University Groups to Submit Videos to VF-UK

The Voice Festival UK will not be holding Regional Competitions as part of the University Competition in 2014.

The news comes early today as an email from the new University Co-Ordinator, Zoe Banfield, was sent to all the groups involved in the Festival.

Instead, in order to apply for the semi-final and final (taking place in London in March), groups will need to submit a video to VF-UK. Further details of this video are yet to be revealed. Furthermore, showcases will be organised across the UK as replacements for the Voice Festival competition.

The full email from the Voice Festival can be read below:

University Programme 2013-14

As you will be aware, the Voice Festival is run by a team of volunteers, and in order to develop and sustain the work we do, we have recently taken on some new team members. However, this does mean that we will be going through an initial period of transition this year whilst the new members settle into their roles. More details about the new team members and their roles can be found on the Voice Festival website.

Based on feedback from last year, we know that the Big Weekend was of great value to groups, and so we want to build on this aspect of our offering and find a way to bring even more groups together. We also know that the competition aspect is something that helps provide focus in pushing groups on and we still want to encourage this as well.

With this in mind key activities of our 2013-14 programme will include:

University Competition

This will consist of:

– An initial round with online video submissions. (More details to follow, but we anticipate a submission deadline of end of Jan/early Feb 2014).

– Festival Weekend across two days (potentially 8th – 9th March 2014, but we will confirm this in December) which will include a live Semi-final knock-out and the University Championship Final. (More details to be announced in due course).

As you can see the University competition has a few changes to previous years, with an initial video submission round and then a Festival Weekend featuring Semi-finals and the Competition Final. We can confirm at this stage that the judging criteria will remain consistent with previous years, with only some small tweaks for the online video submissions.

Showcases… in collaboration with you! – these are events for helping you to deepen connections with youth and community singers in your regions, and providing focus on originality, collaboration, learning and performance. They will be held at different venues and times across the year (pre or post the university competition – pending your calendars) and every event will be tailored to the singers in your area.

What do you think of the new changes? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Nor’easters Claim World Title in New York; Sons of Pitches Do Britain Proud

It was not the night the UK was hoping for at the Town Hall in New York City last night, as our boys from Birmingham took their jumpsuits and their incredible music to the States to compete against the very best from around the a cappella-crazy nation. While the seven men performed their hearts out to an adoring crowd, it wasn’t to be for them, as Northeastern University’s Nor’easters, who had performed strongly throughout the competition,took the title, and will be delighted to come away with the victory.

Also placing were previous Finalists The Chordials from Cornell University, and last years runners-up The Scattertones from UCLA, who repeated last years feat by coming second for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Sons of Pitches were praised for providing ‘the first good dubstep breakdown of the night’, and must be credited for adapting well to the use of microphones that is required at these events.

Overall, the reception of our boys was great, and they must be praised for bringing British A Cappella at its best to the home of a cappella.

We will be providing a full review of the night via The A Cappella Blog in due course.

Sons of Pitches Pip Vive to ICCA Final

Yesterday evening, the announcement was made as to which international group would be representing the Rest of the World at the upcoming ICCA Finals at the Lincoln Center in New York City. With several of our UK groups having submitted video setlists to the ICCAs, it was in the end a close run thing between this year’s VF-UK champions, Vive, and the arguable runners-up, The Sons of Pitches, whose disappointment will surely be annulled by this particular result.

It means for the first time, the winners of this year’s university competition will not be invited to perform as the representatives of the UK, with the ICCAs using a different system this year with which to allocate the International Wild Card, that being through video applications.

Previous UK entrants to the ICCAs have fared well – Out of the Blue has come second twice, in 2006 and 2009, while last year’s champions All the King’s Men came in third behind third-time champions the SoCal VoCals.

We’ll be previewing the Final as soon as all the entrants are through, but for now let us wish The Sons of Pitches good luck in their endeavours in New York. The UK is behind you!

Results Round-Up
1st: The Sons of Pitches (363 Points)
2nd: Vive (350 Points)
3rd: The Oxford Belles (295 Points)

Last Call for International ICCA Applications – March 22 Deadline

Calling all UK university groups: the deadline for applications for the International WildCard for the ICCA Finals in New York next month is fast approaching. Don’t miss out on your chance to perform at the ICCA Finals at the Lincoln Center in New York as the international representative of a cappella.

According to the official website, “For international groups who cannot participate in a live ICCA event, we offer one additional competition space for ICCA Finals in New York City each season.”

“Groups can videotape their competition set, just as though they were performing at a live ICCA event–no stops, edits, or cuts. Three Varsity Vocals adjudicators will evaluate the performances.”

“On April 1, the top-scoring group will be declared the winner of the International Round and will be invited to appear at ICCA Finals.”

You can find out more about how to apply to compete at the ICCA Finals right here.

Vive Triumph in Debut Season; Fifth Different Winner at Fifth Final

In a night full of passion, intricacy, humour, style, sophistication and most of all, music, it was debutants Vive that took this year’s Voice Festival, triumphing over the likes of The Sons of Pitches, The Oxford Alternotives and last year’s champions All the King’s Men in the final at the City of London School for Girls.

