A couple of days before Christmas, we here at the UK University A Cappella Blog received possibly the best Christmas present of them all – confirmed dates and competitors for this year’s Voice Festival UK. While it is the largest competition so far, with more groups than ever competing, one Regional Round has unfortunately been cancelled due to lack of competitors – that in Cambridge.
In this series of blogs, we will be previewing each individual Regional Round, commenting on each group and their chances of qualifying for the final, as well as introducing several groups that you might not yet have heard of.
In the first blog, we look at one of the longest running Regional Rounds, that in Oxford, taking place on 26 February 2012.
The Oxford Regional Round began in 2009 in the inaugural year of the competition, and has thus far had three different groups qualify for the final. In 2009, Out of the Blue and The Oxford Belles progressed to the final, with the boys in blue winning the entire competition and finishing second in the ICCA final in New York that year, officially becoming the 2nd best collegiate group in the world. Since then, Out of the Blue have qualified for the final each year – in 2010 they were joined by eventual winners The Oxford Gargoyles, while in 2011 they were the sole qualifiers, due to the Festival’s expansion to five Regional Rounds.
The Ultrasounds: It’s always good to see new groups forming and developing, and it is no surprise that in the UK’s largest a cappella hub, a new group has also formed. The Ultrasounds are Oxford’s second all-male a cappella ensemble, and are made up solely of medical students from the University of Oxford. With Out of the Blue performing beside them, they will be adding a further touch of all-male flair to the proceedings. To look up the new boys, click here.
The Oxford Alternotives: In 2009 and 2011, The Oxford Alternotives took part in the Cambridge Regional Round, to make the numbers up from three to four. However, the demise of the Cambridge Round has caused the group to return to their natural home in Oxford once again, and compete against their fellow students like they did in 2010 – where they won the award for ‘Outstanding Performance’, a feat which they repeated last year at the Cambridge Round. Having qualified for the final once, in 2009, the group will be hoping to build upon the fact they have never failed to win an award of some sort and progress to the final this year for the first time since the competition’s inception.
The Oxford Belles: The oldest group at Oxford University, the one-time all-girl finalists will have a point to prove this year after failing to reach the final for two years running. After a successful Fringe run in August, and a large changeover of personnel at the start of the year, they will be looking to their fresh blood to bring them success this year and take them to the final.
The Oxford Gargoyles: The 2010 winners will be looking to make up for the fact they were not at the final to defend their crown last year, after Out of the Blue beat them to the sole qualifying place. After a successful Fringe run and several five star reviews, the jazz a cappella ensemble look to be best placed to qualify for the final, especially given their previous ICCA experiences in the US.
In The Pink: The only group with previous experience not to have reached the final before, the In The Pink girls will be desperate to taste some London Final action this year – and with a large influx of new members, they are a relatively unknown entity and could do well.
Out of the Blue: Contrary to the information we received earlier, Out of the Blue WILL in fact be competing in the competition this year, and we here at the blog are delighted that they will be doing so. No doubt the boys have a great chance of reaching the final – indeed, they have never failed to make the final, and their previous experiences throughout the US and the UK will stand them in very good stead. We are positive their infectious energy and flawless harmonies will be tough to beat in this particular regional round, and they will probably be one of the favourites to win the entire competition.
There is no doubt that Oxford has one of the strongest line-ups at this year’s festival. Who will qualify be remains to be seen, but I think the Gargoyles have a fantastic chance – they have lost fewer members than the other groups, namely The Belles and In The Pink, and it could be a year of transition for the two all-female ensembles. The Alternotives could well make it instead of the Gargoyles, and their impressive record of award wins is not something to be taken lightly. Of course, Out of the Blue are always a threat and are probably my favourites, especially given their success in ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ this year and the learning curve that will have come with it. I wish The Ultrasounds the best of luck in one of the most difficult places to start competing, but they will be in good company, and will surely learn a great deal from the experience.
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