The Techtonics Breaking Ground in Croatia

Imperial College’s The Techtonics, formed in 2008, are embarking on their maiden overseas tour as I write, in order to take part in this year’s Vocal Marathon competition.

The 10-strong group, formed by Christian Carter and Ed Brightman three years ago, are travelling to Croatia with the Imperial College Chamber Choir to introduce their very own blend of music to the Croatians.

The group will kick-off their performances later today at 9pm local time at Vela Placa (public square), Krk, on Krk Island. Tomorrow they will join up with the Chamber Choir in a joint performance at Kosljun Monastery at 8pm.

On 2 September they will reach the focal point of their tour – the Vocal Marathon competition. They will begin the day with an a cappella masterclass, led by Tomaz Kozlevcar, at Rijeka University. They will then move onto Trsat Castle in Rijeka to compete against the 9 other a cappella groups from around Europe in the competition itself, with each group performing a twenty minute set between 6pm and 10pm in this self styled ‘marathon’ of a cappella.

The following day, the awards ceremony will take place, and hopefully the boys will come away with an award or two – maybe even the grand prize!

I assume there will be much drinking and frivolity afterwards.

I hope to catch up with the boys once they have returned from Croatia, in order to catch up with them and find out more about their exploits. In the meantime, I wish them all the best!

For more information on the Vocal Marathon competition, visit http://www.vocalmarathon.com.

Spotlight: The Alleycats

In the first of several feature articles detailing the progress of each UK a cappella group, we focus on The Alleycats of the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Formation

The Alleycats were formed in 2001 by a couple of male friends and became the university’s first a cappella group. They were originally an all-male group but in 2007 decided to invite females to audition for the group, and the group is now made up of roughly half and half.

History

During their early years, they set about increasing their reputation in and around St Andrews by performing at various functions and gigs. However, their major publicity came in 2008 when they entered BBC’s Last Choir Standing primetime singing competition, and they progressed to the live shows. Unfortunately, they were eliminated in the first heat.

The following year they entered the first ever Voice Festival UK competition and progressed to the final. They succeeded in doing so again in 2010, which was also their first year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where they performed six times to packed out crowds.

More recently…

At the start of the 2010/2011 academic year, the group released their latest album, Cat Touch This, which sold relatively well around St Andrews. The group took part in the annual Christmas A Cappella Concert in St Andrews and were well received. They took part for the third time in the Voice Festival UK, performing a set of Shania Twain’s That Don’t Impress Me Much, The Killers’ When You Were Young and Chris Brown’s Forever. They did not progress to the final in London, due to the number of qualifiers from the St Andrews being reduced from two to one.

In early August they took part in the Fringe By The Sea in North Berwick and returned to the Edinburgh Fringe for two weeks, and were received very well in both instances.

The Year In Quotes

…of the CD, Cat Touch This:

“Such a good album… Starlight [originally by Muse] is unbelievable, Whatcha Say [Jason DeRulo] so good as well” – Alan McIvor, Alleycats fan and former member.

…of the Voice Festival UK:

“The bike that they made out of people during their set was awesome.” - Mark Gregory, UACUK founder and member of The Other Guys.

…of the Fringe:

“We had a proper Fringe experience this year, we were in a more central and a larger venue and for two weeks, and that enabled us to bring in an entirely new audience of people who have never seen us before. It was challenging to keep up the energy for the entire time, but also immensely fun. We were at least half-full every night, which is impressive for the Fringe. We’ve all just had a really great time.” – Andrew Adam, member of The Alleycats

“Energetic and fun-filled [...] dynamic.” – BroadwayBaby

“Infectiously entertaining.” – FestMag

“The guy doing the beat box stuff [Cammy Dobbie] was phenomenal.” – Alexis Affonso, audience member.

What’s Next?

The Alleycats are looking forward to another successful year of a cappella. They have already laid down a few tracks for their newest, as yet untitled album that potentially has an early 2012 release date, in order to incorporate their two departing members and any newcomers on the same album.

Aside from the album, they plan to compete in the Voice Festival UK once again and return to the Fringe in the summer of 2012, while potentially embarking on a tour of the UK with the profits they have made from this year’s festival, in order to increase their reputation and garner a brand new fanbase.

Whatever they get up to, the Alleycats are sure to have a great time doing it!

 

The Alleycats can be found on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alleycats1

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/thealleycats1

Plans for New A Cappella Group in St Andrews

An unauditioned a cappella group is likely to be formed in the new term by the President of the University of St Andrews’ A Cappella Society and member of the Alleycats, Andrew Adam. The newly elected head of a cappella at the university spoke to me over a couple of beers at the Doctor’s Bar in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

UACUK: Hey Andrew. How are you enjoying the Fringe?

AA: I love it. We [The Alleycats] have been here for two weeks this year, rather than just the one, so we’ve been properly exposed to the Fringe Experience. I’ve also been in a musical since the start of the Fringe, so I’ve been here the whole time. It’s been really great.

UACUK: Tell us about the plans for a cappella next year at St Andrews.

