All the King’s Men Place Third in ICCA Finals; SoCal VoCals Win Third Title

The UK’s representatives at this year’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, All the King’s Men from King’s College London, were celebrating last night as they came third in the international final of the event, beating the likes of Yale’s Out of the Blue and Voices in Your Head to claim the bronze medal.

For this year’s Voice Festival UK Champions the feat is all the more impressive, given the group were only formed three years ago, and represents the peak of some remarkable progress since the group was formed in 2009.

The A Cappella Blog will have the full review of the final in the next few days, which was won for an unprecedented third time by SoCal VoCals from the University of Southern California. But from the UK, congratulations to All the King’s Men!

Full Results:

1. SoCal VoCals University of Southern California
2. ScatterTones UCLA
3. All the King’s Men King’s College

Exclusive Interview: AtKM All Set for American Endeavour

Following their success in this year’s Voice Festival competition, all-male group from King’s College, London, All the King’s Men, they were invited to compete as the UK’s representatives in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Finals in New York, following in the footsteps of previous VF-UK Winners Out of the Blue, The Oxford Gargoyles and Cadenza.

With the competition taking place on Saturday 28 April at the Town Hall in New York at 8pm, the boys are flying out on the 26th to prepare for the big day. I spoke to founding member and Musical Director of the group, Henry Southern, about their prospects.

UACUK: Hi Henry! Firstly, congratulations on winning the Voice Festival UK 2012! How does it feel to be the best a cappella group in the country?

HS: Thanks Mark. It feels amazing! Considering the group only started up three years ago, it is a huge achievement and one which we are very proud of.

UACUK: What was your favourite moment of the entire competition?

HS: The final was obviously a highlight, but aside from that, we also enjoyed listening to all the other amazing groups throughout the competition. On a more personal note, after helping to found the group, winning was a lovely way to end my time with the Men.

UACUK: You’re the second all-male group to compete in the ICCA Finals after Out of the Blue – given that OOTB have come second on two occasions, how do you rate your chances against America’s best?

HS: Out of the who? No, but seriously, we know first hand how high the standard of a cappella is in the States – we sang with SoCal VoCals [ICCA Winners in 2008 and 2010 and finalists this year] on our California tour this year and they were awesome. However, I think the scene in the UK is rapidly developing and catching up. I’d like to think we have created our own distinctive style, which will hopefully win over the discerning American judges! We are excited and honoured to be representing the UK and competing against some of the best groups in the world, and we just hope we can show them all what us Brits are made of!

UACUK: What other plans do you have while you’re out there?

HS: Eat lots of burgers?! And maybe sing a bit… I’m sure one of us will keep everyone updated using one of the many social media hubs.

UACUK: What can you tell us about your plans for after the ICCAs? Are there any plans to perform up at the Edinburgh Fringe, maybe another album, any upcoming gigs worthy of mention?

HS: After the ICCAs, we have quite a few gigs in and around London and then we will be start recording a new EP – which our feature our VF-UK set – at the beginning of June. In August we will be at the Fringe again for one week. We are hosting two a cappella showcases up there as well as our normal show; so far we are excited that we will be joined by the King’s Chix, the Accidentals (both of whom are making their Fringe debuts!), Out of the Blue, and the Alleycats. Then at the end of August we will be going to South East Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong) for two weeks, becoming the first British collegiate a cappella group to tour this area. Lastly, in October we are planning a UK schools tour. More details about that will be available as soon as we know them!

UACUK: Is there anything else you would like to add?

HS: We actually have some more rather exciting news – we are delighted to announce that Paul Phoenix, a long standing member of the King’s Singers, is the new patron of the group, and we’re honoured to have his support. Aside from that, we’re excited and honoured to be representing the UK in the ICCAs, and we hope to do the UK proud.

UACUK: All the best in the States and good luck in the final – we’ll be rooting for you from back home! Thanks for talking to us.

HS: Thanks Mark.

For more information about the competitors in the ICCA Final, check out our article here. You can follow All the King’s Men on Facebook and Twitter.

Event Review: VF-UK 2012 Bristol Regional Round

On 3 March 2012, the Voice Festival came rolling into Bristol for the first time ever, as five groups, three debutants and two one-time participants, competed for a prestigious place in the final in London. The event was held at Denmark Hall in Red Maid’s School in Westbury.

