VF-UK 2014: Semi-Final Review

The morning and afternoon of Saturday 8th March saw twelve of the UK’s best collegiate a cappella groups descend upon the City of London School for Girls to battle it out for just five places in the Final on Sunday evening, 9th March. With the groups split into two semi-finals of six, and each group getting 8 minutes to show off their abilities rather than the traditional 12 minute set, the pressure was on to impress from the word go. And boy, did they impress. We’ve given our thoughts on each group’s performance and picked our top five to reach the Final tomorrow – but we won’t know who will be competing in the Final until later this evening.

Semi-Final 1

The King’s Chicks

Opening proceedings is no easy task, especially for a group that has never made it this far before – fellow semi-finalists Choral Stimulation suffered from nerves in last year’s final after being drawn first in their début final and it cost them. However, the King’s Chicks, dressed in black crop tops, jeans and red hairbands, showed no sign of nerves in their whirlwind set of three mid-length numbers, diving straight in with a nod to International Women’s Day and what I’m going to describe as a Girl Power Mash-Up. Beyonce, Lily Allen, Destiny’s Child… all the usual suspects made an appearance in this opening number, which seemed to finish no quickly than it had started. It began a theme for the afternoon of groups trying to mash one-too-many songs into each other with little regard for musical similarities, although Lily Allen’s Hard Out Here was met with a sassy solo which showed promise.

The girls’ middle song was their strongest, a cover of Regina Spektor’s Us, which began with some glorious bell tones and introduced the wonderfully controlled solo with consummate ease. The dynamics were blatant and rose and fell in all the right areas, although the girls could have used some variation in vowels aside from the ‘do’ sounds that were predominant throughout.

The King’s Chicks’ final number was the strongest in terms of arrangement but the weakest in terms of performance. Rabbit Heart and Say My Name are typically punctured by Florence Welch’s massively powerful lungs, and as a result this cover felt a little underwhelming; despite the girls’ best efforts to inflict the clichéd ‘wall of sound’ on the audience, they never quite got there, particularly the meek soloist on the former of the two numbers. The choreography throughout the set was simple but effective and interesting enough to watch, and with nothing to compare against, it was a decent enough start from the girls from King’s.

All the King’s Men

Following up their King’s College compatriots were three-time VF-UK Finalists All the King’s Men, hoping to make it four finals out of four. Wearing their usual blue shirts and dark trousers, the group presented a two-song set consisting of Livin’ On A Prayer and a Spider Medley which you may have heard at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of years ago. AtKM always space themselves in a very refreshing way on stage – they rarely ‘shoe-up’ like many other groups, instead choosing to scatter themselves in an orderly fashion and facing different directions on stage, and while their choreography (or rather, movement) looks effective, in essence it’s just clever use of the stage space.

Livin’ On A Prayer was excellent. They had much improved in terms of pitching since their performance at the St Andrews A Cappella Christmas Concert, and Barry O’Reilly led the solo powerfully and note perfectly, although I just wish he had the voice to push the very challenging top notes into chest voice rather than falsetto as the song and the arrangement was simply crying out for it. There were nice moments with the brief sample of Michael Jackson combined with the moonwalk and the High School Musical-esque jump in unison towards the end, although if I were to be churlish, there were a few voices that stuck out from the otherwise fairly tight blend.

The Spider(Man) medley began with Gus Nicholson sat on the floor launching into a timid version of Incy Wincy Spider, which morphed quickly into a jazzy version (with a slight rhythmic blip along the way) and then into the Spider-Man Theme. The group took the opportunity to showcase several voices (and, indeed, varying facial expressions) which worked well, although the group didn’t quite manage to reach a suitable climax musically. They did achieve one comically, however, making sure to define that they weren’t talking about Irom Man, an X-Man, Jackie Chan, or indeed That Man in the front row. The crowd went wild and rightly so afterwards. This was a better performance than last year, but not quite as good as their title-winning one in 2012. Enough to send them to the Final? Probably.

The Sons of Pitches

Last year’s British ICCA Final representatives from the University of Birmingham, The Sons of Pitches were the first group to reach the New York Final without having become British champions in the process. Keen to amend this, the smallest group in the competition, just seven-strong, emerged in their new white boiler suits, but this emergence was unlike your usual entrance. Josh Mallett entered first, with a jar of jam. The rest followed, acting like zombies. All will be revealed in due course.

The zombies corresponded to the first song in the group’s Happy Medley – Gorillaz’ Clint Eastwood One thing that is so apparent watching SoP is that they enjoy performing SO MUCH. Their choreography was pure and simple fun. Cheeky and mischievous, yes, but also bloody good fun. It also appears the group have replaced the phenomenal beatboxing talent that is Jack Blume with someone even better and with more fun tricks up his sleeve – Mide Adenaike. He revealed what can only be described as a “bass growly thing”. It was awesome. Pharrell’s Happy merged in, as did a snippet of If You’re Happy And You Know It, and all-in-all this was a pretty outrageous start to the set.

Then something weird happened. The group slowed to an eerie, discordant, minute-long version of Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground. The solo from Joe Hinds was haunting. The backing, however, was either so brilliantly discordant that it was perfect, or simply plagued with tuning issues. Usually with numbers like that you can tell when chords are supposed to clash, but the song was so brief that it was difficult to tell and as a result it left you with somewhat of a sour taste.

The group were back to their brilliant best in the final number, another mash-up, this time of Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty To Me and Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty. Adenaike demonstrated some more absurd throat singing. If he doesn’t win some sort of award I’ll be very surprised. The logic behind the jam was revealed when Christina’s lyric ‘That’s my jam!’ was sung; indeed, Jamie Hughes led the line superbly in this final number. The best thing about the Sons is that each member pulls their weight and is a huge character in the personality and make-up of the group, and they really are a joy to watch. While this wasn’t the best Sons of Pitches performance I’ve ever seen, it should still have easily been good enough to see the group through to the Final. They’ll need to tighten up if they’re to win it though.

The Uptone Girls

Also hailing from Birmingham and in their first London-based competition, the Uptone Girls entered the stage with shirt white tops and tight, shiny leggings. When I say shiny, I mean shiny. Like, super shiny.

