Fringe Focus: The Oxford Gargoyles

In the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, every week we will be producing special focuses on our collegiate groups who will be performing at the world’s largest amateur arts festival in 2012. In the fourth edition, we’ll be looking at The Oxford Gargoyles, winners of the Voice Festival UK in 2010 and regular fringe-goers.

Fringe History

The Oxford Gargoyles will be performing in their seventh consecutive year at the Fringe Festival, and they began way back in 2006 in C Too, and have since moved to what could be considered a regular spot in C(-1), which remains one of the larger venues within C Venues. Having successfully managed a sell-out run last year and received three five-star reviews from arguably the biggest three reviewers at the Festival, that place is thoroughly deserved.

Previous Praise

“You won’t see a better a cappella act this year.” – BroadwayBaby, 2011 (*****)
“The sensitive use of dynamics and beautiful original arrangements establish their genuine musical talent.” – ThreeWeeks, 2011 (*****)
“They produce pitch perfect harmonies every time and their musical interpretation and expression are impeccable.” – Fringe Review, 2011 (*****)

This Year

This year the group will be taking up their usual spot in C(-1) from 12th-27th August at 3pm. The group have had a very successfully year, particularly in reaching the Category Finals of BBC’s Choir of the Year competition, and will be showcasing one of two of the songs that may well be used in that competition. Highlights will include jazz classics Mr Bojangles and It Don’t Mean A Thing as well as more recent arrangements, including the Dancing in the Moonlight medley featured in their Voice Festival set this year. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be returning to the Fringe and are looking forward to learning as much from the other performers there as we will from our own performing experiences,” says Anjali Joseph, the Business Manager of the group, and continues with some more exciting news: “We also have a new album – our tenth – which will be released alongside our Edinburgh show and features a mixture of live and studio recordings of this year’s arrangements.”

What To Expect

The Oxford Gargoyles are one of those extremely musically talented groups who will never fail to produce flawless harmonies and an incredible blend of sound on stage. They may not be the most mobile of groups on stage, but to have a group focus particularly on jazz music and full it off with such professionalism is quite something. They bring originality, harmonious blend and tonnes of jazz to a Fringe otherwise dominated by acts very similar to each other. If you’re not quite a popular music fan, then this is definitely the group for you.

Further Details

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page
Official Website

Album Review: EP – The Accidentals

The Accidentals are the first all-female group to release an album in over a year.


I must admit, I was very excited when I heard The Accidentals had finally released an album, albeit a 4 track EP, becoming the first all-female group to so for over a year. It is encouraging progress for the group based in St Andrews, who have had a relatively quiet year by their standards, having lost several of their established group members through graduation and failing to reach the Voice Festival UK Final for the first time since 2009.

But the news that the group will be taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a short period is, literally and metaphorically, music to my ears, and so the fact I can now listen to them whenever I want while helping them to fund their Fringe run makes me very happy. That’s why I’m sitting here on the balcony of my Russian apartment soaking in the sun, eating ice cream and enjoying the start of the summer.

And this is very much a summery album, which has injected an additional, gratifying layer of summery goodness into this already extremely pleasant afternoon. The album kicks off with the girls’ cover of Jessie J’s Price Tag, and I almost want to describe it as ‘bubbly’, with the cutesy ‘Do’ and ‘Ba’ sounds filling the background as if it were the first song of a bubblegum-pop infused Now That’s What I Call Summer! album. It becomes clear after a while that this song is a mash-up, and indeed we are introduced to Where Is The Love? by the Black Eyed Peas, with the solo and ad-libs tackled superbly by Gemma O’Brien’s magically smooth alto voice. Credit must also be due to Becky Muir, whose solo on this track is nothing short of exceptional.

The poppiness continues onto track 2, which is another mash-up of Nelly’s Ride With Me, Ridin’ Solo from Jason DeRulo and Busted’s Year 3000, all of which blend very well together. I do lament that one is unable to watch the girls perform this particular track live, as I remember it was much enhanced by some clever and hilarious choreography during their Voice Festival set that year. Nevertheless, it’s a strong, if a little short explosion of pop.

The girls tone it down a little bit for the third track, which further emphasises the solo talent in this group, with Grace Hardy, Anna McDonald and particularly Ellie Mason excelling here. The track is JLS’s Love You More, and while the soloists shine, I do feel there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the backing in this particular number, with the girls not really adding much of a personal touch to the original track. Until, that is, Gemma O’Brien intoxicates us all again towards the climax of the piece with another silky solo which really adds a much needed extra dimension to this song.

