TOG Spread Christmas Cheer Across the Country

Following the success of their Royal Wedding-inspired video ‘Royal Romance’ in April, University of St Andrews-based all-male group The Other Guys have barely stopped, and the Christmas Season was no exception for the Kate Middleton fans.

We spoke to the current Musical Director of the Guys, Matthew Pattie, during a rare moment off for the final year student.

UACUK: You’ve been extremely busy during this Festive Season. Let’s start at the beginning.

MP: Ok, so firstly we did a bit of charity busking with the University Charities Campaign. The Press Office at the University caught wind of it and we ended up filming a video inside St Salvator’s Chapel of our Backstreet Boys Medley with Rory McLion, the Charities Mascot of the University. That was pretty fun, and we raised a fair bit of money for CHAS, too.

UACUK: Then you had an insanely busy weekend a couple of weeks ago – how did that start?

MP: First up we had the University Christmas Concert, organised by the A Cappella Society. This was the first big outing of, barring 4 of us, a completely new group from last year. As such, we wanted to do something completely different to not only the other groups, but also of the previous incarnation of the group. Therefore, we decided to open our set by processing from the back of Younger Hall, wearing our academic gowns, with our countertenor singing the opening verse of ‘Once in Royal’, up the octave, and it was something completely new and took the audience by surprise. We think they enjoyed it!

UACUK: Would you say the group has become a little bolder since the success of the video, doing things that you previously might not have gotten away with?

MP: Bolder? Perhaps. There was always a danger that anything the group did after the video would only result in an unfavourable comparison. In that way, the album [Barely Regal, released September 2011] was a great next step, cataloguing the sound of the 10/11 group and building on the momentum of the video. The album has been received really well, and so can be seen as a success. However, like I say, now we’re a very new group, a much younger group, and one with a very different sound. Because of that I think we just wanted to, not make a break from, but define a clear distinction between what has gone before and what we’re going on to do. We’ve got a lot to build on – we just want to do ourselves justice.

UACUK: Did the group bond well before the Christmas Concert, considering six of you were brand new?

MP: Yes. We bonded remarkably well and remarkably quickly. We had to, really, as we had a couple of gigs at the very start of term, so we were rehearsing pretty much every day to make sure we had not only a great sound, but also enough material to perform.

UACUK: The weekend didn’t stop at the Christmas Concert did it?

MP: Absolutely not! We then headed down to London for the 7th Annual St Andrews Alumni Carol Service at Southwark Cathedral. We performed ‘O Holy Night’ in front of loads of people, and blasted out those descants during the rest of the service – it was a really good evening. There were a couple of ‘unofficial’ performances towards the end of the night as well, and all in all a great time was had by everyone.

UACUK: How did that come about then?

MP: The Southwark gig? I’m pretty sure we got contacted in April following the video, and the organiser in particular really wanted us to be a part of the service. I think it was a nice way to get an active university group part of the service, especially as we were singing with the original video group, rather than the current group, so it showed both the past and present of the university, which was perfect for the Alumni nature of the service.

UACUK: Then you headed over to the Savoy…

MP: Yeah, we were performing for a charity fundraiser for the Muir Maxwell Trust in the London Savoy. We had worked with them during the summer at a similar event at Fettes College in Edinburgh, and were delighted when they asked us to be a part of their event again. The event was hosted by Natasha Kaplinsky and Angela Rippon, and Martin Bayfield conducted the auction, so we got a little taster of the showbiz life. Natasha even got my email address, so we might have a potential gig or two off the back of that. We were also delighted to donate £400 to the charity – not much compared to a lot of what was been thrown around during the auction, but we were glad to do our part.

UACUK: Sounds like a great weekend! Did it stop there?

MP: Not even close. We then headed back to St Andrews for our very own Christmas Concert, entitled ‘Carols Not From Kings’. The title speaks for itself, but the basic concept was one of parody. We did a set of Christmas music and non-Christmas music, which were mixed with so-called ‘lessons’, which weren’t Bible verses, but instead quotes from films like Love Actually and the Muppets Christmas Carol. We also led some communal carols with the ‘congregation’, which was a group of friends we had personally invited.

UACUK: How many people did you have there?

MP: We’d invited a group of about 50 friends, so 5 for each of the guys, plus a few extras. They all received a ‘Christmas Present’ at the end, which was a goodie bag with a signed CD, an Other Guys Christmas Card, some chocolates and an orange. We also served mulled wine and mince pies during the break. We had a really good time and we hope they all did too – it’s definitely an event to build upon in the coming years, we’d love to do something similar next year.

UACUK: I bet you were exhausted after that weekend!

MP: Yeah, we were completely exhausted. A lot of us sing with other groups and choirs too, so we had other concerts in the preceding and following weeks as well. One of us was doing 9 concerts in 9 days, and another two had 8 in 8. But that Monday was a nice way to let off some steam with our friends, enjoy ourselves and detox a little bit!

UACUK: Sounds like you needed it! You can’t have had much more after that, with it being so close to Christmas?

MP: Actually, we did. We had one final engagement. After hearing us at the Dunhill Links Gala Dinner in September, Colin Montgomerie invited us to his home for a Christmas Dinner Fundraiser. It was held in aid of the Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation, set up in the memory of his mother. The current aim of the project is to bring a Maggies Cancer Care to Aberdeen. Colin and everyone involved were really nice and we sung three times, the third time as an encore after a request from the guests. It was a great way to end our 2011.

UACUK: Sounds like it! So, The Voice Festival is next. Have you started preparing for that?

MP: In a way, everything we’ve done so far this year is great preparation for The Voice Festival. Having said that, we’re kinda just catching our breath at the moment, as you can imagine. But we’ll be getting together in the New Year for some preparation. The event seems bigger than ever this year, and it’s one of the highlights of the a cappella calendar, so we can’t wait to get stuck in.

UACUK: Do you think you’ll be ready, given the younger nature of the group?

MP: I think the gigs we’ve already done this year stand testament to the fact that we’re ready as a group. Like I say, it’s a different sound, a younger group, different banter, but I’m sure we’ll rise to the challenge.

UACUK: How do you rate your chances of winning?

MP: I think any group who entered the competition saying they didn’t want to win would be being a little dishonest. Obviously we’ll give it our best shot, but making predictions on the St Andrews Regional is difficult at this stage, let alone the final. It’s always a tough round, and it’s a fickle game. It was refreshing to see Choral Stimulation from Glasgow again last year, and it will be interesting to see Aberpella, the group from Aberdeen. But with only one group from six going through to the final… Well, we’ll just give it our best shot, like we do every year.

UACUK: Well, we wish you the best of luck, both with the Voice Festival and with whatever plans you have for the rest of 2012!

MP: Thanks

The Other Guys can be found on Facebook, Twitter and on their Official Website. They have also currently made a track from their 2009 album ‘Well Sung’ available for free download: ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

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