The group kicked off with a cover of Lorde’s Royals. It was OK. The dual beatbox worked extremely well, and was particularly good for a girl group. The soloist was confident and capable, although I do feel pitching the song slightly lower would have allowed for a more powerful and expressive (and less squeaky!) performance all around. Also, I feel this is a very ‘safe’ song to choose; the original is very easy to adapt for a cappella – it has all the necessary harmonies ad moving parts already contained within it – and the girls didn’t add a huge amount to what was already there. Musically they were flawless, but they played it safe here.

In stark contrast, the arrangement of OneRepublic’s Counting Stars against Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball was one of the best of the night. The usage of a continuous ‘ooh-aah-ooh-aah’ vowel blend complemented the two marvellous solos and was a welcome change from the somewhat dry backing in the previous number. The real triumph here were the transitions from one song to the other several times throughout the piece and the way they came off in live performance, although their big climactic moment once again could have been just a tad bigger for more effect. The arrangement here was superb; the performance almost matched it.

The Techtonics

I was listening to the Techtonics version of Labrinth’s Earthquake in the car on the way down to London and marvelling at the oozing creativity and plethora of talent displayed in the electronic piece that made it onto the Sing! 8 compilation. The talent remains; the creativity, it seems, has dissipated. Or maybe I just have heightened expectations now.

The Techtonics demonstrated from start to finish that they possess possibly the best group of singers in the competition. From soaring, note perfect falsettos to plunging basses, they have the full range – and with pretty much an army of singers, it’s no surprise. However, aside from the odd chuckle here and there in the first number, their set dragged, despite only being 8 minutes long.

The first number was a medley of too many songs that didn’t seem to gel particularly well and seemed to have been cobbled together for comedy value. There were occasional hilarious ‘WTF?!’ moments, including what I think might have been a Star Wars reference, but the song dissolved into a shapeless mish-mash that didn’t seem to have any real direction. It was sung competently enough, and there was some nice, realistic instrument imitation, but I just think they tried too hard to put too much into this number.

If their first song was too varied, their second suffered from not being varied enough. The soloist on Passenger’s Let Her Go was easily the best part of the song. I love a good, solid, strong baritone solo. The backing, however, was repetitive. I love a good “jah-nah-nah” as much as the next person, but for the entire song? No thanks. Musically, I couldn’t fault it. Each note was sung at pitch and the blend was fantastic. But there lacked a real spark to this performance, a real change of pace that would have made things a whole lot more interesting. There just wasn’t enough variation. When the boys decided to step out from their clustered formation I was hoping a climax was going to come, but instead they just got slightly louder and continued with the “jah-nah-nah” sounds. The boys clearly have talent by the bucketload; they just haven’t found the arrangement to demonstrate that talent to full capacity just yet.

The Accidentals

The final group in the first semi-final was The Accidentals from the University of St Andrews. Technically still the best all-female group in the country (but for how long?), the group took everyone by surprise by presenting a 8-minute long mega mash-up without any sort of break in between. It wasn’t half bad either.

Ellie Mason displayed her considerable pipes in the first number, Killing Me Softly, with was belted with gusto and verve on top of a restrained yet effective backing. The mash-up then gradually turned its attention to the Black Eyed Peas, incorporating Don’t Phunk With My Heart, Shut Up, My Humps, Boom Boom Pow, Pump It, Meet Me Halfway and Where Is The Love?. It was exhausting. The girls displayed relentless energy to make it through the entire number, and remained, for the most part, on key. They displayed the usual mix of solid musicality with some fierce dance moves, RnB magic, rap, grinding, and even put in a few cheeky modulations up and down just to toy with the audience.

On the plus side, the transitions were phenomenal, and each song was tackled with as much ferocity as the next. However, again it felt as if they had tried to put too many songs into the one, to such an extent that nothing stood out as being truly memorable – all the moments were too fleeting. It was a bold choice by the girls, and credit to them for taking a risk. I’m on the fence as to whether or not it paid off. It was entertaining, hilarious and VERY feisty, as always, and also demonstrated a huge range of styles that the girls executed flawlessly time after time. But was it simply too overwhelming?

Semi-Final 2

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue have changed. Since last seeing them live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2012, it seems every member of that Fringe generation has left the group. I saw no familiar faces in their line-up today. Would the OOTB legacy live on?

Just about. The light blue shirts, ties and lack of shoes are still there. The classic choreography is still there. They even had a strong soloist, something they have lacked in the past, on their first number, Bruno Mars’ Treasure, which was a standard, big-voiced, boisterous and fun OOTB number, without really becoming anything spectacular. The highest and lowest parts had the most variety, with the mid-ranged backing verging on becoming a little monotonous, but the boys changed things up enough to keep the arrangement relatively fresh with some perfect unison melodies and the classic pointing pose at the end of the number.

However, the boys brought their A-Game when it came to their second number, Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. This was the best musical performance of the night. Out of the Blue know how to do close harmony. It had everything: gorgeous lofty belltones, marvellous pitching, fresh vowel sounds, glorious high falsetto and blend to match even the most professional of groups. There was one moment when the pitching was oh-so-slightly lost, but this was a tiny blemish on a stunning vocal demonstration. I wasn’t sure about their chances for the final after their first number; after their second, I felt they were nailed on finalists.

Semi-Toned

Some members of Semi-Toned were wearing extremely tight trousers. That’s all I have to say on this matter.

Sometimes I wonder what goes on in a Semi-Toned rehearsal. Whoever thought of having a set which mashed-up Ylvis’ The Fox with Olly Murs’ Dear Darlin’, followed by the Pokemon Theme Tune and Radiohead must be crazy. But good crazy.

Despite a nervy, pitchy start, Murs’ Dear Darlin’ was performed with a tenderness that befitted its position behind Out of the Blue’s closer. Just as we were lulled into a false sense of security, however, BOOM. Cue The Fox and some crazy dancing (granted, at the expense of musicality, but who needs it when you’re pretending to make fox noises?!) Semi-Toned are way too fun. I literally wrote on my notes the word ‘BANTER’ in capital letters during this number. A raucous ride.

To follow this with the Pokemon Theme was brave, as the group could have been seen to be taking the mick slightly, but the pseudo-serious bass solo added a touch of sincerity to the proceedings, as well as nostalgia. The group definitely proved they were the most charismatic of all the groups so far with their opening two numbers.

