London A Cappella Festival 2013 Dates Released!

It may seem like only yesterday that we were down in London celebrating the best a cappella that the UK (and the rest of the world) had to offer at the London A Cappella Festival 2012.

But while there was some ground-breaking performances, workshops and even a cappella discussions, it’s time to look forward. As such, LACF have released their dates for the Festival next year.

The Festival, curated by the Swingle Singers, will take place from 23rd-26th of January 2013 and will be sure to provide some more sensational a cappella from all over the world. With huge names like FORK, Cadence and The Boxettes participating earlier this year, as well as several university groups including Cadenza, All The King’s Men and The Techtonics, it is definitely something for every British A Cappella fan to look forward to.

We can’t wait!

For more information about the Festival, visit their Official Website.

LACF Diary – Day 2

by John Lau

After a night’s sleep severely interrupted by less than capable karaoke acts at my accommodation for the weekend, I made my way to the accommodation base of the man who had organised a Vocal Jog on Facebook (not the only thing organised over this means of Social Media over the course of the weekend) and was wondering to myself what I had let myself in for.

The view that greeted us at the end of the Vocal Jog.

In the end, I didn’t have much to worry about, as our host for the rush-hour jog, Mr Florian Staedtler, the man behind the Vocal Blog and the Acappellazone, confirmed that with five other a cappella fans and myself, there were enough people to enjoy a mysterious surprise on offer at the summit of Primrose Hill on Regents Park, which was our destination. After fifty minutes of jogging and waiting for the others, yours truly was the second man at the summit of Primrose Hill, patiently awaiting the surprise. But what was the surprise? Was it the panorama afforded over London’s skyscrapers and the Eye on the Thames from this vantage point or the sunshine or even something else?

No. It was better. The surprise was none other than a former Swingle Singer, Mr Willy Eteson, who had provided an energy filled breakfast of homemade oats & fruit bars, bananas and bottles of water for the participants. At this stage, I must admit I quite enjoyed the experience of sharing social opportunities such as these and I sure hope that Herr Staedtler will consider doing this again in 2013, with hopefully more people, especially with an Olympic running track possibly redundant in East London by the time the next festival swings round! Florian was delighted with the turnout of seven, as this was a major advance on the last time! Herr Staedtler, it was a pleasure to join you and thank you for this opportunity to meet like-minded people who are passionate about a cappella music.

In the second evening of gigs, I purchased a programme only to be informed upon opening that I had missed the Schools on Stage showcase of the crème de la crème of UK School-based a cappella, a joint collaboration between the Festival organisers and our friends at the Voice Festival UK, held earlier in the afternoon. Alexandra Godfree, one of the VF-UK’s head honchos, was reported to have said that it was a fantastic day with school children from all over the UK.

I was looking forward to both groups who were due to take to the Main Stage that evening: the Canadians from Cadence and the FORK Quartet from the capital of Finland, my interest in the latter having spawned in the Festival City of Edinburgh in August 2011. Outside the Main Stage, I was also looking forward to the Apollo5 group and the local boys from All The King’s Men.

Apollo5 singing at their free foyer event on Friday evening.

The two women and three men who make up Apollo5 have a momentous year ahead of them as they shall be embarking on their first Tour which will take them across the UK and even further afield, as they continue to work closely with the Red Balloon charity organisation, who aim to facilitate the recovery of bullied children throughout the UK. From the little I could hear of their free gig in advance of another engagement, I was impressed with their vocal offering and their wide repertoire of pop, classical and even Christmassy songs. I shall hope to hear more of them, and so can you at their Official Website.

Based on what I had read on the programme, I was quite looking forward to what the Canadian men from the Cadence quartet had to offer in terms of their jazzy offerings inspired by the likes of Stan Getz, Bobby McFerrin and Sarah McLachlan. Of their twelve item playlist, my highlight of this gig was their rendition of ‘On the Street Where You Live’ where the lead vocals were sung by the chief arranger of most of their playlist, Aaron Jensen. I was personally impressed with their offering and I will certainly be doing my best to get my hands on an album of theirs in the near future.

All The King's Men were impressive, despite their new-look line-up.

