The Best of British 2012 is our unofficial countdown of the top ten UK a cappella tracks of the past year. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas period, we will be counting down, from ten to one, what we believe have been the best tracks on show this year, ranging from awesome arrangements, sensational solos, marvellous mash-ups, punny parodies and everything in between.
In order to determine which tracks were to be considered for this accolade, we decided to restrict our selections to songs that fell under ONE or BOTH of the following categories:
a) A song that made its live debut in 2012
b) A song that was featured on a 2012 album
For example, although all of the tracks featured on The Accidentals‘ EP made their debuts at the 2011 Voice Festival, because the album was released in 2012, all of the tracks on the album were considered. Also, several tracks were considered that were not released on albums, for example songs by The Oxford Belles or The Sons of Pitches from their 2012 repertoire.
We made a list of all the eligible songs from all the eligible groups, and then picked the top three tracks from each group, where possible. We then narrowed this shortlist down to 25, before picking our 10 favourite tracks. Opinions were divided, scores were combined, and in the end there was only one winner. But who will it be?
The countdown continues here:
8. The Oxford Gargoyles – Fields of Gold
Awards: ‘Outstanding Musicality’ – Voice Festival UK 2012, Oxford Regional Round
Breezing in at number eight is the first of two tracks from The Oxford Gargoyles, the only group to have two tracks in this year’s top ten. Their cover of Sting’s Fields of Gold made its debut at the Goyles’ annual kick-off gig at the Turf Tavern in Oxford, meaning it was also the first time some of the members of the grup had performed to an audience as Gargoyles! The song since made its way into their Voice Festival set and was one which stood out in their Fringe Festival setlist too.
So where did the idea for the arrangement come from? Some credit for inspiration is due to Musical Director Euan Campbell’s predecessor, Alex Kaiserman, who had taken a popular song and given it a jazz twist in the past. “Alex had arranged Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You for the group in 2010, and was part of the VF-UK winning set that year. I decided to use that idea for Fields, arranging it together with an old school friend, Joe Mason, and actually had the song ready for when we auditioned in October. Thankfully, we found two perfect duetists for the number in Sasha Ockenden and Rebecca Sharp.”
Campbell was always aware of the momentous task he faced, though, in rearranging a very popular classic number, and tried to add as much originality as possible without losing the essence of the original: “To settle the listener’s ear, the first two bars have exactly the same chord sequence as the original, but then in the third and fourth bars, I changed the sequence to something a little more crunchy!” Despite this, Campbell was still cautious of the potential the song had to become a little repetitive, and took action against that: “I think arranging the song as a duet kept the arrangement on its toes, while nicely reflecting the lyrics of the song. I also added two key changes, varied rhythms and lyrics for the ensemble parts, and threw in a couple of bell tones for good measure! This helped the arrangement create its own feel, whilst still remaining true to the original.”
The song has remained a favourite of the group, despite its early beginnings way back in October. “It was the second piece we learnt as a new group, but we have never got tired of it! We fondly remember singing it for the first time in rehearsals with our eyes closed. It might sound lame, but it really helped us to connect and to listen to each other. Singing it for the last time at auditions for the new generation a couple of months ago was pretty emotional.” Campbell thinks this emotional connection to the song is noticed by their audience during performance, which is what has made it so highly regarded in the past year. “Over the course of the year, each member of the group has brought their own ideas to the table as to how the arrangement should be sung, resulting in a completely cohesive and united performance. A good arrangement is only half of it – often the way you connect with and perform the song is much more important, and we think the ease in which we can inject emotion into this song is what makes it such a crowd favourite.”
You can purchase Up The Scale, which contains this track and the rest of the Gargoyles’ 2011-2012 repertoire, right here.