And then Radiohead. From the ridiculous to the sublime. They NAILED this. Michael Luya’s solo was delicate and floated and simply marvellous. There was something about the blurred backing vowels that fitted the nature of the arrangement so well. There was definitely an element of AtKM’s Hide and Seek inspiration to be found in this number. Quite brilliant. Deserved finalists.

The Alleycats

The Alleycats were next up, sporting their usual suited-up attire with bright white trainers. (How do they keep them so clean?) As a fellow St Andrews student, I really really wanted The Alleycats to be brilliant, and I knew they had to be to stand a chance of reaching the Final. And they were – in moderation.

Despite having a plethora of solo talent in their ranks, The Alleycats have one of the most distinctive and successful blends in the country, which one would think is a huge advantage in a competition like this. Indeed, soloists Ayanna Coleman and Ollie Hayes on Put Your Records On and Jason Derulo’s The Other Side respectively led the line superbly, gracing the stage with their vocal dexterity. Jess Browne added some delightful ‘twiddly bits’ at the top, while some of the cutesy choreography on Records reminded me of similar movement in their Fringe version of Sixpence Non The Richer’s Kiss Me when Annie Faichney was on lead vocals.

However, I think they played it too safe here. Yes, musicality they were tight. They looked great. They did everything right on the night. But they weren’t ambitious enough. The Alleycats are very good at what they do, to such an extent that they become stubborn and unwilling to think outside the box. Both these numbers were very ‘Alleycat’ numbers – ‘zum-zum-ba’ is their token backing vocal sound and was used here in full force – but neither number had enough variety or spice to stop them both from dragging just slightly towards the end.

If you’re looking for a solid a cappella group that never fail to sound bloody good, The Alleycats are who you’re gonna call. But in times when judges look ever more for shows of brilliant originality, I don’t think they provide enough of that.

The Scopes

The Scopes became the third group to fall into the trap of trying to fit too many songs into a small timeframe across the course of the afternoon in London. Credit must be due to them for the effort they put into their first London national event, but following the huge sound that the Alleycats create was never going to be an easy task and at times they almost drowned in the dull acoustics of the venue.

Their first song was good. A Queen mash-up of Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy, Don’t Stop Me Now and Bohemian Rhapsody was spearheaded by a cute tenor solo and all-in-all it worked well. The arrangement was solid, the beatboxing was effective if occasionally the slightest bit out of time, and their variation in rhythms kept everything interesting and took us on a journey more so than some of the other groups had done.

However, the second song, what can only be described as a 90s Pop Medley, was married by pitching issues at the very start and was simply another case of trying to squeeze too much into one song. The best mash-ups contain two songs, with a potential small sample of a third, which bear similar rhythms, key signatures and often themes, and have samples of each song throughout the arrangement. This was a cluster of pop songs stacked up one behind the other with no real room for any of them to become fully fledged – a shame really, because the group showed musically the potential to be really strong. But with S Club 7, Blink 182, B*Witched, Shania Twain, Steps, Blue, Busted, The Spice Girls and Peter Andre all squeezed into four minutes, it was just too much.

The Songsmiths

Note to other groups: This is how you perform at your first VF-UK national event. A seamless, eight minute long set of two songs which blended well into each other but had enough of their own identity to be praiseworthy on their own merit.

The group from Leeds began with Alt J’s Fitzpleasure, intertwining some already existing harmonies with a strong hi-hat beatbox, some awesome dubstep bass and a gorgeous, if unorthodox, soloist. Towards the middle of the song, the girls did get a little pitchy, especially towards the faster-paced section of the arrangement, but corrected themselves quickly enough and grew to a huge wall of sound into the start of Total Eclipse of the Heart. Gorgeous belltones preceded the revelation that the aforementioned beatboxer is also a strong tenor, who added in the “Turn Around” echo with a pure, crisp tone. The Eclipse solo itself was lead magnificently, although the group could have been accused of extending the song a little longer than was necessary.

Most importantly, the group made a huge warm wall of sound as they built to a climax that had sadly been missing for much of the rest of the afternoon: as if I’d been inches away from a big, long, warm hug and the Songsmiths were finally the ones who gave it to me. The arrangement here must be praised as it was the springboard on which the Leeds group could build their very well received performance.

A dark horse for the Final?

Choral Stimulation

The very final group to perform was Glasgow’s Choral Stimulation. As always, they were dressed in traditional Scottish attire, including kilts, sporrans and oodles of tartan.

Again, the group seemed nervous and as a result had a few pitching issues throughout the set. Their first number was a tender mash-up of Use Somebody with Mr Brightside. The solo on Use Somebody was simply phenomenal: delicate in the most delicate of moments, and powerful in the most overwhelming of moments, it was sung with silky soul. Again, though, the big climax threatened to arrive but never quite did, before they marched on into their second number, which incorporated Go Your Own Way with Locked Out Of Heaven and Cher’s Believe. While much laughter was garnered from the gimmick from the soloist on Believe hitting his throat to impersonate the auto-tuned nature of Cher’s original, the group sounded a little tired, and I just felt this arrangement wasn’t as perfect a fit for the group as their ‘Ode to Glasgow’ was last year. Having seen Choral Stimulation perform many times, I feel they have done better in the past.

The group rounded off proceedings by gradually leaving the stage, with just the stoic beatboxers/drumrollers remaining on stage for an effective finale.

Something didn’t quite click for me with CS’s set this time around. Perhaps after last year’s marvellous effort I was expecting too much. Possible finalists.

The Verdict:

UACUK’S Finalist Picks:

SONS OF PITCHES
OUT OF THE BLUE
ALL THE KING’S MEN
SEMI-TONED
THE SONGSMITHS

VF-UK Semi-Final Results:

Outstanding Arrangement: Edward Scott of Semi-Toned and Harry Style of The Songsmiths
Outstanding Musicality: Out of the Blue
Outstanding Choreography: Choral Stimulation
Outstanding Soloist: Peter Noden of the Techtonics
Outstanding Performance: Semi-Toned

Finalists:

THE TECHTONICS
OUT OF THE BLUE
ALL THE KING’S MEN
SEMI-TONED
THE SONGSMITHS

So we called four out of the five finalists. Did your favourite group go through?

