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 concludes here:
10. The Other Guys – St Andrews Girls
9. The Sons of Pitches – Club Medley 2
8. The Oxford Gargoyles – Fields of Gold
7. The Accidentals – Rolling in The Deep
6. The Oxford Gargoyles – Dancing in the Moonlight
5. The Oxford Belles – Jar of Hearts
4. Out of the Blue – Got To Get You Into My Life
3. The Techtonics – Earthquake
2. The Alleycats – Titanium
1. All the King’s Men – Hide and Seek
Sneaking into the number one spot is the only track on our list that failed to win an award of some sort in 2012, partly due to its omission from the group’s Voice Festival set, it’s the magnificent Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap, covered superbly and precisely by our current UK Champions of A Cappella, All the King’s Men. It is testament to the strength in depth the boys had over the past year that they managed to win the Voice Festival despite this track, in our opinion their finest, not featuring on their set. Upon hearing that the group had claimed the number one spot, former MD Henry Southern was delighted. “That’s great news! The song definitely became the one we were most proud of in our repertoire last year.”
The song is, admits Southern, the first number the group have performed that was not arranged by a member of the group. “I’d wanted to do the song as I thought that it would work well with the voices we had for the ’11-’12 group. Our blend, musicality and ensemble singing was quickly coming together, particularly on the slower songs, and I thought it would fit the group perfectly.” However, just as Southern was about to start arranging the song, fellow group member Josh Cooter chimed in with a suggestion. “Josh said that he had done Tom [Recknell]’s arrangement with him at school and that Tom kindly granted us permission to use it.” Southern was delighted with the arrangement, and having heard it himself, Recknell was also pleased with the results. Henry adds that “it was great to have Josh’s guidance when we were rehearsing the arrangement, as he was already so familiar with it.” The group were also honoured to be able to work on the song with their patron, Paul Phoenix from The King’s Singers, who had recorded the track back in 2010. “His input was invaluable,” says Southern.
The debut performance of the song was recorded at Hollywood High School and was a warm up to a larger performance at Claremont later that evening, during the group’s early 2012 West Coast US Tour. “The reception was always very positive and it is probably one of the songs that people remember the most – partly because we almost always had it at the end of the set. “The tight musical control that is evident throughout the song was something that was worked on from the very beginning of the performance process. “Because we were so diligent about the musical points from the very beginning, the performance of it didn’t change that much over the months we performed it. Usually an arrangement gradually develops and improves through time, but we only performed this when we felt we were 100% ready – it took a lot of work!”
The story of why the song didn’t make their Voice Festival set, not to mention their ICCA Final set, is a long one with many factors for and against the song. “We already had a strong ‘slow song’ lined up with Hallelujah which we had been singing all year and so we were very comfortable with it.” Despite the perhaps overdone nature of the song, Southern still claims this was a good decision. “We felt that Noah Mosley’s arrangement was very unique, it fitted with the style we were developing, and above all Tom Aldren nailed the baritone solo every time! It ticked all the boxes for a competition piece.” Added to that, Southern didn’t feel Hide and Seek was ready for the Voice Festival. “As mentioned before, we only started learning it in January, and the very nature of the piece meant it had to be perfect otherwise it could have fallen a bit flat.” Timing was also an issue. “If we were to have replaced Hallelujah in our set with Hide and Seek, it would have been too long to fit within the assigned 12 minutes and if we’d taken out another number in its place it would have been detrimental to the overall set – it wouldn’t have been balanced or demonstrated everything the group could do.” The group did toy with the idea of performing the number as a part of their ICCA Final set after speaking with Dominic Peckham post-Voice Festival final, but the group decided to stick with their winning combination, finishing 3rd in the final in New York in the process.
To close, Henry gave us some words of wisdom that can translate to any performance of a song. “I really think that if you enjoy singing something, it comes across to the audience. We knew the effect that this arrangement could have on an audience and we milked it for all its worth! Something which Paul worked on with us is not being afraid to express the meaning of the words. If you want to make the audience cry, you have to feel like you are going to cry. That sounds very pretentious, but it is all too easy to switch off when singing an arrangement you’ve sung countless of times – when we all locked in it was magic!”
Hide and Seek has been specially uploaded onto Soundcloud for your pleasure and enjoyment. We recommend closing your eyes and taking in the breathtaking blend.
Our countdown is now over! We hope you enjoyed reliving 2012 with us. Here’s to an even better 2013!