Audition Review Special: The Ups and Downs of Collegiate A Cappella

With the audition process for the coming term all but over, we here at The UK University A Cappella Blog decided to speak to the main men (and women) behind four of the most popular collegiate a cappella groups in the UK about how their auditions went.

Sharing a coffee with us were Miranda Essex, President of In The Pink, Jasmine Davies from The Fitz Sirens, Gina Robinson from The Oxford Belles and Benjamin Chadwick from The Techtonics.

UACUK: Hi everyone!

BC: Hi Mark!
ME: Hi.

UACUK: So – your auditions are all over. Let’s start with the facts: how many left each of your respective groups, and how many did you recruit this autumn?

ME: Nine girls left us this year – quite a large number, considering the size of the group. To compensate, we took on eleven new girls, and we’re excited to see what the new-look In The Pink sounds like!
JD: For us it was a little complicated: three Sirens have returned this year from years abroad, while six have left, either through graduation or for their own years abroad. We took on three brand new girls, taking our numbers this year to eleven.
GR: This year we had a big changeover. Seven girls left the group, and we recruited ten! This is more than we would normally take, but one of our girls is leaving at the end of this term, and we felt it would be prudent to overcompensate, and no-one turns up for every single gig!
BC: One of last year’s group left this year, but we have stretched numbers to the max and taken on six new members.

UACUK: It seems like you’ve all taken several more members on than usual – was the quality of auditionee particularly good this year?

BC: Definitely. We had a record number of people audition for us – over fourty – and taking on six members was partly because the quality was so good.
JD: I can’t really comment, considering I only joined the group last year, but many of the auditionees this year were immensely talented and it was extremely hard to choose. The musical experience of many auditionees was simply amazing.
ME: The standard was higher for us as well, hence we took on a few extra people as we couldn’t decide between them!
GR: The standard of auditions was probably about the same for us this year, but there was more interest, and this was probably due to better publicity – both due to our efforts in promoting the auditions and the growing reputation of the group both in Oxford and the rest of the UK.

UACUK: Clearly making new members feel welcome and comfortable is very important. How do you intend to do this in the coming weeks?

JD: The Sirens are a very friendly group and we place a lot of emphasis on socialising. We go out for dinner a lot – occasionally we’ve been known to literally ‘sing for our supper’, or, preferably, for free drinks! We’ll be doing those kinds of things again this year.
ME: Yeah, I think socialising is really important. We sometimes have ‘crew dates’, nights where we meet up with male groups, like the rugby team or Out of the Blue.
BC: We’re sometimes adventurous enough to have a meal out, but usually we just go out for drinks regularly. It’s important to spend a lot of time outside the rehearsal room.
GR: We actually have a changeover meal every year, as well as an initiation, so that the new Belles feel included straight away.
JD: In previous years, we’ve even gone on holiday together or on busking road-trips to London, which have been such a good laugh.
BC: Yeah, we’ve going to the Peak District for a weekend of singing, walking and general frivolity at the end of October. Hopefully that’ll help the new guys to get to know the old guys, and vice versa.

UACUK: What about musically? How to you incorporate the new members quickly into the group blend?

GR: We place a lot of emphasis on learning your parts outside of rehearsal. Obviously the new Belles are taught their parts during rehearsals by the older members, but they do have to go and learn them in their own time.
BC: I think the blend is a lot better when people know each other well.
JD: Obviously it takes a while to get the blend exactly right, but we make sure to do a few smaller gigs before things like the Voice Festival come along.

UACUK: How does the group dynamic change from year to year?

BC: I wouldn’t say it varies much – we have always been a group of friends and while we try really hard to sing and perform well, our main priority is to have fun. As I said before, to sing together well, it’s really important that we all get on well and know each other.
GR: I’d say the group becomes closest during the Fringe run at the end of the year, and while each year the group is slightly different, we try to maintain a core from year to year, so as to maintain the Belles tradition and dynamic.
JD: Yeah I think tradition is very important. As the oldest a cappella choir in Cambridge, there’s been a lot of traditions handed down over the years. Our songs are a collection of arrangements written by Sirens over the past twenty years, and our iconic black gloves have ensured the vintage style of the Sirens has prevailed. With regard to the group dynamic, I think it does change year after year – that’s inevitable – but we never lose our fun side. Part of being a Siren is not just having a beautiful voice but also being part of a group that gets on really well, and that’s been so important in ensuring our continued success.
ME: Yeah, I feel the same really. The dynamic does change as you lose and gain members, but the most important thing is chemistry on and off stage.

UACUK: Well it’s been great to speak to you all. Thanks for joining me and sharing your thoughts! I look forward to seeing what you get up to during the year!

BC: Thank you, Mark.
GR: Glad to help!

Want to know more about the groups in this interview? Check out their Facebook pages: The Techtonics, The Oxford Belles, The Fitz Sirens and In The Pink.

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