Best of British 2013: 3. Wonderwall

The Best of British 2013 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.

Eligible Tracks

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 OR competitive debut since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
b) A song that was featured on an album released since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
Furthermore:
c) No tracks considered for last year’s countdown are eligible this year.
For example, although The Other Guys‘ Christmas was released in 2012, last year’s countdown started before the release of the album, so all the tracks on the album were eligible. On the flip side, although The Oxford Alternotives wowed with their rendition of Regina Spektor’s Samson at this year’s VF-UK, because it was released in album form in 2012, it was considered last year and therefore was ineligible this year.

The Process

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:

10. Semi-Toned – Knights of Cydonia
9. The Oxford Belles – This Is Titanium
8. The Alleycats – Dancing On My Own
7. The Oxford Alternotives – Lovely Day
6. Choral Stimulation – Ode To Glasgow
5. All the King’s Men – Higher Love
4. The Other Guys – Christmas Gets Worse Every Year

3. The Sons of Pitches – Wonderwall

In at number 3 is one of the tracks from The Sons of Pitches‘ well received VF-UK set from 2013 and arguably one of the numbers which took them to the ICCAs in New York last April, their cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall. I’ve already raved about their album, Not Too Shabby, a masterpiece from the back end of last year, and so it’s no surprise that the group feature highly on our list.

Something the group prides itself on is their ability to make a song their own. Wonderwall is far from a straight cover of the Oasis original; in fact, the song was inspired by a swing cover by Paul Anka, and was written and arranged over one late night by the group’s vocal percussionist and now Liquid 5th employee Jack Blume. “The song immediately appealed to Jack’s sense of humour,” says Joe Novelli. “The whole concept seemed so funny and had so much performance potential for The Sons. He went home and transcribed and arranged right through the night, turned those high horn riffs into the ‘boyband’ falsetto BVs that seem to get every audience laughing, and sent us all a message saying ‘Ok, it’s 3am, but I’ve finally finished. I may be tired, but I’m pretty sure it’s funny!'”

Despite conforming to the group’s tendency to take songs apart and put them together again in their own unique way, the style of the song itself is very unusual for the boys from Birmingham, and indeed, the rest of the group were initially unsure of Blume’s arrangement. “We tend to cover a lot more chart stuff these days, throwing in dubstep, drum & bass, and occasional reggae and latin inflections for flavour,” said Novelli, before continuing: “We were all a little sceptical when Jack brought the arrangement to us and we saw he’d written ‘doo’ and ‘ba’ syllables. But as soon as Belham took the solo and the other Joes did their thing, it just kinda worked.”

The song made its début in the group’s Voice Festival set at the Birmingham Regional, where it was received raucously by the crowd. “We had a big audience full of our friends and they were laughing throughout. The YouTubers commenting on our videos may hate the ambient laughter, but we were loving it on the night!” As much as the group love performing the song, one of the other tracks from “Not Too Shabby” is held to high affection by the group. “Lose Yourself is probably our favourite from the past year, partly because it was our first ever ‘group arrangement’, and partly because it was never really notated, so it only really exists in our heads! There’s something special to be said about a song like that.”

As for the success of Wonderwall, Novelli concluded by saying: “Our performance aims to bring the very silly British humour out of all us! I think it just makes people smile in a way that more serious arrangements might not. And isn’t that sort of the whole point of a cappella?”

You can buy Not Too Shabby, which contains this song, right here.

Album Review: Not Too Shabby

Not Too Shabby

Not Too Shabby

This is the best album of the year.

I’m talking about 2013, of course. Although I’d be surprised if this was topped in 2014, to be honest, such is the simply exquisite nature of this record. The Sons of Pitches have topped off what has undoubtedly been the best year of the group’s existence with a flawless four-track album that knocks any potential pretenders to the throne firmly off their perch. It’s modern, it’s funky, it’s unique, it’s stylish, and it’s bloody brilliant.

I sound like I’m gushing. Fine. Let me guide you through the reasons why this album is so flippin’ awesome.

The Sons of Pitches do not cover songs. They take songs, rip them apart, put an entirely new spin on them, add in some highly unconventional backing techniques, and put them back together again. They do this with flair and buckets of talent which any group would kill to possess – and the fact there’s only seven of them make it that much more impressive. The beatboxing is at worst excellent, at best frantically awe-inspiring; the bass has brief moments of glory which are taken with aplomb; some of the falsetto makes you wonder if they haven’t snuck a couple of girls in at the last minute; and even the more ‘common’ baritone and tenor voices have a little something extra than most other groups, whether it be a flicker of soul, a high, biting belt or an ooze of charisma.

Talent is one thing; displaying it in the right way is another. The Sons of Pitches know their strengths and play to them, track after track. The first, Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, is a marvellous romp that demonstrates everything the boys are good at. The awesome swelling “wah wah wah” backing vocals throughout the first verse add so much more than a simple “ba” or “da” that other groups might employ; they take this to another level with “shwah, shwah-dah, swiggedy-dah, shwiggah-dah” during the chorus (listen to it if you don’t know what I mean) followed by an awesome breakdown with an African feel, brought about by the “kum-ya-te” and the (admittedly highly produced but in the best way possible) muffled beatbox. I haven’t even touched upon the solo yet – Joes Hinds and Novelli harmonise seamlessly and produce a soaring lead throughout. Even the end is highly creative, with the solo dropping to a funky and playful close. A roaring opener.

The second track is Lose Yourself by Eminem, although it becomes apparent from the off that it brings in elements of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River. Considering the first half of the track is predominantly rap, the arrangement is surprisingly highly musical. The eerie opening drops marvellously into the deliberate beat of Lose Yourself and correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure they got Eminem in especially to rap on the track. Either that or some sort of identically-sounding doppelgänger. The thematic eeriness continues in the staccato, echoing “ah-oh-ah-oh” behind the rap before the song drops into what is a moment of genius: a pause to hear the crackle of a record player before a slowly rising pianissimo of “You betta lose yourself in the moment…” which is a perfect example of how playful a cappella production can work like a dream. It’s the best moment on the album. Upon melding into Cry Me A River, many of the themes from Lose Yourself remain, which is vital for a successful mash-up, as well as the addition of yet more playful nuances which make each and every second of listening to the track new, fresh and exciting. This is a stonkingly good track.