With the group from Guildhall College of Music and Drama only reaching the final via a Wildcard after winning the Ward Swingle Award for Originality at the London Regional in the same venue last week, they put together a set never before seen in recent Voice Festival memory, with breaks in between each song to outro and intro the songs either side – something most other groups rarely have time for. The group were clearly the best musicality and indeed in terms of originality – their set contained two songs penned by group members themselves – but the audience favourite appeared to be The Sons of Pitches, who toyed with the audience deliciously throughout their set, and more than deserved their awards for ‘Outstanding Vocal Percussion’ and ‘Outstanding Choreography/Stagecraft’, the latter of which they picked up at last year’s final. Special mention must also go to Jessie Reeves of The Oxford Alternotives, who took the audience on a real emotional journey through her solo of Regina Spektor’s Samson. Surprisingly, reigning champions All the King’s Men left empty handed, as did Glaswegian group Choral Stimulation and Exeter based Semi-Toned, but these were by no means poor performances – each and every group could have made a point for why they were deserved winners on the night; it was merely a case of which group was the most outstanding.

So Vive it was that claimed the title ahead of the rest. What next for the group from Guildhall?

Results Round-Up
Outstanding Musicality: Vive
Outstanding Choreography/Stagecraft: Joe Bellum and Joe Hinds of The Sons of Pitches
Outstanding Arrangements: Sam Robson of Vive
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Jack Blume of The Sons of Pitches
Outstanding Soloist: Jessie Reeves of The Oxford Alternotives for Samson

Winner: VIVE

A full review of last night’s show will be available shortly.

St Andrews to Add Third All-Girl Group to Line-Up

With exciting expansion in the world of university a cappella happening all over the country, with new groups emerging in several hubs across the country, it is no surprise that the urge to quench that a cappella craving has emerged once again in one of the most prolific hubs in the country, at the University of St Andrews.

With the university’s a cappella groups having been taken down a peg or two due to the recent qualification of Glasgow’s Choral Stimulation from the St Andrews Regional of this year’s Voice Festival UK, it appears they will be joined in the coming years by a third all-female group, adding to the list which already contains the UK’s best all-female group, The Accidentals, and the ever-increasing stature of The Hummingbirds.

The group, tentatively called the Belles, has three American girls at its roots, Laura Fabius, Emily Hallinan and Brooke McGrath, and they took their first steps in November last year as a five piece, who formed to sing Christmas Carols around the picturesque university town during the winter months. Since then, the girls made the decision to continue with their passion into the second semester: auditions were held, several applicants were accepted, and the group now finds themselves with the biggest all-female contingent at the university, numbering fourteen in total, most of whom are either first- or second-years at the university, clearly indicating longevity is at the core of their decision.

While modest about their intentions, the girls want to bridge a happy medium between The Accidentals and The Hummingbirds without stepping on anybody’s toes, and simply give more girls the chance to do something they enjoy.

With the fledgling group having only fully come together less than a month ago, they feel it is early days to speculate what kind of personality or uniqueness the group will have, having only made small steps since their inception through workshopping and improvisation as a group. Several of the members have little or no experience in a cappella, and so time will be needed to bed them in.

Regardless of their infancy, though, it is exciting to see yet another group springing up in what is already a hotbed of a cappella. With more interest fielded from Newcastle recently, it seems the UK university a cappella scene is set to explode.

Sons of Pitches Reach Second Final in Award-Crazy Regional

In a Regional Round full of top drawer a cappella, it was The Sons of Pitches who made it through to their second successive London Final, picking up no less than three awards in the process. The boys from Birmingham made it count on home turf once again, as they beat off stiff competition from experienced and debutant groups alike at the Elgar Concert Hall this evening.

With four groups hailing from the University of Birmingham itself joined by Birmingham Conservatoire based The Augmentals and Leeds-based The Songsmiths (who have had as many names as they have had years competing in VF-UK), it turned out to be a hotbed of raw talent as awarded were dished out left, right and centre for all manner of things, including a brand new award for the Augmentals for ‘Outstanding Audience Participation’.

The Sons of Pitches therefore become only the second group to have reached the Final before to be in the same situation again this year, and it means we will yet again have an all-female-less final for the second consecutive year.

Results Round-Up
Outstanding Vocal Percussion:Jack Blume of The Sons of Pitches and Lizzie Jones of the Uptone Girls
Outstanding Arrangement: The Sons of Pitches for Lose Yourself
Outstanding Musicality: The Songsmiths
Outstanding Audience Participation: Andrew Wilson of The Augmentals for Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Outstanding Soloist: Lorcan Byrne of The Songsmiths for Big Love and Charlye Simpson of the Uptone Girls for Landslide
Outstanding Performance: The Sons of Pitches

Winner: THE SONS OF PITCHES

A full review of last night’s show will be available shortly.