Before we get to the review, a quick summary of the show:

The Competitors

THE UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL BARBERSHOP SINGERS from the University of Bristol
THE SWEET NOTHINGS from the University of Exeter
HOTTUBBS from the University of Bristol
SEMI-TONED from the University of Exeter
AQUAPELLA from the University of Bath

The Sweet Nothings, who last participated in the Festival in 2009, kicked us off in their simple white top black skirt combo with a rendition of Madonna’s Like A Prayer. Quite a sombre, slow start was emphasised by a procession through a hand made arch and almost made me feel like I was at a funeral. This was quickly remedied as they picked up the beat and slipped casually into the more upbeat tempo of the song. Good solo. Soprano backing at times drowned out the lower parts, which was shame as there seemed to be some really nice chords in there. The choreography was nothing special – a little too many step-togethers for my liking. All in all a solid opener with very few musical issues, although it was maybe a little long – I had become a little disinterested by the end and maybe needed something a little extra to keep the interest towards the end.

Their next song was Corinne Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On. The one word I’d use to describe their version would be ‘cutesy’. I enjoyed the way the girls were positions, with two girls sat on the edge of the stage, as if dangling their feet in an outdoor swimming pool during a hot summer day – the song certainly reminded me of that. It put a smile on my face, if nothing else, and was very relaxing – almost overly so. The arrangement itself was simple and simply sung, but in a way it kind of worked with this song. Not blown away, but pleasantly entertained.

The group closed with Sweet Dreams (Are Made of Nothings), a playful pun on the Eurythmics original. Again, quite a simple arrangement to start with, which transformed into Adele’s Rollin’ In The Deep, which was very effective with the backing of the previous song. However, it soon became apparent that this was a medley of songs that didn’t seem to have any kind of theme, both lyrically or musically (Everybody by the Backstreet Boys, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley and American Boy to name a few) and it did seem as though it was merely a case of “How many songs can we fit to the original beat?” While entertaining and humorous, it didn’t quite hit the spot for me – I think the arrangement might have been more effective if kept to two, maybe three songs, rather than a countless mish-mash. So all-in-all a moderate set from the girls, which was never bad but never outstanding, but a good effort for an inexperienced group of girls.

Next up were debutants HotTUBBS from Bristol, who are the auditioned version of their parent group, TUBBS. They opened, wearing black with red waist-ties for the girls and red neck-ties for the boys, with their infamous McFly Medley. I was looking forward to this, as according to their Facebook page it was HotTUBBS classic, and as such probably very well rehearsed. They kicked off with Five Colours In Her Hair, with several boys taking the solo from the back, which led to some nice blend. Some good musicality here, dipping and rising at the appropriate times. It’s All About You was next, and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent unison harmonies from the SAT section, which continued into Obviously, which I feel would have benefitted from a single soloist. But they did add a key change at the end – of which I was a big fan, although it did seem the tenors were pushing their range slightly towards the end as a result. Very good opener though, despite the urge for a single soloist.

The group’s second song was a Ragtime Medley. They had a conductor on stage for this one. Again, no soloist it appeared, but once again some really nice chords in places, although the song itself didn’t really do much for me. The group appear very skilled at harmonising in unison, and their pace was perfect throughout, although that was partly because of the effect of the conductor. A different style of a cappella here – not my cup of tea, but well done nonetheless. The chord they produced at the very end of the piece was outstanding.

The group closed with Lady GaGa’s Telephone, and I enjoyed the layered effect during “I’m kinda busy”. The group suffered slight timing issues in the first chorus, where they sped up slightly, but the rest of the song was good and amusing – a highlight being when the boys switched to some rather posh RP accents, which was cleverly juxtaposed with Beyonce’s rap in the middle of the song. I particularly enjoyed the soprano harmonies in the chorus. All-in-all a good closer, but I still wanted a soloist to come out and really take the song by the scruff of the neck I think that’s what this entire set was lacking.

New all-male group Semi-Toned were up next, wearing white shirts, black trousers and braces – classic barbershop look – and opened with Happy Together, made famous by The Turtles, and after promising to ‘cast away the shackles of choral stereotypes’, they proceeded to stand in a choral stance and sing the first verse of the song as if choirboys. I could only assume this was ironic, and indeed they wasted little time moving into the bouncier second verse, which did seem to accelerate away from the boys at times, but their comedic use of fake instruments and the introduction of the Star Wars Theme, however random, did work well (as did the fake light-sabre fighting) and was the perfect length. A good, energetic start from the boys, and I was looking forward to more.

They then went into the Beach Boys’ I Get Around. Nice, strong falsetto solo at the start and in the choruses. Nothing too spectacular here though – the problem with the Beach Boys is that the arrangements almost write themselves, and the boys didn’t really add much of their own to this one. Solid musicality nonetheless.

