Ed Fringe Guide: The Hills of Edinburgh to Come Alive With the Sound of A Cappella Music

by John Lau

With the Summer months around the corner, the last day in May saw the publication of the programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012, and with it the confirmation that the crème de la crème of UK College-based a cappella music and countless other contemporary a cappella groups from inside & outside the UK’s Universities would be decamping from all parts headed towards the capital of Scotland, to fill the High Street and the seven hills around Edinburgh with the sound of music for the enjoyment by the population of the city, which is said to treble in the month of August. We do hope that the comprehensive gig listing in this article will help you to plan your a cappella fix throughout the month of August.

Before the groups and their show information are listed below, you maybe interested to know that most of the groups are very kind to offer previews of their shows on a selection of stages (4 or 5 of them) throughout the High Street on the Royal Mile, for approximately 20 minutes, at various times every day in August. The schedules change on a daily basis and they are managed by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, but each stage has a timetable next to it. So, there’s really no excuse for you not to plan your entertainment. Talking of which:

The best collegiate a cappella group in the UK (and let us not forget the third-best group in the world), All the King’s Men have not one but TWO shows in the Fringe programme. Their own show, It’s Reigning Men, will provide the first opportunity for the public to be mesmerised by the King’s College students, however they do only have 6 shows as listed below, so I guess it’s a case of catch them while you can:

Dates: Monday 13 – Saturday 18 August
Times: 15:10 – 15:55
Venue: theSpace@Symposium Hall, The Royal College of Surgeons, Hill Square, EH8 9DR
Prices: Adults £8/9, Concessions £6/7

In their later show All The King’s Men Present…, the boys promise a late-evening of stunning singing with the very best of the collegiate a cappella scene, including distinguished guests such as Out of the Blue, The Accidentals and The Oxford Gargoyles and more. Again it’s a case of catch them while you can for there are only 2 of these shows:

Dates: Monday 13 & Tuesday 14 August
Times: 23:05 – 00:00
Venue: theSpace@Symposium Hall, The Royal College of Surgeons, Hill Square, EH8 9DR
Prices: £6

Further details about their shows can be found here.

From the University of St Andrews, the pioneers of a cappella music at the Singing University, those ever-popular Alleycats, who are bidding goodbye to 7 of their 2011/12 litter, will bring their show to the masses once again in Edinburgh this August, and I know I am looking forward to this as they shall have shiny copies of their brand new album from earlier this year.

Dates: Sunday 12 – Monday 27 August
Times: 17:30 – 18:20
Venue: C Venues, Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Prices: Adults £9.50/11.50, Concessions £7.50/9.50

If you like your barbershop a cappella mixed in with a theatrical rendition, you may be interested in the Barbershopera version of The Three Musketeers, where the 3 men and 1 girl reinvent this story with fresh 4-part harmonies, bringing a new perspective on this legendary story, it will definitely be all for fun but maybe not fun for all comers, judging by the start time:

Dates: Wednesday 1 – Friday 3 August (previews); Saturday 4 – Monday 27 August
Times: 23:05 – 00:05
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Prices: £6 on preview days; £11.50/12.50

The Oxford Alternotives, veterans of the Oxford University a cappella scene, will bring their show to Edinburgh for the third year in a row in 2012, with their combination of stellar vocals and choreography out of this world and their renditions of all types of music.

