A couple of days before Christmas, we here at the UK University A Cappella Blog received possibly the best Christmas present of them all – confirmed dates and competitors for this year’s Voice Festival UK. While it is the largest competition so far, with more groups than ever competing, one Regional Round has unfortunately been cancelled due to lack of competitors – that in Cambridge.
In this series of blogs, we will be previewing each individual Regional Round, commenting on each group and their chances of qualifying for the final, as well as introducing several groups that you might not yet have heard of.
In our fourth preview, we look at the first ever Bristol Regional, taking place on 3 March.
While this is the inaugural Bristol Regional Round, a couple of the groups performing do have history in the event themselves. The University of Bristol Barbershop Singers, or TUBBS for short, participated in the Birmingham Regional for the first time last year. The other returning group are The Sweet Nothings, who competed in the inaugural competition back in 2009, but have since not taken part. It will be interesting to see how these two groups do, now they have their own Regional Round.
Take Note: Of the Exeter-based groups not competing, I felt Take Note would perhaps be the group most likely to out of the rest. Perhaps the fact they are unauditioned and relatively new has put them off – St Andrews’ new Unauditioned A Cappella group also aren’t competing – but we wish the group all the best with any future endeavours.
Aquapella: A relatively new group, formed only two months ago according to this blog, and from a university entering for the first time, like Aberdeen and Leeds, the Bath group will be looking to learn from their experience this year. That said, this round is wide open and if they have made enough progress in the five months leading up to the competition then they could stand a chance. It may be difficult for them to find a solid, musical sound and blend in such a short time, but we encourage newcomers and wish them all the best in the competition.
HotTUBBS: The second group from the University of Bristol, HotTUBBS is a smaller project within the TUBBS society at the university, and was formed in 2008. They are described as a “crack squad of 24 auditioned singers”, and such a large group is unusual for VF-UK, but we feel confident that they will really fill the stage with their sound as a result. The fact they have been going for over three years could also bode well, although lack of competitive experience could hinder them.
Semi-Toned: The only all-male group in this Regional, Semi-Toned are a relatively new group from the University of Exeter who have been building their reputation around Exeter by busking frequently on Magdalen Road in the city centre. They combined with girl group The Sweet Nothings in December for a joint Christmas Concert, collaborating on stage as well in a special mixed performance. Whether they are ready for competitive action remains to be seen, but I predict them to make some sort of impact.
TUBBS: Having travelled a long way to Birmingham last year with no reward, the University of Bristol Barbershop Singers will be happy to have a Regional slightly closer to home this time around. Their experience could be crucial in this round, especially because of the number of new groups in this particular Regional, and they are run very professionally. They could stand a very good chance.
The Sweet Nothings: Old-Timers might be pushing it a little bit – the last time this group competed was in 2009, and it is unlikely that any of that participating group still remains. Formed in 2006, the group are the oldest at the university and are my favourites to win this round – despite their two year absence from VF-UK, they are the most experienced group and know what the Voice Festival is all about, and should by now have a sound and blend that fits the group. Anything could happen, of course, but these girls have the advantage.
One could argue that this is the weakest round, with three brand new groups competing, but that would be unfair – HotTUBBS have been singing together since 2008, so aren’t exactly new, while TUBBS and The Sweet Nothings both have experience in the tournament and know what it takes to qualify for a final, even if they haven’t managed it themselves yet. Semi-Toned seem to be very clued in to modern-day a cappella, citing Out of the Blue and All The King’s Men as their inspiration, so it would be interesting to see them up against one or both of those groups if they reach the final. Aquapella will find it tough, but there’s nothing like a bit of competition to really make a group step up to the plate. One of the most difficult to predict.
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