Fringe Focus: All the King’s Men

All the King's Men - Knight Fever!

All the King’s Men – Knight Fever!

In the lead up to this year’s 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 2013. In the first of this series of articles, we will be looking at last year’s VF-UK Champions and 2013 Finalists All the King’s Men, who will be returning to the Festival for the fourth consecutive year.

Fringe History

The boys have a long and fruitful relationship with theSpace venues, having performed twice at Surgeon’s Hall and shifting last year just around the corner to Symposium Hall. Last year was their most successful year yet, garnering some fantastic reviews and producing not one but two separate shows, both of which went down a storm. They aren’t known for their lengthy Fringe runs, preferring to hone their talents into short six- or seven-day runs, which has been a masterstroke in terms of keeping their voices fresh and not overdoing it.

Previous UACUK Ratings

2011: 8/10 – “Thoroughly impressive.”
2012: 9/10 – “Nothing short of exceptional.”

This Year

Once again, All the King’s Men will be bringing not one but two shows to the Fringe Festival, again limiting themselves to short run in the middle of the Festival madness. Their main show, Knight Fever!, is once again at theSpace @ Symposium Hall from 12-17 August at 15:10. Despite having been pipped at the Final of this year’s Voice Festival UK, they will still be one of the hottest tickets in town thanks to rave reviews coming from last year’s performance, which was arguably the pinnacle of the group’s short existence so far. Their second show, All the King’s Men Present… is a continuation of the successful setup of the same show last year, whereby the boys invite other groups in the collegiate scene to join them on stage. Those special evenings will be taking place on the 12 & 14 August from 23:30.

What To Expect

All the King’s Men’s domination of the London university a cappella scene has come under threat this year from newbies Vive, who will be joining them at the Festival this year, but the two groups are hugely different and All the King’s Men present that classic feel-good, look-good, sound-good style of a cappella, and they are one of the best groups in the country at what they do. They have gained even more international experience since last year, which will have banished any stage demons they may have had. Their failure to win VF-UK 2013 wasn’t down to a dip in quality, rather their competitors stepping up their game, and so if you enjoyed their show last year, as we certainly did, then you will definitely enjoy them again this year.

Further Details

Fringe Listing – Knight Fever!
Fringe Listing – AtKM Presents…

Spotlight: The Techtonics

While All the King’s Men have been making headlines in the past couple of years, with their successes both nationally and internationally, it is easy to overlook the efforts of some of the other groups based in the English capital. Most notably, Imperial College based all-male group The Techtonics have been making real strides in the a cappella world since their formation in 2008. From touring the US to releasing their debut album and everything in between, there really is a lot to be excited about for this literally groundbreaking group.

Formation

The Techtonics were formed in 2008 by Christian Carter and Ed Brightman, who both lamented the lack of quality contemporary a cappella at Imperial College, and thus decided to start up an all male group, recruiting ten more boys into a twelve-strong first generation of Techtonics.

History

During the first year of their inception, The Techtonics quickly established themselves on the music scene at Imperial College, taking part in the Imperial Arts Festival, coming second in Imperial Idol in 2009, and performing alongisde Noel Fielding and Athlete at the Imperial Summer Ball at the end of their first year as a group.

Their second year of action saw them increase their exposure levels as far afield as Cambridge and Edinburgh, as well as solidifying their reputation around Imperial College. They began to perform their own gigs around the university as well as teaming up with other choral groups, and began their tradition of busking at Portobello Market on Saturday mornings. They entered the 2010 Voice Festival competition in the Cambridge Regional, where Christian Carter won the ‘Outstanding Arrangement’ award for Robbie Williams’ Come Undone, before taking a week-long show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and selling out on their final night.

In 2010/11, the group continued to increase their reputation, competing in the inaugural London Regional of the Voice Festival with another award-winning set, this time the ‘Outstanding Performance’ award, and took their music international, competing in the Vocal Marathon competition in Croatia, where they were commended for their ‘fresh and positive energy’. They also hosted the first a cappella night at the ICU Metric, bringing together several groups from the southern areas of the country.

Last year, the group hit their competitive heights, winning two awards at the 2012 London Regional of the Voice Festival, ‘Outstanding Performance’ and ‘Outstanding Soloist’, and performing with renowned American collegiate group, The Brown Derbies.