Dates: Sunday 5 August (preview); Monday 6 – Saturday 18 August
Times: 14:05 – 14:55
Venue: theSpace@Symposium Hall, The Royal College of Surgeons, Hill Square, EH8 9DR
Prices: £7 (preview); £10

Not quite a collegiate group, but The Consort of Voices, one of the best vocal ensembles in Scotland return to the Canongate Kirk, with a programme of Scottish and French Music across the ages in a one-off concert named Auld Alliance:

Date: Saturday 11 August
Times: 18:00 – 19:00
Venue: Canongate Kirk, Canongate, EH8 8BN
Prices: £12

Some more French now, but only in the show title for The Oxford Belles gig in 2012, aptly named Belles Amies! who shall bring back their repertoire from classics to chart hits as well as their choreographic and beatboxing skills to the heart of the city:

Dates: Wednesday 1 – Saturday 18 August
Times: 17:25 – 18:10
Venue: Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall, Hanover Street, EH2 2EP
Prices: £7.50/8.50

From London, the Blossom Street a cappella vocal ensemble will present their varied programme of various genres of music at the Canongate Kirk, in a 1-week run:

Dates: Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 August
Times: 14:00 – 15:00 Tuesday 14 to Friday 17; 19:30 – 20:30 Saturday 18
Venue: Canongate Kirk, Canongate, EH8 8BN
Prices: £10

The Wordsworth Singers chamber choir from Cumbria will hold a one-off gig full of rich sounds and inspired programming, led by the chorus master of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Mark Hindley:

Date: Saturday 11 August
Times: 12:30 – 13:30
Venue: St Cuthbert’s Parish Church, 5 Lothian Road, EH1 2EP
Prices: £9

The best thing to come out of Finland, FORK, who well and truly wowed me when I saw them in August 2011 and January 2012 in London, will return to Edinburgh this August with a revamped production. There are promises in store of ingenious rearrangements, electrifying vocals, glitz & glamour and even downright sauciness:

Dates: Thursday 2 & Friday 3 August (previews); Saturday 4 – Sunday 26 August
Times: 22:25 – 23:25
Venue: Assembly George Square, George Square, EH8 9LH
Prices: £10.00 (previews); £14/15

In what may possibly be the youngest group of a cappella singers to grace us the public with their presence this August, the London group named Chacapella formed in 2010, will bravely bring their show Glory of the Mainstream to Edinburgh. I am pretty sure theirs will also be the cheapest a cappella ticket in town this year:

Dates: Sunday 12 to Tuesday 14 August
Times: 19:00 – 20:00 on Sunday 12; 17:30 – 18:30 other days
Venue: St Cecilia’s Hall, Junction of Niddry St & Cowgate, EH1 1LJ
Prices: £2

From young girls to some more girls, Oxford University’s In The Pink are back in Edinburgh for an eighth year of Fringe fun, another highlight in their Summer 2012, which will already have seen them perform in Berlin in June, an experience which I hope will stand them in positive stead.

Dates: Sunday 12 – Monday 27 August
Times: 14:00 – 14:50
Venue: C Venues, Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Prices: £9.50

Possibly Scotland’s solitary LGBT a cappella singing group, Loud and Proud, will hold a one-off gig with a proportion of the proceeds going to the local Waverley Care charity:

Dates: Saturday 25 August
Times: 20:30 – 21:30
Venue: Stockbridge Parish Church, Saxe Coburg Street, EH3 5BN
Prices: £12

Described by the Daily Telegraph as “A Cappella Maestros”, The Magnets have a season in Edinburgh, no mean feat considering they are in the throes of their current UK Tour and even have another gig a mere 8 days after their last date in Edinburgh this year:

Dates: Thursday 2 and Friday 3 August (previews); Saturday 4 – Wednesday 15 August
Times: 19:30 – 20:30
Venue: Assembly Hall, The Mound, EH1 2LU
Prices: £10 (previews only); £14/15 other dates

All the way from Australia, the Australian Voices group specialising in a cappella choral-theatre work, will bring their play Moon to Edinburgh this August:

Dates: Friday 3 – Saturday 25 August
Times: 19:00 – 19:55
Venue: theSpace@Symposium Hall, The Royal College of Surgeons, Hill Square, EH8 9DR
Prices: £8.00

The only collegiate a cappella group in the UK who will have a full month-long season in Edinburgh will be the Oxford boys from Out of the Blue. Their reputation precedes them, and as such they will be performing in the huge 500-seater venue at George Square, a further step up in terms of audience numbers after their record-breaking show last year:

Dates: Wednesday 1 – Friday 3 August (previews); Saturday 4 – Monday 27 August (except Wednesday 15)
Times: 14:00 – 14:50
Venue: Assembly George Square, George Square, EH8 9LH
Prices: £5 (previews); £9.50/£10.50

Former winners of the Voice Festival UK, the gorgeous Oxford Gargoyles will return in August to entertain us all with their eclectic mix of jazz, pop, soul numbers and even Disney pieces!:

Dates: Sunday 12 – Monday 27 August
Times: 15:00 – 15:50
Venue: C Venues, Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Prices: £9.50

The beatboxer extraordinaire Shlomo will return to Edinburgh this August with his show Ministry of Mouth, following a sell-out debut run in 2011 to take vocal music to new heights with his choice of intricate beat patterms, loops and basslines. He also has a children’s show as well .. Which begs the question where does his versatility end? I wonder whether he could be called upon to provide a workshop at the London A Cappella Festival 2013?:

Dates: Monday 13 & Tuesday 14 August
Times: 20:50 – 21:50 on Monday 13; 22:15 – 23:15 on Tuesday 14
Venue: Underbelly Cowgate, Cowgate, EH1 1EG
Prices: £12.50

From one genre of music to the other, and Scotland’s prodigious chamber choir Coroedina who will present a sublime contemporary music set inspired by the American composer Eric Whitacre in a one-off gig at the St Giles’ Cathedral right in the heart of the Festival City:

Dates: Tuesday 23 August
Times: 20:00 – 21:30
Venue: St Giles’ Cathedral, EH1 1RE
Prices: Adults from £10.00

From the Republic of South Africa, the Soweta Entsha quartet of a cappella male singers, offers a feel-good experience, which may even culminate in one even dancing in the aisles of the venue. Opportunities to hear a cappella music African style do not come along too often, so make the most of this opportunity:

Dates: Friday 3 & Saturday 4 August (previews); Monday 6 – Monday 27 August (except Sunday 26)
Times: 20:00 – 21:15; 16:00 – 17:15 (9/16/21-25 August)
Venue: ST John’s Church, princes Street, EH2 4BJ
Prices: £8 (previews), £14.50

Closer to home, The Vocal Orchestra will celebrate everyone’s favourite tunes in the manner that we all like (7 mouths, 7 mikes and no instruments):

Dates: Thursday 2 & Friday 3 August (previews); Saturday 4 – Monday 27 (except Tuesday 14)
Times: 17:15 – 18:15
Venue: Underbelly Bristo Square, EH8 9AL
Prices: £10 (Previews), £14/16

The last of our collegiate groups, The Accidentals are making their Fringe debut this year in what will be a short but sweet run of six nights. The best all-female collegiate group in the country last year will be hoping to wow their audiences with their gutsy, feisty and fierce beats. Catch them while you can – this is their first gig outside of St Andrews for a long time!

Dates: Monday 13 August – Saturday 18 August
Times: 11:15 – 12:05
Venue: Space Cabaret @ 54, North Bridge, EH1 2HE
Prices: £4.50/£4

Finally, an a cappella sketch show that highlights the side-splitting situation that surrounds the decisions we make when it comes to choosing what to wear day in day out, CappellaJuice: Beyond the Wardrobe will be my last recommendation which will harmonically delight one and all who watch it:

Dates: Sunday 12 – Monday 27 August
Times: 17:05 – 18:05
Venue: C Venues, Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Prices: from £8.50

In closing, the programme is full and varied in terms of musical repertoire covered by the individual artists and groups, and I hope to find space to see most of them in about 8 weeks time. Bring on the Summer and here’s hoping to see some of you a cappella fans from the UK Campus on our travels.

Don’t forget to check out the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Website for more details about all of these acts.


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