The final piece features the award-winning solo of Anna McDonald on Adele’s Rollin’ In The Deep. This is by no means an easy song to sing, and Anna really shows her ability to be in command of her voice by not just belting the number out as loudly and as brashly as possible, but instead delivering a controlled performance ahead of more slightly innocuous backing, which in a way works well here and allows the strong solo to shine through.

The girls have therefore produced a very cutesy, summery album, and while I do feel it does lack real substance, that’s not really what the Accidentals are all about. They play to their strengths on this short album, with strong solo performances from several group members, and from what we saw at the Voice Festival this year, that tradition has continued with their new batch of talent. I would like to see the girls tackle some more meaty songs in the future, but regardless of that, I thoroughly look forward to seeing them perform at the Fringe Festival in the coming summer – on the back of this album, they could go down extremely well.

To buy the album, click here. For more information about their Edinburgh Fringe show, check out their Fringe Listing.

Fringe Focus: In The Pink

In the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, every week we will be producing special focuses on our collegiate groups who will be performing at the world’s largest amateur arts festival in 2012. In the third edition, we’ll be focussing on In The Pink, fresh from their tour of Berlin, who are bringing a show to the Fringe for the ninth time.

Fringe History

The group, having been founded in 2003, were quick to take their music to the wider world, having started performing at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2005. Last year was their 8th year, and they were performing in C (+3), one of C Venues’ larger venues, and I was lucky enough to not only experience the laughter and good feeling that they brought to their show, but also was dragged up on stage and serenaded during one particular – one of my festival highlights last year! The group have consistently received good reviews and as such, their fanbase in the Scottish capital is ever growing.

Previous Praise

“Brains, looks, voices… Some people have all the luck” – BroadwayBaby, 2009 (****)
“Really shouldn’t be missed.” – New Cherwell (****)
“I was smiling the whole way through.” – UACUK, 2011 (8 out of 10)

This Year

The group have been taking their music to even wider audiences this year, having recently returned from a tour of Berlin and an unprecedented number of performances both live and on local radio in Oxford, and the girls will surely draw in a bigger crowd than ever this year. The girls are performing a C (-1) from 12th-27th August at 2pm, with a set that includes classics such as Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight and more contemporary pop hits such as Destiny’s Child and One Direction. “We’re hoping the experience we gained in Berlin should be a huge asset at the Fringe,” says Business Manager Miranda Essex, and we agree.

What To Expect

There is no doubt that you will leave the In The Pink show with a smile on your face – their girlish charm and catchy tunes will brighten any kind of afternoon. There will be songs you recognise and a handful that you won’t, but all are arranged with intricacy and a keen ear. While the girls have been criticised for their lack of real ‘oomph’ in the past, judging by their performances at the Voice Festival UK earlier this year, the girls have really begun to find their footing as a group and are sure to put on the best show they have ever done at Edinburgh this year. Prepare to walk away delighted with at least one of their songs stuck in your head.

Further Information

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page
Official Website

Alleycats and Gargoyles Reach Category Final of Choir of the Year 2012

After a long, gruelling audition process and after making it through several preliminary rounds, The Alleycats, from the University of St Andrews, and The Oxford Gargoyles are two of just four groups in their category to have qualified for their Category Final, taking place at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on 6 October.

Both groups are taking part in the Open Category, and have thus far made it through two rounds to make it to this stage. The Oxford Gargoyles took part on 4 February at The Anvil, Basingstoke, where they proceeded through to the national judging alongside New Forest Children’s Choir. The Alleycats had to wait a little longer until their regional heat, becoming the only group to qualify in their category from the 4 March regional at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

Two days ago, both groups were part of the 14-strong Open Category being judged at the National Selection, and both qualified for the next round in Manchester.

The competition will get even more fierce from now on, though. From the four groups in each category, only one can qualify for the Grand Final at the Royal Festival Hall on 28 October, along with two wildcards. While this does mean both groups can technically qualify, the standard of group in the other categories may be very high, and so both groups will be doing their best to ensure success and a passage through to the Grand Final.

We wish both the groups the best of luck with the remainder of the competition.

For more information about the Choir of the Year competition, visit their Official Website.

Fringe Focus: The Oxford Alternotives

In the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, every week we will be producing special focuses on our collegiate groups who will be performing at the world’s largest amateur arts festival in 2012. In the third edition, we’ll be looking at third-time Fringe-goers, The Oxford Alternotives

Fringe History

The Alternotives have now performed in two consecutive Fringe Festivals, with their debut coming back in 2010, and received sell-out awards for both their runs. One of many groups from Oxford who have frequented the Fringe in recent years, they have impressed since 2010 with their very original style of a cappella and have received excellent reviews for their performances in the last two years. They will be hoping to build on their previous successes this year.