Having ticked the rap and disco boxes, the boys move on successfully to a jazz version of Oasis’ Wonderwall, with baritone Joe Belham leading the solo with bags, nay, bucketloads of charisma. One minor, minor criticism of this track is that it doesn’t quite come off as entertaining as it does when it’s performed live, although that’s more testament to the Sons’ humorous choreography than a comment on the state of the arrangement itself. Belham’s saunter through the song is reminiscent of Robbie Williams in his Swing When You’re Winning days, while the comical yet perfect high-pitched “And all those roads are winding” from Hinds and Novelli add an extra lace of frivolity to the feel-good number. Topped off with Hinds’ belt of a top A at the end and you have a slick, smooth arrangement with a rich solo – top marks again.

The final track is the original track, You Are The One. It has everything good from the previous three tracks and more: a reverberating beatbox breakdown, echoed backing, more unusual vowel sounds, some frankly phenomenal bass and a really catchy solo that is great to sing along to. I would know. It’s a short track, under three minutes, but gets everything done that needs to be done while remaining very fresh.

I’m genuinely running out of superlatives for this album. If you haven’t bought it yet, you should, even if you don’t like a cappella. I repeat: this is the best album of the year. By far.

You can buy Not Too Shabby right here.

Voice Festival UK 2014 Line-Up Analysis

Exciting news! The line-up for next year’s Voice Festival UK has been announced in the last couple of days, and as an early Christmas present, we thought we would take a look at those competing, revealing the ins, the outs, and the usual suspects in the competition.

2014 will see 27 groups compete, the same number in total as last year, and each group will submit an 8 minute video to the Voice Festival, reminiscent of the International Wild Card round of the ICCAs. The best groups will proceed to two Semi-Finals and then a final, taking place on one weekend in March, where the best group will be crowned VF-UK 2014 University Champions.

So without further ado, here’s the line-up:

The Usual Suspects:
The Sons of Pitches – VF-UK Finalists 2012, 2013; ICCA Finalists 2013
The King’s Chicks
All the King’s Men – VF-UK Winners 2011, Finalists 2012, 2013; ICCAs – 3rd, 2011
The Ultrasounds
Sweet Nothings
Semi-Toned – VF-UK Finalists 2013
Illuminations
The Imperielles
The Scopes
The Techtonics
Score (formerly Voice Versa)
The Uptone Girls
The Treblemakers
The Accidentals – VF-UK Finalists 2010, 2011
The Alleycats – VF-UK Finalists 2009, 2010
The Houghtones
The Songsmiths
Aberpella
Choral Stimulation – VF-UK Finalists 2013

The Debutants:

The J Walkers (University of Birmingham) – a brand new group from the University of Birmingham, The J Walkers make the number of entries from Birmingham up to 5, alongside the Sons of Pitches, Uptone Girls, the newly named Score and last year’s debutants, The Treblemakers. We don’t know much about them just yet, but look forward to seeing what they have to offer.

The Cosmopolitones (University of Leeds) – Leeds’ second a cappella group after The Songsmiths, The Cosmopolitones are an all-female group founded this year, 2013, and having made a couple of public performance in October and over the Christmas period, they’ve been quick to rack up the on stage experience. Will they make the Semi-Final? Watch this space…

A Patella (University of Aberdeen) – Aberdeen’s all-medic group have been around for a while – they formed in November last year but did not take the chance to compete in last year’s competition. This year, however, they join the only other all-medic group, Oxford’s The Ultrasounds, in the competition and will be hoping to impress in their début year.

The Polyphonics (University of Warwick) – Warwick’s first group already has a slick website and some matching jackets, so if their singing is as solid as their organisational skills, they could well be dark horses going into the competition this year.

Durham University A Cappella Choir (University of Durham) – the originally named Durham University A Cappella Choir (are we calling them DUACC for short?) were founded only a couple of months ago, and will have their work cut out if they’re to progress to the Semi-Finals amongst such an illustrious cast of groups against them.

The Returnees:

Out of the Blue (University of Oxford) – the winners of the very first VF-UK competition back in 2009, Out of the Blue’s phenomenal record of making every final was dashed last year only due to their withdrawal from the competition. With the boys back to set the record straight, they will certainly be a name to watchgiven their previous pedigree in the competition.

Cadenza (University of Cambridge) – After two years away from the competition, Cadenza will be in the remarkable of being the only group in the competition to have won the competition the last time they competed. Cadenza won in 2011 and haven’t competed since. In a way, therefore, they will be defending their title, especially given the absence of reigning champions Vive (further information below).

HotTUBBS (University of Bristol) – After reaching the Final on their début performance in 2012, HotTUBBS chose not to compete last year due to other commitments. However, they’re back in force this year and will be hoping to do just as well second time around.

Notable Absences:
The Oxford Belles – VF-UK Finalists 2009
The Oxford Gargoyles – VF-UK Winners 2010; ICCA Finalists 2007
The Oxford Alternotives – VF-UK Finalists 2009, 2013
In The Pink – ICCA Semi-Finalists 2006
Fitz Barbershop – VF-UK Finalists 2010; ICCA Semi-Finalists 2006
The Fitz Sirens – VF-UK Finalists 2010
The Other Guys – VF-UK Finalists 2009, 2012
The Hummingbirds
The Augmentals
Vive – VF-UK Winners 2013
Aquapella

Verdict:

While the new format seems to have pleased some, there are a lot of absentees from the competition this year, some from groups that have been a staple in Voice Festival UK competition in past years. The Belles, Alternotives and In The Pink have joined the Gargoyles as Oxford withdrawals, while The Other Guys and The Hummingbirds have chosen not to continue their long-standing presence as part of the Scottish contingent. Even more poignant is the absence of the reigning champions Vive, who judging by their Facebook feeds, have taken their talents on to new projects. Other groups withdrawing from last year are Aquapella and The Augmentals, while groups like Fitz Barbershop and the Fitz Sirens will be absent for the second and third year running respectively.

That leaves us with three out of five former Champions – Out of the Blue, All the King’s Men and Cadenza – in this year’s competition, but judging by their latest album release and their performance at last year’s ICCAs, I would have The Sons of Pitches down as favourites – they’re just so unique and entertaining. That said, several groups could win it if their repertoire works: the new 8 minute video format will force groups to hone their sets and essentially cut a song, so it may well end up being the groups who can adapt to this new format (up until the semi-finals, of course) the best who reap the rewards.

