Christmas Gig! (And Aca-alternativity)

In case you hadn’t heard, we’re doing a Christmas gig and Aca-alternativity on Friday 28 November. But because we’ve got the travel bug (we were in Bristol last weekend, after all…), we’re branching out – to Peckham!

Not familiar with the area? Fear not: In the Smoke has put together a handy video guide to some of Peckham’s finest eating and drinking establishments for before or after the gig.

So gather up your friends, don your favourite Christmas jumper (optional), pick your dining location of choice and get ready to enjoy an evening of festive delectation…

GIG: 15 November – Joint gig with Original Sing in Bristol

We Smokies are busy rehearsing for our next gig, which is something a little different: a joint gig with Bristol-based a cappella group Original Sing. We’re equally excited about dusting off some existing repertoire as we are about airing some new arrangements, as well as performing a joint number with this jolly nice bunch.

Saturday 15 November, Folk House, Bristol. Tickets £10 from the Folk House or 0117 926 2987 (50p booking fee if you pay by card). We’d love to see you there!

Attention basses: we need you!

It’s that time again: In the Smoke is auditioning, specifically for basses.

It’s a two-stage process:

  • The first round is digital auditions, where we ask you to send us audio/video files of you singing. It doesn’t have to be new or professionally shot, and we don’t need you to be singing solo, but we need to know you’re in there and ideally be able to hear you in the group/block.
  • The second round is live auditions on Tuesday 21 and Tuesday 28 October, at which we’ll run some quick exercises (range, dynamics etc), ask you to sing a short bit of unaccompanied solo (verse & chorus), then involve you in a normal bit of rehearsal with us.

We need your digital audition by Sunday 19 October, so get your skates on.

To submit your digital audition, or for any more information, email us at inthesmoke@gmail.com.

Let’s do this!

NEW VIDEO: Rehearsals are now well under way and, as autumn finally arrives, there are plans afoot…

We Smokies are busy making plans for the next couple of months. As well as our joint gig with Bristol-based a cappella group Original Sing on Saturday 15 November, we have now set a date for our Christmas gig: Friday 28 November (keep it free and watch this space)! We’ve been working on lots of exciting new arrangements and can’t wait to share them with you.

As well as looking forward, though, we like to reminisce from time to time. So, to keep you ticking over, here’s another video from our Greenwood gig back in July: Michael’s arrangement of Rihanna’s Russian Roulette. Enjoy!

BLOG: Back to school!

As we pick up rehearsals again after our summer break, our new Musical Director Michael shares his a-ca-vision for the year.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. As a teacher for the past nine years*, and a university student and school pupil for the 16 immediately before that, September is engrained as the time of new beginnings. Although In the Smoke now only contains two teachers, the group has just started back from a summer break, and there are lots of exciting plans afoot.

Arrangers have come back with a couple of new songs each that they’re desperate to hear the group do, and ideas for dozens more that they probably won’t find time to write until next summer. New committee posts have already begun discussing exciting gig ideas and new forays into video and recording. And those in the group whose only responsibility is to show up and sing beautifully have been giving their voices some valuable beach and beer garden-based R&R.

As MD for this year (taking the reins back from a cappella veteran and mad – but in a very polite way – scientist Edward Brightman), I’m most looking forward to:

- Heading out to Bristol to perform, rehearse, and of course party with the formidable Original Sing (Voice Festival Community Champions 2013)
- Developing our third a-ca-panto for a gig in November/December, having missed out on doing a Christmas gig last year
- Experimenting with recording techniques that we haven’t utilised before
- Making a bunch of music videos
- Getting out and performing as much as possible, hopefully in collaboration with some Alzheimer’s Society projects we’ve had our eye on for a while
- Bringing a few experimental arrangements to rehearsals that frighten, intrigue, and then eventually endear themselves to the rest of the group… *evil laugh*

We’ll be seeing ya,
Michael

*Cheeky plug: I’m actually not a teacher anymore – solo album out within a month – keep checking www.mdhmusic.com

NEW VIDEO: No water in the water fountain

James tells the tale of one of the most recent additions to our repertoire, Water Fountain by tUnE-yArDs

Three times in the past I’ve been so enamoured of a song I’ve woken up to (on BBC Radio 6 Music) that I’ve hunted it down, downloaded it and listened the bejeezus out of it*.

On the most recent occasion, in April of this year, I wasn’t quite sure what I was listening to. The first half of the song roused me gently yet playfully from slumber. The second hit me round the head with a series of musical frying pans. And it wasn’t even one of Cerys Matthews’ Sunday morning wildcards (I think back fondly to stirring to the strains of some pre-revolutionary Iranian pop, featuring a traditional tune which was also used in Fiddler on the Roof) – it was an actual, real-life song.