The Cadence gig over-ran to the extent that by the time we came out, the King’s Men were about to take to their stage, with their new-look line-up of twelve. I didn’t manage to see them at the Fringe this year, partly because I do not generally go for all-male a cappella groups, but from what I have heard of them over the following months, it sounds as if there are plenty reasons to be cheerful for this particular group, who are the only group ever to have qualified so far from the London Regional heat of the Voice Festival. The boys did not disappoint and I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism and blend.

My Edinburgh Festival Experience in August 2011 commenced with me taking a chance on something I seen on the side of a taxi, but I was pleased to have taken a chance on the Finnish quartet of FORK for I could quite believe their bold statement of “Reinventing a cappella” having heard what they had to offer vocally. Even one of my neighbours on my row this evening was anticipating something special when he suggested that it was “Now time for something completely different.” And that is precisely what FORK are. I was pleased to have heard some new material (all re-arranged from the originals by themselves) but my particular highlight from this 14 item playlist was their rendition of Rihanna’s “Only Girl In The World” towards the end of their set, although it was close followed by a near-spotless encore of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And to cap it all off, I even managed to get a signed copy of their album on sale. Get in.

So all in all, this was a great Friday night out. Plenty more coming up in the next piece where I laid foot on the second hall at Kings Place and also my first a cappella workshop.

London A Cappella Festival: Less Than A Week To Go!

With less than a week to go until the London A Cappella Festival, the blogs are buzzing with excitement over what will surely be the best year yet in London, and with a staggering line-up of guests, both pro and collegiate, it is sure to be a wonderful weekend of a cappella.

With London-based groups All The King’s Men and The Techtonics involved, Chichester University Chamber Choir collaborating with the Matyas Seiber Trust and the Brown Derbies flying all the way over from the US, the number of university-based groups was already impressive, even before the fact that VF-UK 2011 winners Cadenza will be supporting the Boxettes on the main stage.

In the mean-time, our friends over at Vocal Blog have released their 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Festival, as if you needed a reason anyway. With the Swingle Singers, FORK, Cadence and Euphonism all involved in a big way, we know why we’re gonna be there.

There’s a Vocal Jog, free events, educational events, and most importantly, toness and tonnes of Aca-awesomeness to be found in every nook and cranny.

You’d be mad to miss it!

For more information, visit the Official Website.

Exclusive Interview with The Voice Festival UK (Part 3)

Although the Voice Festival UK (VF-UK) is most widely known in the world of university a cappella for the national competition it hosts each year in late February and early March, the Voice Festival as an organisation is about much more than just one event. Now in its fourth year—and still run exclusively by a team of volunteers—the Voice Festival is the UK’s largest not-for-profit a cappella organisation, and has played an important role in helping to raise the profile of a cappella singing in the UK.

On an unexpectedly sunny November afternoon, I sat down with the co-ordinator of the Universities Program of the Voice Festival and former member of the University of St Andrews’ The Alleycats, David Tyler Mattiace, to talk about anything and everything a cappella.

In the first and second parts of our interview, we talked about the main Voice Festival programmes. In this final part of the interview, we discussed upcoming events in the VF-UK calendar and the future of a cappella in the UK.

UACUK: You mentioned earlier the varied calendar of events and opportunities that you organise. What do you think about when organising these?

TM: We’re always aiming to expand the year-round schedule of events and opportunities that we provide for singers. As we expand, we want to ensure that singers and groups across the country all have access to the kinds of opportunities that are relevant to them. We design all of our events and opportunities with our four aims in mind. [To recap, these are: Encourage new singers, develop new audiences, support existing groups, and build UK a cappella communities.] So, for example, our showcase at the Southbank Centre last spring provided groups with a public performance opportunity, helped increase public exposure to a cappella, and provided an opportunity for different a cappella groups to socialise and see each other sing.

Some a cappella groups are the only ones at their school/university or in their region, so participating in events like this is a great opportunity to meet groups they otherwise might not have exposure to. When we did our feedback survey on last year’s Festival, one of the questions we asked was ‘What was the best part of the Voice Festival year?’, and one of my favourite answers was “The a cappella love!’”. And it’s true; there is a national a cappella community that exists now that just wasn’t there five years ago.

When I started at university, we had only ever heard of one a cappella group from another university, and even then only a few people had ever seen them perform. When we went down to Oxford for the very first ICCA [in 2006 – two years before the first Voice Fesitval University Competition] it was really scary! We had never met any of these people before and had no idea what to expect or what kind of reception we would get. Now we have people from different groups at different universities dating. Groups are maintaining friendships throughout the year and look forward to seeing each other when they meet up at events. It’s a vastly different experience now — to an extent that I don’t think many of the current singers realise — and I think the Voice Festival has played a big role in that change.