Whatever happens, we’ll be present at the semis and the final in March next year to give you all the reviews and results as they happen, and all the build-up along the way. Get excited – VF-UK 2014 is just around the corner.

Sons of Pitches Release Début EP

Not Too Shabby is the Sons' first ever studio release.

Not Too Shabby is the Sons’ first ever studio release.

One of the biggest groups in recent years, University of Birmingham’s Sons of Pitches, have (finally) released their début EP, entitled “Not Too Shabby”.

Recorded, Edited and Mixed by Eric Scholz and Carl Taylor at Liquid 5th Productions, the EP contains the group’s fantastic VF-UK Final set as well as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.

From the small amount we’ve heard here, the album sounds pretty damn good, and is available here for the measly price of $4 (that’s roughly £2.50) – or more, if you feel that way inclined.

Keep your eyes open for a review over the Christmas period!

Event Review: VF-UK 2013 University Final

Question: What’s the best way to kick off a weekend full of a cappella workshops, socialising and all around musical mayhem? Answer: Get the best collegiate groups from around the country together to battle it out for the title of Voice Festival UK Champion.

That’s exactly what happened on Friday 15th March 2013 at the City of London School for Girls, as the winners of the five Regional Rounds, plus one wildcard entry, took to the stage to show off the best of their a cappella skills. And my, what a final it was…

The line-up for the evening was as follows:

CHORAL STIMULATION
University of Glasgow
Winners of St Andrews Regional Round
4th VF-UK
1st Final

VIVE
Guildhall School for Music and Drama
Winners of ‘Ward Swingle Award for Originality’, London Regional Round
1st VF-UK
1st Final

SONS OF PITCHES
University of Birmingham
Winners of Birmingham Regional Round
3rd VF-UK
2nd Final

SEMI-TONED
University of Exeter
Winners of Exeter Regional Round
2nd VF-UK
1st Final

THE OXFORD ALTERNOTIVES
University of Oxford
Winners of Oxford Regional Round
5th VF-UK
2nd Final

ALL THE KING’S MEN (Reigning Champions)
King’s College, London
Winners of London Regional Round
3rd VF-UK
3rd Final

Master of Ceremonies: Overboard

Despite the late start, the tension was palpable within the audience as professional US group Overboard took us through the ins and outs of the evening, before our first act, Scotland’s own Choral Stimulation took to the stage, aptly clad in tartan here, there and everywhere. Having seen this group at the St Andrews Regional, I knew they had a solid set with some standout moments – I just hoped their nerves, which were quite apparent from the start, didn’t stop them from showing off their talent. They kicked off with their hilarious ‘Ode to Glasgow’ mash-up, which incorporated songs such as the Glasgow Theme Tune from the film Love Actually, Love Is All Around Me and Why Does It Always Rain On Me? among several others, which were blended together masterfully throughout and really gave the audience a sample of their hometown. As you would have expected from a mash-up, there was a great deal of variety to the number, allowing the group to demonstrate their versatility. Highlights included one of the Scottish members of the group lolling around on stage pretending to be a drunkard, to huge uproar from the audience; some lovely bell-tones as the start; and a drumroll from the impressive vocal percussionist towards the end of a song which was a great start to the evening. My only worry was that, as has happened in the past, songs that have a distinct regional feel to them often don’t go down as well as they do in the Regional Rounds as audiences and judges fail to ‘get’ them – indeed, the applause in St Andrews was far more gratuitous than in London.

Their second number was a gorgeous and tender rendition of Michael Jackson’s Will You Be There?. The lead, while not having a typically pure, trained vocal, instead had a husky, gravelly tone to his voice which was juxtaposed gloriously against a backing that was so tender at the start it could barely be heard. The song built nicely into the smooth key change, and the beatboxer again demonstrated some skilful and apt percussion. Although the less in-your-face of their three numbers, this one stuck out to me in particular, more so than it did in St Andrews – perhaps there was a magic touch about this version that was missing from their set three weeks previously. Regardless, this was a beautiful middle song that did Michael Jackson justice.

Their final number was another mash-up, stylised as ‘Feeling Bad’, kicking off with Feelin’ Good and incorporating samples of Gangnam Style, Michael Jackson’s Bad and Show Me Love. Having seen the group perform this in St Andrews, I have to say I think the nerves got the better of them on this one, because it just wasn’t as tight, comedic or indeed musical as it seemed to be in the previous round. Nevertheless, the group allowed the arrangement to speak for itself in certain cases, with thematic rhythms penetrating the entire number and the four girls showing us all why they’re only a foursome with some powerful vocals, as well as some great instrument imitation. Again, some great beatboxing (worthy of an award perhaps, although maybe it wasn’t showcased enough for that) and all-in-all a great set from the group, although in the end I think their lack of Final experience showed them up, as they were unable to shake their nerves throughout the set. A valiant effort from the group to a rapturous applause, but I couldn’t help feeling there were going to be better groups to follow.

The second group to perform were Ward Swingle Award Winners Vive, and we were about to experience something completely different. From the off, it became clear that Vive were not in the same mould as any group we had seen throughout the entirety of the competition. Dressed with a running red theme, the jazz-spiritual group kicked off with an original song, called Your Motivation, with Lithuanian Martynas Vilpisauskas coming in after a wonderful jazzy introduction with a lovely, controlled solo. It is clear that the group are exceptional musically, with some interesting and original consonant sounds a welcome release from the familiar ‘Do’s and ‘Dum’s that make up most other groups’ backing. Martynas exhibited some gorgeous falsetto towards the end of the track, before the group began clapping – which for a group of their high standards I’m not sure was entirely necessary – but such was the blend that I had no idea who was singing which part, despite my strategic seating on the second row from the front. A strong, bouncy opening number.