The third song, intriguingly called Jaundice, began with Travis’ Turn. Good soloist, if a little pitchy on the very highest notes, and really nice blend in the background. The soloists swapped and launched into Coldplay’s Yellow – the title – Turn Yellow – Jaundice – get it? Clever. The harmonies weren’t quite as tight on this section, but the subtle reintroduction of Turn was effective and led to a really mellow and soothing mash-up. Good work from the new boys.

The boys finished up with Michael Jackson’s Blood On The Dance Floor. MJ is notoriously hard to cover and do justice to, so I was really looking forward to see if the boys were able to manage it. They built the sound at the start VERY effectively – from clicking, add bass, add bari, add tenor, and then filled the room with luscious harmony and for the first time this evening, the beatboxing really stood out as excellent here. Some humorous and actually very good moonwalking and general choreography going on throughout the song. Some really good moments, and the soloist, although his moments were short, was very good. However, the very nature of song didn’t really allow any real build towards anything, and as such the performance remained on the same level throughout, despite the slightly pitchy falsetto sing-off from two of the boys towards the end. A humorous end, but the song choice let them down here I feel.

Next up were the first ever group from the University of Bath, Aquapella. Wearing black and blue, a classy combination their set included Coldplay’s Fix You. Some really nice blend at the start. Male soloist – very brave, as it’s a very tough song for a male voice to handle. Unfortunately, his voice was a little crass – the song was a little high, and as such he had to sing it loud, which disrupted the calmer feel to the song. The top notes weren’t always quite there, either. I think that may have been partly due to nerves. However, when the group moved into the chorus, they filled the stage with some really beautiful harmonies and open vowels, and each chorus was undoubtedly the best part of the song. I was intrigued to hear what they were going to do with the bridge, and they did it well. Quick yet soft ‘na-na’s from the backing led into “Tears stream down your face” really nicely, and while the bridge lack a little bit of emotion, the sound produced was generally excellent, especially towards the end. The final soloist was weak, but overall a really impressive arrangement from the new group.

The group finished with the barbershop classic Goodnight Sweetheart. I was interested to see if they would add their own identity to it, as it’s a very extensively covered song. While it was well sung, there was nothing outstanding about it, save for the awesome sombre minor chord on the finish. All in all a good set from the newcomers, but nothing to write home about.

The final group of the evening were The University of Bristol Barbershop Singers, and the first impression you get from this group is that there are A LOT of them. They opened with Mika’s Happy Ending, one of my favourite songs of all time, stood in a large semi circle with a conductor facing them. More like a choir than a contemporary a cappella group. The song itself seemed quite big, due to the sheer number of voices on stage, but was missing a few of the distinctive “twiddly-bits” (that’s a technical term) in the original. However, several of the blocked chords in the bridge and chorus were really full and harmonious. In fact, for the first time in the evening, during the “little bit of love” section, I got goosebumps from the glorious chords emerging from the stage. It’s a shame they were very restricted on the movement side of things, because the song could have done with a bit more going on on the stage to keep the interest flowing all the way through. A little shouty from the girls at the very end, but otherwise good and quite different to all the groups we had previously seen.

Verdict:

Firstly, I apologise for being unable to fully review the final two groups, due to the lack of videos available on YouTube. That said, I think it was difficult to decide between Semi-Toned and HotTUBBS for the best two groups. HotTUBBS had the advantage of being able to fill the stage much more easily than their all-male counterparts, but I was left wanting a single soloist for much of their set. Semi-Toned managed to squeeze four quite original songs into their set, and my favourite was Jaundice, but they lacked a consistent blend to their sound. The Sweet Nothings were pleasant to listen to but lack a real cutting edge for me, and although they should be commended, they didn’t stand out above the rest of the groups. TUBBS filled the stage (how could they not?) but may have been hindered by their inability to really move on stage, while Aquapella were solid in their debut outing.

Awards:

Outstanding Performance: The Sweet Nothings
Outstanding Arrangement: Ed Henley of Semi-Toned for ‘Jaundice’
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Jack Telfer St. Claire of Semi-Toned
Outstanding Choreography: HotTUBBS for ‘Telephone’

WINNER:

HOTTUBBS

So, despite what our readers thought, debutants HotTUBBS went through to the London final to test their mettle against the best groups in the country.