Previous Praise

“With entertaining dancing and stunning vocals, the Alternotives are at the top of a cappella.” – ThreeWeeks, 2011 (****)
“To take something complicated and unpredictable and carry it off with such panache was something that from an a cappella perspective I was massively impressed by.” – UACUK, 2011 (9 out of 10)

This Year

The group are performing a run of 14 shows at theSpaceUK @ Symposium Hall, from August 5th-18th, 2.05-2.55pm. The group will be bringing an entirely new set to Edinburgh this year, featuring arrangements of songs such as Jamiroquai’s Canned Heat, Destiny’s Child’s Say My Name, and the Scissor Sisters’ Take Your Mama, along with a handful of more heartfelt ballads such as Michael Buble’s Lost, Regina Spektor’s Samson, and Bonnie Rait’s Can’t Make You Love Me. “Expect a brand new set of our famous skits, too!” says President Ed Crawford. He adds some rather exciting news for all Alternotives fans across the world: “We’ll be launching our brand new album, the first one for 3 years, which is to be recorded in just a few weeks time and will feature many of the songs included in the Fringe set.” The album will be available for purchase outside their show, and we’ll definitely be picking up a copy.

What to Expect

The Alternotives are just that – they provide a new, fresh and funny spin into a cappella. The beauty of the Edinburgh Fringe is that groups like the Alternotives are allowed to be themselves a little more so than during the Voice Festival UK, and as such the audience will not only be entertained by some slick, bouncy pop-tunes and some smooth ballads, but also by their hilarious skits that add that extra dimension to their performance. They won’t be the first group you think of when you book your a cappella tickets, but the fresh, original nature of this group means they should definitely be on anyone’s list of “Things to See”.

Further Information

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page
Official Website

The Accidentals Release Brand New 4-Track EP

The University of St Andrews’ The Accidentals, the last all-female group to reach a Voice Festival UK Final, back in 2011, have released a brand new EP in the lead up to their brief Edinburgh Fringe Festival run, and are hoping the album will help them to fund their debut performance as the world’s largest amateur arts festival.

The album, which contains their entire set from their successful Voice Festival participation in 2011, is the first studio offering from the group in recent memory, and is sure to whet the appetite of any potential audience members hoping to see their show in Edinburgh in August.

The album is available to buy for a minimum of £5, and can be found right here. For more information about the group, check out their Facebook page.

Fringe Focus: Out of the Blue

In the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, every week we will be producing special focuses on our collegiate groups who will be performing at the world’s largest amateur arts festival in 2012. In the first of seven editions, we’re looking at two-time ICCA runners-up, Out of the Blue.

Fringe History

The boys from Oxford have been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe since all the way back in 2003, their very first year performing in C Venues’ C (-1) venue, with their first performance to merely 9 audience members! How times have changed since! Between 2006 and 2009, they achieved Fringe Sell-Out Awards and therefore opted in 2010 to move to C Venues’ then largest theatre, C Plaza, located on George Square, where they became the biggest selling show in C Venues that year – another Sell-Out run. Last year, they opted to work with Pleasance and achieved yet another Sell-Out run, their fifth in a row. Clearly the boys have gained a significant following in their nine years of participation at the Festival.

Previous Praise

“An emotional performance” – Broadway Baby, 2006 (*****)
“Infectiously charming…reached levels of emotion Sting could only dream about” – Broadway Baby, 2007 (*****)
“Exquisite harmonies” – ThreeWeeks, 2011 (*****)

This Year…

The boys are moving to Assembly @ George Square this year, a 500-seater venue, which is another big step up in terms of audience, but one the boys are very confident of handling. “We’re sure it will be a positive experience for us, our audiences, and the student presence at the Fringe in general,” says co-producer of their Edinburgh show, Dominic Stockbridge. He adds: “A lot of student acts are rising to prominence and we really hope to be part of that. It’s so great to see student stuff get taken seriously, especially as, when you think about it, students in acts now are probably going to evolve into professionals in acts in only a few years’ time.”

What to Expect?

Out of the Blue are one of those consistently good groups that never fail to put on a good show. When I first saw them in 2010, they completely blew me away with their wall of sound and their fantastic harmonies. The very fact they have been allocated to one of the largest venues at the Festival is testament to the reputation they carry throughout the UK, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you found yourself attending their show. They are a sure fire bet to make your day, whether through their infectious energy, immaculate blend or merely the thought of several Oxford students prancing about on stage. I’ll be going to see them at least twice. I’d advise you all to do the same.

Further Details

Fringe Guide Listing
Facebook Page
Official Website