The UK Collegiate A Cappella Fringe Report 2012
by George Chambers, Oxford (UK)
As a roving reporter for Vocal Blog, I have had the great pleasure of seeing so much a cappella talent at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You’ll catch a good glimpse of most groups by walking down the famous ‘Royal Mile’ where they often perform on the three temporary stages. This is a short round up of the groups I managed to see, but this is a mere taste of a few collegiate groups taking part in the Festival this year. For full booking details, please go to the main Fringe webpage at www.edfringe.com
IN THE PINK
In The Pink are one of the two all-female a cappella groups from Oxford university. They are sassy, stylish and very natural on stage, exuding confidence in every number. The group did have some major tuning issues throughout the set, often going up to a tone and a half flat, but I imagine this was probably down to first show nerves. Some of their ‘mash up’ arrangements lack harmonic finesse and don’t quite achieve necessary fluidity between songs. Overall, this is an enjoyable afternoon show, nonetheless.
THE OXFORD GARGOYLES
Next on my list was the mixed group The Oxford Gargoyles who specialise in jazz a cappella. This group dazzle their audience with complex arrangements, tight choreography and spellbinding musicality. If you want to sit from start to finish with your mouth wide open in amazement, go see these guys. They will be competing later this year in the BBC Choir of the Year Final, and you can see why. This is certainly a five star show, but if I could give them six stars, I would!
Joining the Gargoyles in the Choir of the Year final will be some home-grown Scottish talent from the mixed group The Alleycats from St Andrews. These guys are masters of perfect blend and infectious energy. They command the stage and give you 110% with their a cappella engines firing on all cylinders – this is a show to remember. Their arrangements are extremely strong, bringing the best out of each singular voice to produce a crystalline clarity to their group tone. As usual, their choreography didn’t disappoint and I had my foot stomping throughout the whole thing. A virtually flawless set expertly delivered.
The Oxford Alternotives were on their ninth show when I saw them, and unfortunately their tiredness did show through a bit. Choreography was a little slapdash and more complex harmonies often fell very flat. They give a great show nonetheless and the highlight was an a cappella Blind Date compared by the hilarious Natasha Heliotis. Blend is generally good, especially in the men’s voices. Again, with some more care and attention to arrangements, this group could be fantastic.
ALL THE KING’S MEN
I was expecting a lot from these boys. Fresh from their Voice Festival UK victory, their set was well-delivered with oodles of energy and commitment. Their arrangements can sometimes be a little simple, and I sat wanting to jiggle parts around to make the most of some exceptional voices. When it comes to ballads, the boys aren’t afraid to use the full extent of their power, and really do give us some welly. Their sound this year is rich and full and their dynamic control very impressive. Their show is secure at the moment, but I wonder what the future holds for ATKM if they were to raise the bar a notch with the complexity of their arrangements.
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