The Other Guys Reveal New Charity Video and Single

The Other Guys from the University of St Andrews, of ‘Royal Romance’ fame, today revealed the details of their latest project – and it looks to be an ambitious one.

The Guys, whose video has recently had its anniversary and currently has just over 728,000 views on YouTube, will be releasing another video, entitled ‘St Andrews Girls’, in conjunction with a charity single, raising money for Breast Cancer Care in the process.

A statement from the group reads: “When thinking of making a new video it was obvious what [we] should do: give something back. [...] The group know firsthand how this can affect individuals and their families and by donating to, and raising awareness for, Breast Cancer Care we hope to help people through that very difficult time.”

To help them with the video, the guys are calling all the girls from all areas of St Andrews life to St Salvator’s Quad this Sunday at 2.45pm, complete with barbours, wellies and anything else distinctly St Andrews related, for a special day of filming. The boys are counting on their “wonderful and dedicated fan base” to seize their chance to be a part of the project.

“The video is a tongue-in-cheek parody about ‘St Andrews Girls’ and will be released in conjunction with the charity single,” said the group. “We want to put St Andrews, once again, on the map and raise money for an extremely worthwhile cause.”

For more information about the event, and how to get involved, see the event here. To watch the Guys’ last video, click here.

The Other Guys Celebrate RR Anniversary; Starting Work on ‘New Project’

Today marks the anniversary of the day when an otherwise obscure all-male a cappella group from the University of St Andrews burst onto the YouTube scene with their hilarious parody of Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance, entitled ‘Royal Romance’, which has since amassed over 725,000 views on the popular video sharing site.

According to the group’s Facebook page, however, the news does not end there. The group are, incidentally, back in the studio today starting work on their latest ‘project’, although specific details are yet to be revealed. The Scottish group, who reached the final of the Voice Festival UK for the first time this year since 2009, will be hoping that whatever this new project is, it will help them capitalise further on the success of their previous video.

Whatever the boys are planning, we’re looking forward to hearing or watching it in the near future!

To watch Royal Romance again, click here.

Up-and-Coming: The Scopes

Here at the blog we always get extremely excited when we hear of new groups being formed, and these days it’s happening more and more regularly, as the popularity of a cappella in the UK continues to grow, having spread to Leeds, Bath and Aberdeen in the past year or so.

So, in the first of a new set of Spotlights, we got in touch with co-founder and pseudo-MD, Justus Schmidt, of new Imperial College group, The Scopes, to discuss their short history and see what their plans for the future were.

UACUK: Hi Justus, thanks for agreeing to speak to me.

JS: Gladly!

UACUK: Tell us about the formation of the group then.

JS: We only formed last November [2011], and as such aren’t even a year old yet. We initially had only six people, but that increased to eight when two others joined us. We consist of both male and female singers, and used to be called Kaleidoscope, but since then we’ve shortened the name to simply ‘The Scopes’.

UACUK: How’s it going so far?

JS: It’s very much trial and error so far. None of us had sung a cappella before, and we don’t have an official MD yet, although I practically do the job, despite the fact I’ve not had any previous experience. We also only have a repertoire of just three songs so far, with all of them being group arranged numbers, so not quite ready to hold any big concerts yet!

UACUK: Have you performed publicly yet?

JS: Not so to speak. We did do one hour of busking during a rehearsal rather spontaneously, but apart from that, like I say, we don’t have enough material to do it justice yet.

UACUK: How do you hope to develop the group in the next few months?

JS: I think the first things to do would be to stabilise the core members of the group and recruit more people, so that we can really start to make a solid sound. That would probably involve finding a group identity, as we don’t want to just be a copy of other groups out there. Obviously extending our repertoire is also very important, and we’d love to secure some gigs further down the line.

UACUK: Awesome! Well good luck with the future, and we hope to see you in action soon!

JS: Thanks a lot!

To get in touch with The Scopes, either to express an interest in joining the group or to book them for an event, contact Justus Schmidt on Facebook.

All the King’s Men on Eggheads?!

According to reliable sources, Voice Festival UK 2012 Champions All the King’s Men are heading for TV fame as the latest contestants on the popular BBC Two quiz show, Eggheads.

Last year, five members from the first generation of the group were invited to fly up to Glasgow to compete on the show, and their endeavours are finally being broadcast tomorrow, Friday 6th April, at 6.30pm on BBC Two.

Will they manage to dethrone the current Eggheads, or will they proceed to embarrass themselves? At least we know they should fare well in the music rounds!

For more information about the event, click here. To check out All the King’s Men’s Facebook page, click here.