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 our fourth installment, we’ll be heading to the new round of this year’s festival, although most of the names you’ll probably have heard before… it’s in Exeter, taking place on Saturday 2 March.
While this is the inaugural Regional round taking place in Exeter, one could argue that it has merely migrated slightly further south from last year’s Bristol Regional, which in turn was the first in the south-west. Last year, groups from Bristol, Exeter and Bath all competed, with HotTUBBS emerging eventual winners and being the only mixed-voice group to make last year’s Voice Festival Final.
TUBBS: The first notable absentee from the Exeter Regional is the University of Bristol Barbershop Singers. The largest group to have ever competed in the competition, their absence after two years is one which will definitely diminish the variety on offer in Exeter – TUBBS undoubtedly brought something unique and completely different to most other contemporary a cappella groups, and their presence will be missed.
HotTUBBS: Perhaps more surprisingly, HotTUBBS, a sister group to TUBBS, have also withdrawn from the competition, meaning two of last year’s five finalists will not be competing this year. After a very successful debut performance last year, becoming the only non all-male group to reach the final, it will be interesting to see which of this year’s groups will be filling the void left by their departure.
Illuminations: While the Illuminations are new to the Voice Festival UK, they are not new to us here at University A Cappella UK. The mixed group come under the umbrella of the University of Exeter A Cappella Society, and will be counting on the experience they have gained as part of the rapidly growing society to hold them in good stead for this year’s competition. Against only three other groups, who each lack huge amounts of experience, they may well think a debut final is within their reach.
Semi-Toned: Arguably the most active group coming out of Exeter, the Semi-Toned boys yet again make up the only all-male group in the south-west, and as such have been making quite a name for themselves, hitting almost 750 fans on Facebook. While this is no indication of their musical aptitude, the boys did look solid last year, especially with their mash-up of Travis’ Turn and Coldplay’s Yellow, which won them ‘Outstanding Arrangement’, alongside ‘Outstanding Vocal Percussion’ for Jack Telfer St. Claire. If they can continue in the same vein as last year, they’ll definitely be in with a chance.
The Sweet Nothings: The most experienced, at least competitively, of all the groups in the area, this is the third year of competition for the only all-female group in this Regional. They won ‘Outstanding Performance’ last year but seemed to lack a real sense of direction in their set, and as arguable favourites may have felt disappointed not to qualify. However, this is a new year, and they have been keeping busy, which may well hold them in good stead for the competition.
Aquapella: Aquapella, like Semi-Toned, debuted in the competition last year, but were not quite as successful as the boys, failing to win any awards. However, they will come back stronger after figuring out what it’s all about, and I am excited to see the latest offering from the only group from the University of Bath.
I seem to say this every time, but this Regional really is wide open. With no groups having reached the final in previous years, that coveted slot is very much up for grabs. There are some groups that could be seen as being closer to the victory than others though: we have been hearing a great deal from Semi-Toned all year and their wealth of live experience may well mean they’re down as favourites. Add to that the fact they won two awards at last year’s competition, and they could be forgiven for feeling confident. However, The Sweet Nothings, their all-female counterparts, have been just as successful in the past year and have a lot to offer. Aquapella are still a fairly unknown quantity and could bring a couple of surprise with them from Bath, while Illuminations may have been learning from their fellow Exeter groups, and are also in with a chance. Tough one to call.
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