More Recently…

The summer has been an exciting one for the group. It all began with the announcement that the group’s first full-length album was to be released in early September, just before the group went on tour to the US for the first time to promote the album. The album, entitled “Groundbreaker”, is available on iTunes.

The resulting tour was 13-days long, and involved travelling over 2,000 miles and visiting 8 different states o the East Coast of America. The group teamed up once again with The Brown Derbies, visited the oldest and most established a cappella scene in the world at Yale University, catching a Pentatonix gig and exchanging photos and albums, and performing with The Clefhangers, The Yellow Jackets, several groups at Sycaruse, and hosting workshops for schools almost everywhere they went. The tour was, according to the group, ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’, ‘unforgettable’ and several other extremely positive adjectives.

To add to all that, it was revealed that week that one of the tracks from the group’s new album, Labrinth’s Earthquake has been selected to feature on the 9th installation of CASA’s “Sing” compilation, a thoroughly impressive achievement for an album dominated by American groups. Further information about that can be found here.

The Year In Quotes

…of Vocal Marathon:

“They set the audience on fire [...] a fresh and positive energy.” – Vocal Marathon review

…of Voice Festival UK 2012:

“A fun-filled a cappella romp.” – UACUK

…of their US Tour:

“Literally amazing [...] phenomenal.”
“Beyond awesome.”

What’s next?

The group have recruited new members and are raring to go in the new academic year. They have gigs planned with All the King’s Men and Out of the Blue coming up, and we look forward to hearing their album shortly – keep your eyes peeled for a review!

The Techtonics can be found on Facebook and at their Official Website.

Fringe Focus: All the King’s Men

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 eighth and final edition, we’ll be looking at All the King’s Men, the Voice Festival UK 2012 champions and 3rd best group in the world, who are returning to the Fringe for the third time.

Fringe History

All the King’s Men and their punnily titled Fringe gigs first arrived in 2010, and in both previous years they have performed for a short period of time at the Spaces @ Surgeon’s Hall. Although their Fringe debut was a quiet one, their return in 2011 brought several successful reviews and a sell-out run, and they even gave viewers a special first-chance to see a documentary of their recent US Tour, which went down a treat.

Previous Praise

“I love you! Sign my bra!” – ThreeWeeks, 2011 (*****)
“Truly incredible.” – BroadwayBaby, 2011 (****)
“Thoroughly impressive.” – UACUK, 2011 (8 out of 10)

This Year

The boys have had an incredible year, and to top it off they are bringing not one, but two shows to the Fringe. They’re not here for long, mind, so catch them while you can. Their main show, It’s Reigning Men, is at the Spaces @ Symposium Hall from 13th-18th August – just six nights. In their second show, they will not only be performing, but also introducing fellow a cappella acts such of Out of the Blue, The Alleycats and fellow King’s College group, The King’s Chix in All the King’s Men Present…. These will be happening on two separate occasions – 13th and 14th of August, with different guest acts each night. We admire the work the boys are doing to further collaboration within a cappella, and you’d be mad to miss out on either of these performances.

What To Expect

With international experience, the boys have come on in leaps and bounds in the last three years, and will undoubtedly bring a five-star show to the Festival again this year. Their Voice Festival set this year, which I assume will feature in their set for the Festival, was utterly astounding, and if the rest of their music is at that high a level, any audience will be in for an evening of sensational a cappella. As their press release reads: “One thing is guaranteed: the audience will leave smiling and utterly entertained.” Agreed.

Further Details

Fringe Listing (AtKM Present…)
Fringe Listing (It’s Reigning Men)
Website
Facebook Page

Fringe Focus: The Oxford Belles

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 seventh edition, we’ll be looking at The Oxford Belles, who are returning to the Fringe for the third consecutive year.

Fringe History

The Belles debuted at the Fringe as far back ago as 2000, but had a significant hiatus from Fringe Festival madness before their return in 2010, and have been on the receiving end of very favourable reviews since then. Last year they performed for the entire run at C eca and were a constant and energetic presence on the mile throughout the festival.

Previous Praise

“Tight harmonies.” – BroadwayBaby, 2011 (****)
“Very refreshing.” – ThreeWeeks, 2011 (****)
“The Belles blend magnificently as a group” – UACUK, 2011 (7 out of 10)

This Year

The Belles have moved from C Venues this year and are performing at Spotlites @ The Merchant’s Hall from the 1st-18th of August, and will be looking to further improve on an already solid foundation and widen further their already significant popularity in the city. I am particularly looking forward to seeing their live performance of Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts, which won the ‘Outstanding Soloist’ award at this year’s Voice Festival competition, and with a lot of recent gig experience in and around Oxford, the girls are sure to provide an inventive and original a cappella show.