AA: In some ways it’s going to be the same old same old: we’ll have a Christmas Concert in December, take part in the Voice Festival UK in March, and then each group will have their own public or private gigs. Obviously, this year we were lucky to have the Royal Wedding Breakfast in St. Salvator’s Quad, which was great publicity for all of us, but I don’t think anything like that will be happening this year. But I feel we have to progress in some way, so I’d like to introduce more gigs with all the groups together, and even bring groups like Choral Stimulation [of Glasgow University] and the Forget-Me-Nots [of Edinburgh University] to perform with us.

UACUK: Why do you want to create an unauditioned group then?

AA: Yeah, well I feel there are a lot of people at the university who really enjoy a cappella but who never really get the chance to do it themselves, whether it be because they get turned down by the other groups or don’t have the nerve to audition in the first place, and I think an unauditioned group would be a great way for these sorts of people to experience a cappella and improve their musical skills.

UACUK: What kind of events would you aim to perform at?

AA: I think at first it would take time to be ready for concerts. We would hope to perform at the Christmas Concert and even at the Voice Festival, but perhaps not compete – instead, we could act as a “guest group” and perform while the judges are totting up the scores. I think that would again take the pressure off the performers and keep the group as a more informal, light-hearted group. It would be nice to do some other functions too, if we get invited.

UACUK: Are there any other initiatives you’re hoping to implement?

AA: It could be cool to have guest MDs from the other four a cappella groups getting involved, to not only bring a variety of sounds to the group but also bring the groups at the university closer together. On a separate note, I’d like to try and spread the word of a cappella around some of the other universities in the UK – thanks to Out of the Blue doing Britain’s Got Talent and The Other Guys’ video on YouTube, collegiate a cappella in the UK is growing in reputation, and it can’t be long before other universities want to get involved. I say, the more the merrier!

UACUK: Thanks Andrew. Enjoy the rest of the Fringe!

The Alleycats are performing at 4.45 until 29th August at C Venues on Chambers Street.

VF-UK at the Fringe Proves a Hit

Yesterday evening, four a cappella groups from around the country combined to create a wonderful blend of voices and music – before going to the bar, getting drunk and trying their hand at karaoke!

The Voice Festival UK, the organisers of the annual collegiate a cappella competition that takes place in March each year, organised the event, and despite the relatively small paying crowd, a good time was had by all.

In The Pink, one of Oxford’s all female a cappella groups, kicked off proceedings, the highlight being their rendition of Rose by The Feeling. The Oxford Gargoyles, the winners of VF-UK in 2010, were next, followed by a somewhat depleted group of the Oxford Belles, who despite their small number of participating members, still performed a wonderful version of Snow Patrol’s Run. The Alleycats finished things off with Chris Brown’s Forever and All These Things That I’ve Done by The Killers, which involved a rather memorable moment of audience participation.

To close, all four groups took to the stage and performed a very special version of Forget You by Cee Lo Green, which went down like a storm.

And then – to the bar! It was an a cappella infested C Venues Bar from around 8pm onwards, with all the groups sticking around for a drink or two. There was even an appearance from a couple of The Other Guys and The Accidentals from the University of St Andrews.

There was also karaoke going on in C (+2), and the Gargoyles in particular were more than up for some of that. They were certainly better than most of the other participants over the course of the evening.

The general consensus was positive – despite the lack of publicity leading to few tickets being sold, the members of the groups themselves had a very good night and believe a lot of benefit was gained from the experience. The chance to socialise and meet new, like-minded people; to advertise and give samples of your own shows; and to generally have a great time.

I enjoyed myself, and as far as I could tell, so did everyone else.

Barely Regal Release Date Revealed

The University of St Andrews’ The Other Guys’ highly anticipated new album, Barely Regal, is set to be released on 5 September.

Barely Regal CD Cover

The group, which have been recording and editing the album since 27 June, have also revealed the front cover of the album, which incorporates the style of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters that were distributed by the government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War and have recently gained commercial popularity.

We spoke to some of the guys about the album, the tracklist and the artwork, as well as what they have been up to so far during the summer:

UACUK: Hi guys. Enjoying the summer?

TOG: Yeah. It’s been busy so far for some of us – working on the album with various people has been great but has kept some of us, especially the older guys, quite pre-occupied.

UACUK: A lot of people seem really excited about the album. Are you?

TOG: Yeah, of course. Since the success of the Royal Romance video, this is the first time we’ve really been in a financial position to make a really good quality record, and so for the older guys it’s a massive step up from our previous offerings.

UACUK: You mentioned the video – did you think it would be such a success?

TOG: Yes and no. Obviously we didn’t envisage such a widespread positive response, but we remember saying to each other just before we launched it that this really could be something; it was just the perfect timing of the video and the massive hype about the Royal Wedding – it was too good an opportunity to miss.

UACUK: So was the album the next logical step?

TOG: I guess so. We wanted to show those people who might not necessarily have heard any of our other stuff that we’re not just all about the parodies. We wanted to show off our musicality and blend, and an album was the best way of doing that.