Having been too asleep/shocked first time around, I was lucky that it cropped up again a few days later and this time I was ready to note the artist & track name: ‘Water Fountain’ by tUnE-yArDs. I found it, played it on loop for a good while, and 24 hours later I had a first draft four-part arrangement of it.

This is not normal for me. I’ll usually spend a few months dipping in and out of an arrangement, waiting for something good to happen… It took about a year and a half and at least one spreadsheet to put the Disney Medley together.

In any case, four of us tried it out one Saturday morning and got the MD’s permission to add it to the Greenwood gig set list, squeezing in run-throughs before and after rehearsals on a Tuesday night, and we’re pretty happy with what we ended up with, even if we still can’t quite get the words in the right order. In fact, we’re already playing with what happens if we all join in and the forces are more than trebled…

There may be no water in the water fountain, but this arrangement has not yet run dry.

* If you’re curious, the other two were David Byrne & St Vincent’s ‘Who’ and James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’.

NEW VIDEO: Thanks for coming to our gig – here’s a video!

To all those who made our gig on 4 July – THANK YOU for being such a brilliant audience and making it such a great night! We really enjoyed it, and we hope you did too.

To all those who couldn’t make it: you missed some seriously incisive Question Time-standard debate on the thorny issue of Scottish independence, a deeply moving musical interpretation of the British reaction to the Boston Tea Party, and a Walt Disney impression which – I think we’d all agree – wiped the floor with Tom Hanks in Saving Mr Banks.

And a lot of a cappella, obviously – including new arrangements of Fidelity/Pumpkin Soup, Falling Slowly, Happy, Water Fountain and a stonking Disney Medley, courtesy of Joel, Hazel and James.

Here’s a little taster of the night – we’ll be uploading more videos in the coming weeks and updating you on our plans for the rest of 2014, so check back soon…

BLOG: A Tale of Two Pastimes

Video

Michael’s written a little blog that explains why his mind may have been elsewhere in rehearsals:

My name is Michael Humphrey and I’m an acaholic. I love singing, and I really love singing songs with my friends without instruments. I’ve managed my addiction for more than a decade now without my career or my family suffering, but at the moment I’m on a knife-edge of anxiety.

The one thing that I can rely on to ‘keep me off the singing’ for a couple of hours is a football match. And even though I’ve only got free telly, at the moment there’s more footy on BBC1 and ITV than there are dooos and daaas in an In the Smoke concert. Problem is that we’ve only gone and scheduled a flipping brilliant concert (think 1966 if you’re English, think 2014 if – like me – you are not) on a big football night. So here is my guide to multi-tasking football and cutting edge a cappella.

    • 4:00pm – LEAVE WORK – feign some kind of acute illness and travel to London Bridge by any means necessary
    • 4:30pm – Ensconce yourself in one of the myriad pubs to watch what will probably be a belter of a game (my prediction is Germany v France)
    • 7:00pm – Skip the dull post-match analysis to go and find a kebab-esque meal equivalent
    • 7:30pm – Make your way to the Greenwood Theatre, with your ticket in hand (that you may have already bought from a group member at a cut price)
    • 8:00pm – Watch a brilliant first half of an a cappella show
    • 9:00pm – Watch a brilliant second half of an a cappella show, so scintillating you won’t even check your phone to find out how Brazil/Chile and Colombia/Uruguay are doing
    • 9:45pm – Stand up clapping at the end of the brilliant a cappella show and make your way back to the pub you were in to watch the second half…

…SAVE ME A SEAT!

Michael

Independence, eh?
Friday 4 July 2014, 8-10pm (bar open from 7.30pm and during the interval)
Greenwood Theatre, 55 Weston St, London SE1 3RA
Tickets £10 (£5 concession or FREE for under-16s and school pupils)
www.ticketsource.co.uk/inthesmokeuk

BLOG: We’re picking up the pace!

Video

This week’s rehearsal saw us polishing all the music for the first half of our gig, including a revival of our Voice Festival UK and Choir of the Year sets (Michael’s Into the Void and Classic Rap Battle, André’s Wichita Lineman and Ed’s Sing a Song), while still leaving us time for a run-through of James’ Disney Medley – at the special request of Shirley, who has been practising being a cat all week.

With just two and a half weeks until gig night everyone is giving it their all, and we’re particularly excited about starting work on the physical aspects of the show at our extra rehearsal on Saturday morning. Just as long as André remembers the coffee.

Bring. It. On.

Independence, eh?
Friday 4 July 2014, 8-10pm (bar open from 7.30pm and during the interval)
Greenwood Theatre, 55 Weston St, London SE1 3RA
Tickets £10 (£5 concession or FREE for under-16s and school pupils)
www.ticketsource.co.uk/inthesmokeuk