What To Expect

The introduction of so many new Belles has of course brought new and unique challenges to the group, but the addition of new voices and personalities to the group has also allowed the group to be more creative and musically ambitious in the past year, and this should culminate at the Festival this summer. They lacked real punch last year, but some of the new voices in the group are extremely powerful and this could bode well for this Fringe, as the girls as a group will undoubtedly have a more powerful stage presence. The group’s repertoire is generally very broad, and they will no doubt produce a thoroughly enjoyable and watchable show which may well be their best yet.

Further Details

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page
Website”

Fringe Focus: The Alleycats

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 sixth edition, we’ll be looking at Choir of the Year Category Finalists The Alleycats, who will be returning for their third year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Fringe History

The Alleycats debuted back in 2010 with a short six-day run and went down extremely well, earning themselves a Fringe Sell-Out award, impressive for a debut performance. They returned the following year in C Venues for a two week run, and have been consistently praised for their energetic performances and especially their choreography.

Previous Praise

“Each member is strong and dynamic and brings vivacity to their performances.” – BroadwayBaby, 2010 (***)
“Infectiously entertaining.” – FestMag, 2011
“Triumph [...] flawless [...] superb.” – UACUK, 2011 (8 out of 10)

This Year

The Alleycats are returning to C Venues this year from 12-27 August and will be performing a 50 minute show from 5.30pm, one of the later a cappella acts this year. Alongside their show, which will be showcasing some of their more recent arrangements, including songs from their recent Voice Festival UK set such as David Guetta’s Titanium and a couple of their upbeat dance-RnB mash-ups, they will also be selling their recently recorded studio album, which will be their eighth, after the show. The group promise to provide an ‘energised a cappella act’ leading to a ‘purr-fect evening of entertainment’.

What To Expect

One word: energy. Their choreography was praised by one and all at the recent St Andrews Regional of the Voice Festival UK, and combining such complex moves with such energy and keeping things still in perfect harmony almost saw them through to the final – alongside winning them deserved awards for Outstanding Choreography and Vocal Percussion. The group thrives on providing dynamism and energy to a performance and even giving the audience a chance to get involved in making music. If you go and see the Alleycats you will definitely be entertained and may well come out of the show feeling exhausted yourself, due to the sheer amounts of energy the group produces during a show! Well worth setting aside time for.

Further Details

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page

Fringe Focus: The Accidentals

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 fifth edition, we’ll be looking at The Accidentals, Voice Festival UK Finalists in 2011 and Fringe debutants.

Fringe History

The Accidentals have never performed at the Fringe Festival before, and will be only the second group from the University of St Andrews after The Alleycats to bring a show to the Fringe.

Previous Praise

“Nothing short of exceptional.” UACUK of their 2012 EP.
Outstanding Soloist Award – Voice Festival UK St Andrews Regional Round – 2011 and 2012.

This Year

In their debut year, the girls have been placed in one of theSpaces venues, SpaceCabaret @ 54, at the early time of 11.15am, and can only be caught for 6 days between 13-18 August. In order to fund their run, the girls recently released a 4-track EP, which will also be on sale after their show in Edinburgh, and is well worth buying. The girls mix the freshest songs with the fiercest beats and their set is expected to consist of some of the songs in this year’s Voice Festival set, including Christina’s The Voice Within and their mash-up of Shorty Fire Burning and Tinchy Stryder’s Number 1. I think the girls are wise to go for a short run this year, something which they can potentially build upon in coming years.

What To Expect

The Accidentals girls always bring attitude to their performances. With the exceptionally talented Ellie Mason at the musical helm, they have a creative mastermind overseeing arrangements, blend and harmonies. The girls are also blessed with some incredible soloists: Vicki Robertson, Anna McDonald, Grace Hardy and Tessa Stokes to name but a few. Go and see these girls, even if it’s just to see a debut act at the Fringe and therefore something you may have never seen there before, because they will bring energy, enthusiasm, sass and attitude, and may just knock your socks off.

Further Information

Fringe Listing
Facebook Page

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

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