UACUK: Any hints as to what’s on the album…?

TOG: Sorry! All we can say is that Royal Romance is on it, and there are a couple of other parodies and a few ballads. There’s a good mixture of tunes. 

UACUK: You’ve been working in America with professional group ‘Overboard’. How was that?

TOG: They were really great. Obviously they know a lot more about the success of commercial a cappella and a lot more experience in mixing and editing than any of us or our British contacts. We also worked with ‘diovoce’ who mastered the album, and that has really made a difference to the sound and the quality of the album – Ollie has about four different versions of each song, and it’s really quite astounding to hear the difference between them all. It was great to work with them and we would love to link up again in the future.

UACUK: What’s next then?

TOG: Well, aside from the album launch, we have a few gigs lined up before the end of the year, including the Dunhill Links Championship in October and a couple of Christmas gigs in London. We also have a couple of other projects in the pipeline, but we can’t reveal any details of those just yet! 

UACUK: Thanks for talking to us, lads

TOG: No worries.

Barely Regal is set for release online and by hard copy on 5 September. For more information, follow The Other Guys on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/standrews.otherguys

The Voice Festival UK comes to the Fringe!

For one night, and one night only, The Voice Festival UK and some of the best university a cappella groups from around the UK are performing under one roof for a night of music, fun and (just a few) drinks.

The self-styled “End of Year Showcase and Party” will see The Alleycats, The Oxford Belles, 2010 winners The Oxford Gargoyles and In The Pink all performing during an hour of live music which is sure to take C (-1) by storm.

We will be there to oversee proceedings and perhaps even take a few small interviews from some group members, and who knows – The Other Guys, All The King’s Men and Out of the Blue might even be popping along for a few drinks in the bar…

Fringe Festival Fun!

August is here, and naturally, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the place to be. Several of our a cappella groups have seized upon this fantastic opportunity and are performing to enthusiastic audiences every night! Here are the details of who you can find and where at the biggest arts festival in the world:

The Alleycats

Young, mischievous and singing everything from 80s rock to motown and hip-hop – a cheeky something for everyone. With appearances on Last Choir Standing and numerous awards, this is energetic a cappella with attitude!

14-29 August

16:45 (0h50)

C Venues – C

The Oxford Belles

Oxford’s original all-female a cappella group bring their unique blend of classics and chart hits, choreography and beatboxing back to Edinburgh, having showcased at acclaimed international venues. Be entertained by a musical sensation!

3-29 August

14:35 (0h50)

C Venues – C eca

The Forget-Me-Nots

Bright, young, all-female close-harmony quartet perform a variety of show tunes, old classics and modern hits in this exciting family-friendly show. Expect laughs, tears and a whole lot of harmony from these quality free fringe first-timers.

4-28 August

18:00 (1h)

Laughing Horse @ Room at 34

In The Pink 

Oxford’s gorgeous singing sensations return for their seventh year at the Fringe! With lush harmonies, cheeky humour and quirky choreography, they guarantee a toe-tapping performance – all polished with their signature girl next door charm.

14-29 August

13:15 (0h50)

C Venues – C

The Oxford Alternotives

Oxford’s crazily cool award-winning a cappella group returns! Having thoroughly thrilled the people of Edinburgh, New York and Boston last year, the group are back bigger and better than ever, bringing you an electric mix of pop, funk, soul and r’n’b! Come and see for yourself. An hour of dazzling harmonies and ridiculous dancing, it’s all about having a laugh!

14-29 August

14:05 (0h50)

theSpace @ Venue 45

The Oxford Gargoyles

The Oxford Gargoyles return to the Fringe to dazzle with their impeccable charm, intricate harmonies and infectious energy. Traditionally singing jazz, this ‘delectably light-voiced, well blended’ group (Times, 2011) also groove to Disney, pop and soul, and have picked up countless awards for their soloists and arrangements along the way (Voice Festival Winners 2010). Having supported both The Real Group and The Swingle Singers, this enthralling ensemble has delighted crowds at the Fringe for the last five years.

14-29 August

14:15 (0h50)

C Venues – C

All the King’s Men

Fresh from a successful USA tour, Voice Festival UK award-winners All the King’s Men are back! Following their sell-out 2010 Fringe debut, King’s College London’s premier a cappella group return with a show of boundless energy, a diverse selection of music and entertaining choreography, all seasoned with humour and mischief. A regal performance fit for a king!

15-27 August

15:10 (0h45)

theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall

Out of the Blue

Oxford’s all-male vocal sensation return to Edinburgh! Serving an unbeatable cocktail of hot harmonies and outrageous choreography, prepare to be amazed by their electrifying energy, irrepressible enthusiasm and vibrant vocals. These fifteen sharp-suited undergraduates provide a musical experience like no other. Their enjoyment is contagious, their musicality infectious. Hold on to your seats – this is a cappella like you’ve never heard it before!

3-29 August

15:00 (0h50)

Pleasance Courtyard