UACUK: What specific events are you planning, or have already organised, for the coming year?

TM: So, for the second year in a row, we’re doing a range of events in conjunction with the London A Cappella Festival (LACF) in January. First, on 12 January, our 2011 University Champions, Cadenza, will be supporting the Boxettes on the main stage. The Boxettes are one of the biggest new groups to hit the a cappella scene and we’re really excited that Cadenza has the opportunity to represent the Voice Festival by supporting such a huge act (check them out here). The Youth Programme and University Programme are also both running their own workshops at LACF. The University workshop will be run by a member of Cadence, a Canadian a cappella group performing at LACF – more details about that will be coming out soon.

The Youth Programme’s day-long workshop is called ‘Schools on Stage’, and will be run by the Swingle Singers and VOCES8. This is a particularly exciting opportunity for youth singers. The groups will attend a day of master classes and workshops where they will get to work on some of their own music with members of the Swingle Singers and VOCES8. Then, in the evening, on the main stage, they will perform their own music as well as a special arrangement (made just for ‘Schools on Stage’) that has been designed to be sung alongside the Swingle Singers version of Lady Madonna. Obviously, we are very excited about this opportunity for youth groups to sing with one of the most famous a cappella groups in the world, so it’s looking like it will be a very exciting day!

We’re also looking at trying to hold some other smaller workshops outside of London in the lead-up to the University Competition. Nothing is confirmed yet, but we’re hoping this will be another exciting opportunity to expand our programming across the country.

There will, of course, be workshops around the country in conjunction with the Competitions in March and another showcase event at the [Edinburgh Festival] Fringe.

UACUK: What about any plans for the Final?

Well, we’re trying to make the Final, which is the 10th and 11th of March this year, a full weekend of events for everyone, but it’s always difficult for university singers to travel far during term time. Our ideal Final weekend would be one where the majority of groups from all of our competitions come to London regardless of whether they are competing. We would have more social events, some non-competitive performances (in addition to the Competition Finals), and a selection of workshops during the day so that singers could choose the workshop topics that they are most interested in. With so many singers there from different groups of different ages and backgrounds from across the country, we think it would have a real festival atmosphere and would be a really exciting weekend?

UACUK: So why isn’t the weekend of the Final already like this?

TM: The main problem is getting everyone together! All of the universities and schools have different schedules and some people are coming from pretty far away, which means spending a lot of extra time and money travelling. We obviously can’t programme a big weekend of events if no one is coming! We’re hoping though that as we slowly expand the size of the weekend, we’ll have more groups coming just for the workshops and the festival atmosphere. Also, I should mention that we all do have day jobs as well, so there’s a limit to how much new programming we can add each year!

UACUK: So does that mean you’re looking for volunteers?

TM: It absolutely does! We’re looking for anyone in any of the regions we work in, with or without a background in a cappella, who wants to help us deliver our programmes of events and opportunities for youth, university, and community singers. If anyone has an interest in events management or arts administration and wants to be a part of the Voice Festival team, they should get in touch with us at voice@thevoicefestival.co.uk.

UACUK: I’ve also heard that you’ve got a new website coming soon?

TM: That’s right. The new website will be much more interactive and have more content for groups and more ways for groups to stay in touch and share knowledge. There will also be a bigger blogging presence both from permanent bloggers and guest bloggers to help share news and views about what’s going on in the world of a cappella.

UACUK: When can we expect a launch?

TM: The launch will hopefully be at the beginning of next year.

UACUK: To close, let’s talk about a cappella in general. Where do you see the future of a cappella in the UK?

TM: I think this is a really exciting time for a cappella in the UK. Interest in a cappella is spreading at a phenomenal pace, and the Voice Festival wants to help support that. We think it’s important that as British a cappella grows, it is given the chance to find its own way. We don’t want to model ourselves around anyone else. That’s not to say that we can’t learn from a cappella groups and communities around the world; in fact it’s important that we try to do that. The Voice Festival just hopes to help build a diverse and vibrant a cappella community that spans ages and backgrounds across the UK. It’s an exciting time for British a cappella, so watch this space!

You can find the Voice Festival on Facebook and Twitter.