I was shocked when the group’s founder, James Rose, went into a short speech (!) before the second song as an interlude. Again, demonstrating the unusual nature of the group. Would that still allow their set to fit into the time limit? Rose introduced their second song, another original entitled Troubles We Find, and again the group demonstrated blend, control, dynamism and a keen ear for music as their bass (although more like a bass-baritenor) Lewis Daniel took them through this one. It became apparent that the group had no choreography to speak of, again setting them apart from all other groups, and as such, despite their impeccable musicality, the group provided less of the crucial entertainment factor than most other groups: no amusing on-stage interaction, no great or not-so-great dance moves – and I began to wonder whether this would hamper their chances of winning. However, it goes without saying that their phenomenal musicality and tuning went a long way to making up for the lack of ‘performance’ – and while I personally enjoy the combination of music and performance, there were a lot of audience members who were blown away by their stunning musical proficiency.

Another spoken interlude prefaced the final song, which was the only non-original number of the set, a spiritual piece called Ezekiel Saw De Wheel. Again, a very jazzy feel to the piece, with a fantastic tenor solo from Sam Robson – with his afro also quite something to behold. Some phenomenal runs too from Robson. But I found myself writing down all the same things about this song as about all the others – great musicality, lovely blend, exceptional tuning. Coming from a music school, you expect the group to be exceptionally musically talented, but there was no “Wow!” moment here, no one climactic moment that blew me away: I feel the group sat well within their comfort zone, without venturing exciting new territory, and as such their set felt a little one-dimensional.

Vive were followed by another group with a lower-than-average number of members, Birmingham’s The Sons Of Pitches. They wore their token orange boiler suits and effortlessly eased into the eerie beginning to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, which was a highly manipulated and original version of the song which the boys had really made their own: clearly some fantastic arranging skills within the small group. Some nice echoed ‘Ah’s and the three-part lone lead on the chorus was breathtaking, before dropping back into the rap was also great. The shift into JT’s Cry Me A River swelled into a tempo shift and made for a commanding mash-up, with some playful melodies and harmonies and some impressive and frantic beatboxing from Jack Blume. Normally I’m not a fan of a fade-outs, but in this instance it worked, because they faded straight into the next song without the need for a pitch-pipe, an altogether impressive feat.

Not as impressive, however, as the original song that followed. Group member Joseph Novelli’s original song, You Are The One, really played to all the strengths of the group. With such a small group, it was imperative that each group member held his own, and while this was apparent throughout the set, it was this song which best accentuated that fact, with the bass in particular remaining strong and rooting the song in its entirety, and combined with the again proficient beatboxing to provide a strong driving beat throughout he number. In contrast to Vive’s original pieces, this one showed more variety, with a three-way beatbox breakdown, some hilarious yet also actually quite good choreography and some well-controlled volume changes. The complexity of the song was such that upon first listen, I had no idea it was an original number, such was the professionalism and aplomb with which it was performed.

The boys’ final number was the cheeky Wonderwall. It is testament to the entertainment value of these boys that the biggest laughs in this number were received before the song had even started, with the boys feigning nervousness and the musical director even using the blowing of the pitch pipe to comedic effect, casting furtive glances here and there as if they wanted to be singing in private. This transitioned into the lovely jazzy start to the number, which was again a highly original arrangement, and itself was utterly hilarious, with the group toying and playing with the audience as if it were a comedy sketch show, exemplifying and accentuating their entertainment value over and over again. Again, the bass held his own throughout. It goes without saying that the solo was strong – these boys have magnificent voices, and allowed the solos to shine through in just the right places. My notes concluded with three words twice underlined on the bottom of my notepad page: They were TIGHT.

Next up were the first groups from Exeter to reach the final, the boys of Semi-Toned. They wore black and maroon, the latter of which, in a bizarre twist of fate, matched the curtains on the stage. It was almost like they planned it that way. They kicked off with their mash-up of Cee Lo Green’s Bright Lights Bigger City and Hard-Fi’s Living For The Weekend, with a different soloist tackling each number. The first soloist was far stronger here than he had been back in Exeter, with a much more solid, confident performance, with really lifted the whole number. Eddie Henley took over the second solo and owned the stage – he really has great stage presence and acted and sung as if he was born to be there. In contrast to the two previous groups, Semi-Toned really hit us with the so-called ‘wall of sound’ in this first number, using their larger group to their advantage with some great harmonies, simple yet effective choreography and good volume control. Once again, Jack Telfer St Claire exhibited some great beatboxing and dance moves, and while this number was a slight improvement on their Regional performance, it just didn’t quite have the same originality or indeed entertainment value as the previous group.

Their second number was Smile Please by Stevie Wonder. I rated this as their weakest number in the Regionals, but again the boys stepped it up slightly with a more polished performance than they had provided in Exeter. The bass was gorgeous throughout, and the entire song was very lethargic and laid-back, which on the one hand was advantageous, as the theme of the song was reflected in the performance by the group, in what I’ll assume was a conscious decision, but on the other hand it did lose my attention just slightly towards the end, despite some lovely, if a little uninteresting chords. I couldn’t fault the number musically, as it felt a lot fuller and more fleshed out than the version they had sung in Exeter, but I think the arrangement of this one let them down a little, as they could only bring it to a certain level without having a great deal more going on.

Talking of having a great deal going on, the group closed with Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, their triumphant and anthemic closer. The opening of the number was quite unique – the eerie whistle that is present in the original was mimicked very accurately by one of the group members, before the wall of sound was once again breached with the brash, hard-hitting opening chords. This was followed by some awesome instrument mimicry, including some pretty hilarious electric guitar faces, but unfortunately the rest of the number wasn’t quite as powerful as it had been in the Regionals: a few of the higher harmonies were lost slightly, perhaps due to tired voices, and overall the group appeared to lose a little concentration and the musicality suffered ever so slightly, although this was made up for by the relentless beatboxing throughout the number, and despite the tired voices, the drop into the unison chorus was still the highlight of the piece. Again, I felt myself let down by the final chord, which was something of an anti-climax, given the harmonic variety to the rest of the piece. Overall, I think the boys from Exeter definitely did themselves proud and gave a solid performance in their first final.

