BLOG: Voice Festival Youth Competition

We like to think we’ve got years of a cappella experience, but compared to what we saw yesterday, we were all late starters. In the Smoke was honoured to be invited to host the Voice Festival UK’s Youth Competition, and to work with Patron/Judge/all-round-good-egg Dominic Peckham on delivering workshops during the day.

Still on a high from our own Voice Festival success, we were thrilled to be involved, despite the early start (Waterloo at 8.30? On a Saturday? Seriously?!), not least because of the stunning setting of Wellington College.

Dominic achieved what parents and teachers only dream of – a bunch of attentive under-18s with great posture – then used ITS as a blank canvas for the energised teens to try being MDs. After lunch our own MD Michael led an arranging workshop on Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, culminating in a forty-part mini-performance (video to come!) in five different choirs – a modern-day Spem in Alium.

A quick change later, it was competition time: six groups completely humbled us with stunningly professional performances.

Last year’s winners, the AcaBelles, opened the competition with slick choreography and stagecraft (later to win them an award) to the Lion King and Gotye; the Hightones gave us a stonking Bohemian Rhapsody arranged within the group (and went home with awards for arrangement and soloist); and barbershop quartet The Gist blew us away with an amazingly confident version of Vocal Spectrum’s Aladdin medley, which won them the Oustanding Performance award.

Fourth up were the Tudor Tunes, the youngest group but brimming with energy and great solo voices; then the King’s Barbers, whose shiny shirts promised pizazz and whose Livin’ La Vida Loca more than delivered it; and finally home team the Wellingtones gave us a polished yet honest and engaging set with uniformly brilliant soloists.

We definitely didn’t envy Dom the task of choosing an overall winner, but the top prize went to the deserving Wellingtones, who were absolutely thrilled.

The Voice Festival is a truly remarkable thing, and we’re so glad to be more involved every year… Roll on 2014!

– James
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