Voice Festival UK 2013 Preview – Part 2: St Andrews

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we here at the blog were once again provided with a wonderful Christmas present: the announcement of the round allocations for this year’s Voice Festival UK university competition. For the second year running, the competition is bigger than ever, with more groups from more universities competing than ever before in five Regional Rounds: Oxford, St Andrews, London, Birmingham and Exeter.

In this series of blogs, we will be previewing each Regional Round, commenting on each group and their chances of reaching the final, as well as introducing several groups you might not yet have heard of.

In the second blog, we go to the only round aside from Oxford that has been going since the Festival’s inception, that in St Andrews, which also happens to be the only round with the exact same line-up as last year. The round will take place on Saturday 23rd February 2013.

Potted History

Traditionally, this round has been fought out by three groups in the past four years: The Accidentals, The Alleycats and The Other Guys, with each group having qualified for the final twice in four years: The Alleycats in 2009 and 2010, The Accidentals in 2010 and 2011, and The Other Guys in 2009 and 2012. This three-group domination is emphasised by the fact that those three groups scooped all the awards in last year’s Regional; in fact the only other group to have won an award in this round is Choral Stimulation, who won two, in 2010 and 2011. With no group gaining a dominant foothold, this round is always one of the closest to call.

Notable Absence

The Vocal Bandits: The unauditioned group from the University of St Andrews may not have competed in the Festival before, but that didn’t stop talk of them potentially taking part this year. After impressing at the university’s Christmas Concert in November, there was talk that the group would take the number competing in the round to an unprecedented seven, but have instead chosen to remain spectators. We wish the group all the best for the future and hope to see them try their hand in future.

Old-Timers

Aberpella: Competing for the second year in the competition, Aberdeen’s mixed group will be hoping for more success than in their debut season. With a year of experience in the bag, they will have learnt from last year’s outing and will almost certainly be stronger this year. However, in one of the notoriously toughest Regionals, they will have to show significant improvement to beat some of the more established acts. They are still the most inexperienced group in this round, and that could count against them.

The Accidentals: Technically still the UK’s best all-female a cappella group, thanks to their final performance in 2011 and the absence of female groups in last year’s finale, the girls will bring their fierce brand of female feistiness to the Regional as always. Having kept the majority of their members this year, and having recruited three exceptionally talented girls, this continuity could hold them in good stead as they look to reach their third final.

The Alleycats: In my opinion, they were unlucky not to win this Regional last year with what could be considered as their golden generation. One of last year’s competition numbers, Titanium, was selected as the runner-up in our countdown of the best tracks of 2012, and if they put together a similar masterpiece this time around, they will definitely be challengers again. However, having lost a huge number of members and having replaced their entire bass roster, you have to wonder whether this will hamper their chances.

Choral Stimulation: The Glasgow group could arguably be seen as the nearest challengers to the ‘Big Three’, having been the only group outside of St Andrews to have picked up any sort of award in this Regional. Having competed since 2010, they are renowned for bringing a very original brand of a cappella to St Andrews, having sung Lonely Island’s I Just Had Sex at the recent Christmas Concert. They could be ones to watch this year as their group progresses and matures.

The Hummingbirds: Despite having competed since the Festival’s inception in 2009, St Andrews’ newest all-girl group have never reached the final or picked up any awards at the St Andrews Regional. Their style of a cappella is completely different to that of the Accidentals, focusing mainly on cutesy pop numbers, which does add variety to proceedings. I feel good about the group’s chances of ending their barren streak this year, having gained a lot of stage experience since last year’s competition and having recruited a lot of talented members. If they can seize some sort of competitive edge, they might shock a few.

The Other Guys: It cannot be denied that The Other Guys have had a successful few years; in the past year they have run (unsuccessfully) for Christmas Number 1, released a successful Christmas record and have recently announced another EP will be available for Valentine’s Day, just 9 days before the Voice Festival rolls into town. Commercial success does not translate to competitive success, though, and despite reaching the final last year, the group were thought to fall quite short of eventual winners, All the King’s Men. The group has fleshed out a little this year, losing just one member last year, and this continuity could help them reach their third final in five years.

Summary

As always, the St Andrews Regional is one of the hardest to call. It’s difficult to look past the ‘Big Three’, as historically The Alleycats, The Accidentals and The Other Guys have dominated without any of the three qualifying consistently. The last time The Alleycats qualified was in 2010, and they will be desperate to make amends this year, but with solidarity from their main rivals that could be difficult. The other three groups are hardly there to make up the numbers though: Choral Stimulation have improved year on year and were unlucky not to pick up any awards last year. Their originality and fresh take on a cappella will always be admired in this Regional. The Hummingbirds have also been sounding excellent recently, and could break their qualifying duck, while Aberpella will have improved massively since last year. I wouldn’t want to judge this one.

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