Bringing their purple theme to the stage were The Oxford Alternotives, who opened with, as luck would have it, Muse’s Knights of Cydonia. No pressure then. The two arrangements were thankfully very different, with Semi-Toned going for the more brash, in-your-face approach to the number, whereas The Alternotives presented a more restrained yet musically more interesting cover of the song. That did nothing to dampen the wall of sound, but the group chose only to use it sporadically, instead using the musical intricacies of the arrangement to full effect, accentuating them where necessary to highlight this musical flair. Without wishing to compare the two covers too much, this one did seem a little more natural, with the group making the most of their female contingent by having them effortlessly cover the high harmonies, while the arrangement itself was a lot more interesting and rather dramatic, with the group donning their serious faces throughout at the risk of alienating the audience. A tough task to follow one song with the exact same song, but the Alts’ version was different and unique enough that it didn’t hamper their chances significantly.

The group then came along with Regina Spektor’s Samson. I have expressed my views on this number before, having heard it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer and on their latest album – it was on our shortlist for the Best of British 2012, only narrowly missing out on the top 10. This solo from Jessie Reeves was as near perfection as you could possibly get, with the backing swelling and dipping where necessary. I have to mention the insanely good soprano line in this number, which was, as always, unreal, and while it was a highlight, it never got carried away from the gorgeous blend of the piece. Reeves sang with emotion and vigour, and this was easily the best slow song of the night, stunning the audience to silence throughout. I could gush about this song all day, I really could, so I’ll stop while I can. Definitely worth an award, that one.

Their last song, Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, was carried by the charisma of the soloist. The arrangement was the least musically interesting of the three, but this was put to one side as the cheeky grin of the cheeky male soloist took over, serenading various audience members and dancing with female group members throughout the piece. The nature of the song aided the entertainment factor of this piece, as it has natural rhythmic changes which the group made the most of, while the soloist dominated centre stage with a powerful solo – his suave, flirtatious manner was highly entertaining. This was the real let-your-hair-down number of their set, with the group coming up with some creative and fitting choreography and closing with almost mock-fawning over the soloist, at the expense of the tight musicality demonstrated in the previous two numbers. Overall, the group demonstrated why they were in the Final and had definitely provided one of the stronger sets of the night.

The final group to grace the stage were reigning champions All the King’s Men, notably for the first time competing without any of their founding members in the group, but still in their usual blue shirted attire. From the very off, I felt the group lacked the creative direction that previous MD Henry Southern had provided, and this had impacted on their spark and polish throughout the set. That said, they still delivered one heck of a performance. They began with Steve Winwood and James Vincent McMorrow’s Higher Love, a number I had not heard before but which was fantastically performed. The falsetto solo was a little shaky at the very start, but the delicate opening to the number was gloriously emphasised by the group’s use of silence. They were not afraid of it, and it was hugely effective. You could hear a pin drop, such was the hushed atmosphere in he crowd whenever the group made use of it. I really enjoyed their use of the ‘ng’ combination in the backing too, something generally reserved for warm-ups in rehearsal – another bold choice which paid off. After the opening, the group dropped into the rhythm of the number, and wile the beatboxing left something to be desired, the rest of the number was strong, demonstrating some powerful vocals, a lovely breakdown and build up from the basses, and even step-clapping, which I usually abhor but here actually was quite effective, given the spiritual nature of the song. Definitely a feel good number which got the boys off to a promising start.

The next song was John Mayer’s Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, which was led spectacularly by Cameron Carr’s dulcet bass-baritone, an unusual yet inspired choice of soloist which again really worked within the arrangement. Some lovely bell tones throughout, and a great build-up towards the word ‘bitch’, which really allowed to group ad the soloist to demonstrate their heartfelt emotions while singing the song, something which not many of the other groups had done. I also enjoy how not everyone in the group sings all the time. With a big group such as AtKM, sometimes less is more, especially in the more tender moments. Again, good direction for that. All in all, a solid, emotional performance.

Their final number, and the final number of the evening, was Forever by Chris Brown, with a running Viva La Vida motif and elements of other tracks thrown in, including Rebecca Black’s Friday. This was a fun number, and I loved the way the group teased the audience with the sample of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida without ever bringing it to the forefront of the song. More use of ‘ng’. Simple, effective, humorous choreography. Great harmonies, especially in the unison sections. Classic All the King’s Men, basically, done really well. I think the set just lacked a real sense of originality, which in previous years would have mattered less, but with two other groups providing original songs as well as some highly unique arrangements, I just feel this was a step sideways in terms of this particular group, whereas other groups had taken huge strides forward.

Verdict:

This was undoubtedly one of the most difficult finals to call in Voice Festival history. Each group demonstrated reasons why they ought to have won, each group had a unique style and personality, and each group provided great entertainment. In terms of specifics, my choice for the title was The Sons of Pitches, simply because their set was the most varied, most entertaining, and contained the least weaknesses. Their set and their songs told more of a story than any other group, and they were constantly inventive and interesting, with my concentration not lapsing once throughout their set. I feel All the King’s Men stood a chance, simply because they were about as good as last year, but in an ever growing, evolving and improving genre of music, staying at the same level one year to the next is not good enough competitively. That’s not to say that All the King’s Men did a bad job, on the contrary, I think they still demonstrated that they are one of the best groups in the country. The Oxford Alternotives were also potential winners, especially given the stand-out strength of their middle song, but again I feel they were eclipsed by the boys from Birmingham, who really brought something fresh to the competition. I felt Semi-Toned and Choral Stimulation did excellently in their debut finals, but perhaps nerves and tired voices were their undoing. Then we have the wild-card, Vive. I had no idea how the judges would react to this group. They were undoubtedly head and shoulders above the rest of the groups musically, but their take on the competition was so far removed from what we are used to that I wasn’t sure whether that would play into their hands or not. On a personal level, they were great to listen to, and their blend and musical intricacies were quite astonishing, but I felt they lacked variety. Either way, I was very glad not to be on the judging panel.

Awards:

Outstanding Musicality: Vive
Outstanding Performance: Jessica Reeves of The Oxford Alternotives for ‘Samson’
Outstanding Arrangement: Sam Robson of Vive for ‘Troubles we find’
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Jack Blume of Sons of Pitches
Outstanding Choreography: Joe Hinds and Joe Belham of Sons of Pitches

WINNER:

Vive

So it was Vive who took the title amidst a mixed reaction from the audience, but their musicality, originality and sheer musical dexterity won them the title. The Sons of Pitches claimed their just rewards with two awards, while Jessie Reeves deservedly picked up the award for ‘Outstanding Soloist’.

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.