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!


Meet the Judges (University Final 2015)

Joanna Forbes L’Estrange

Jo Forbes imageJoanna Forbes L’Estrange was Born in Bangor, North Wales, into a family of professional musicians (granddaughter of the viola player and arranger Watson Forbes and daughter of composer Professor Sebastian Forbes, both of whom have entries in the Grove Dictionary of Music). She studied cello and piano, both to ABRSM Grade 8, playing in the Surrey County Youth Orchestra, conducted by the late John Forster.

Joanna is a graduate of Oxford University – she studied singing, sang in the chapel choir of Merton College, played cello in the Oxford Philharmonia Orchestra, and toured and recorded CDs with Schola Cantorum of Music, under Jeremy Summerly (1990-1993). She holds a PGCE (Secondary Music) from Reading University and has taught music, cello and singing.

She was Soprano and Musical Director of The Swingle Singers between 1998 and 2004, and since leaving the group has been a freelance soprano, jazz singer, choral conductor, adjudicator, lyricist and workshop leader.

Tobias Hug

Tobias Hug has been singing, teaching, travelling for almost 20 years – deeply involved in the global a cappella and choral music scene as a cappella journeyman and beatbox gypsy.

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.

Tobias is co-founder of EVA, the European Voices Association and most recently of the new italian a cappella festival Vocalmente for which he is acting as Artistic Director and Producer. He advises and adjudicates at festivals like VocalAsia (China), Terem Crossover Competition (St Petersburg/Russia) the UK Beatbox Championships, Solevoci (Italy) and the CARAs (Recording Awards.

Clare Wheeler

Clare WheelerClare grew up in Kenya before moving to Manchester to attend Chethams School of Music, where she trained as a classical violinist and also studied classical voice. During this time she met bassist Steve Berry of Loose Tubes, and started getting into jazz. She followed on to Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London to study composition and voice on the jazz course under Lee Gibson, Pete Churchill and Tim Garland, as well as classical singing with Penny Mackay. Clare freelanced in London as a jazz singer, composer and arranger, and taught Music Theory and Harmony at the Academy of Contemporary Music, before joining the internationally renowned Swingle Singers in the summer of 2007. Although the group takes her abroad for much of the year, she still writes prolifically for her own ensembles.


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 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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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.


Ever wondered how to start up your own a cappella group?

It’s the beginning of the university year. Perhaps you’re a first-year, inspired by Pitch Perfect and keen to try out a cappella, but overwhelmed by the number of groups and auditions on offer. Perhaps there aren’t any a cappella groups at your university at all. Maybe you’re a second- or third-year who’s seen what the other groups can do and reckon you can do it better. Or maybe you have a revolutionary new a cappella idea and want a bunch of unwitting singers to try it out on! If you can relate to any of the above, then we highly recommend you check out our brand new Voice Festival Guide to Starting a University Group.

Between us, we have a fair few years of a cappella experience. We’ve each tried out new ideas that have worked well, and ones that have totally bombed… So now it’s time to impart some of that experience to the rest of the a cappella community. The guide contains tips on where to begin, how to find members, ideas for funding, and a couple of our favourite uni group videos and blogs that we think might help to inspire you!

This is only the first in a number of guides we’ll be putting together to help you along your aca-journey, which will all be downloadable from our Resources Page, new to the Voice Festival site in 2014. Soon, we’ll be giving some hints and tips on how to hold auditions. If you have any suggestions for guides we can create in the future, email voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk and we’ll see what we can do!

 


A very fond farewell to the one and only Ally!

AllyIn 2011 the Voice Festival team received an e-mail from a member of Birmingham University’s first a cappella group ‘Augmented 7’. The group had decided to go their separate ways and she was looking for an exciting new a cappella challenge. Luckily for VF-UK, she thought of us and so it was that Ally Eastwood joined the Voice Festival team!

Ally has spent the last three years bringing a wealth of energy and experience to the Voice Festival team; whether organising Birmingham’s regional events in 2012 and 2013, using her photographic talent to capture Voice Festival events, bringing her unique brand of fun and friendliness to our social media channels or transforming the Community Programme in her role as manager over the last year. Ally has met every new challenge with dedication, creativity and humour, which have been infectious for team members, singers and audiences alike. She also has a habit of indulging VF-UK team members and judges – in fact, in her first role as Birmingham Event Manager she turned up with half of the Sainsbury’s bakery section to make sure everyone started the day in a good mood – it certainly worked and has become something of a VF-UK tradition!

As much as we would have liked to keep Ally permanently as an a cappella event organiser extraordinaire, this multi-talented lady is needed elsewhere. She has just qualified as a doctor and is taking up a position in a busy A&E department, and so has made the decision to retire from her Voice Festival responsibilities to devote her time to saving lives. We are so sad to have to say ‘goodbye’ but it could hardly be for a better cause!

P1030896So thank you Ally for all you have done to make the Voice Festival what it is today. We will miss you very much and wish you every happiness and success in your next steps. Make sure you stay in touch and we hope we’ll be seeing you grinning in the front row at many future VF-UK events! In the mean time a warm welcome to Ally’s successor, James.
Finally, if any of you should find yourselves seeking medical treatment in the Nottingham area and being serenaded by songs from Mary Poppins in the middle of the night… well, we can assure you that you are in very good hands.


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