lengths, tuning and dynamics were now more vital than they had ever been before. We even dedicated some of the Easter Holidays to rehearsing for the VF-UK finals at group members’ houses (in hope that the neighbours would enjoy our heart-melting rendition of ‘Make you feel my love’)!

Soon the day of the Finals arrived, and Dreamettes set off to Birmingham, all squeezed onto a minibus with the two other a cappella groups from Putney High taking part, not forgetting three of our teachers. Many were still half asleep, but after being perked up by a trip to Costa Express en route, excitement levels began to peak. The whole coach was singing in full voice as we drew nearer towards the city.

We finally reached Birmingham Conservatoire, where the VF-UK organisers and participants were met by a crowd of 30 excited girls, ready to sing it out. The day began with some highly energised workshops on stage presence and beat boxing. With boots and cats flying all over the place, hundreds of participants united to form one unstoppable human drum kit, and let’s not forget that R600 loop machine which made us all turn green with envy.

Before we knew it we were whisked straight off to rehearsals and a sound check in the Adrian Boult Hall. Minutes passed and the nerves began to kick in. We were more excited about singing together than we ever had been before, but as we waited by the stage door it was as if we were shaking as a single body, all feeling both the same adrenalin and fright at performing in front of hundreds of people. Then one of us said ‘Guys, it doesn’t matter whether we win or not. Let’s just go out there and sing’. So that is what we did. We didn’t know whether it was our best or worst performance – all we knew is that we were out there doing what we have always known and loved.

Everything after that was a blur, and suddenly we found ourselves back on stage alongside the five other groups competing in the Youth Finals. With no idea what to expect and tension rising, we waited anxiously as various thank yous and awards were being given. There was an especially big applause from us for Jo Nicholls, the founder of the Dreamettes and the rest of Putney High’s a cappella groups, who received a special award for one of 10 arrangements she contributed towards the VFUK Finals. Emily Hazrati, a budding young composer in the Dreamettes, also won an award for her arrangement of ‘Budapest’ by George Ezra.

‘The winners brought the programme to life and made great use of the performing space’. This was the moment of truth. As soon as we heard the word ‘Dreamettes’ we all screamed at the top of our voices with shock and pure joy. There was lots of hugging, crying and laughing as we organised ourselves into formation for an encore of ‘Some Nights’. I still can’t find the words to describe how amazed and happy we felt at that time.

Photos, interviews, more hugging and crying, yet it still didn’t end there! After a celebratory dinner at Wagamamas, many of us stayed to watch the University Finals. To say that we were completely awe-struck by the groups we saw performing is an understatement – the genius arrangements, professional-level choreography and musicality blew us away and gave us something even higher to aspire to. We’ve all decided to make our University application based on places where there’s a good a cappella culture! Hosting the evening was the Sons of Pitches, and they were awesome. This made us realise that a cappella carries on even after school and University.

Taking part in the VF-UK finals has helped our group come together and given us inspiration for the future. We’d like to thank Voice Festival UK kindly for such an incredible experience, encouraging us to achieve great things as a group and providing a platform for young a cappella groups across the nation.


The Dreamettes – winners of the VF-UK 2015 Youth Competition!

Congratulations to The Dreamettes of Putney High School, who have just won our Youth Competition at Birmingham Conservatoire! The standard was unbelievably high this year and we don’t envy our judges having to pick a winner. A big well done to all who took part.

Have a watch of The Dreamettes’ fantastic versions of ‘Some Nights’ and ‘Pompeii’ and check back here soon for an interview with the winning group.


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


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.