Bee-bops, jazz hands and yodelling: Shirley and Teddy on a memorable Voice Festival weekend

Last weekend, the great and the good of the amateur a cappella world descended on Birmingham for the fabulous Voice Festival UK (VFUK). This annual celebration of the bee-bops of barbershop, sh-dams of show choirs and dv-pffff of vocal percussion is now in its seventh year and continues to grow. Members of In the Smoke have been involved in VFUK’s university groups competition since the festival began, as ushers, running workshops and generally helping out.

As VFUK’s success grew, new categories were created for non-student groups like us as well as school-based groups, widening VFUK’s reach to include singers from primary school-age to retirement…

This year, the community competition saw four shortlisted groups battle it out for the title of Community Champions 2015. They were: Gem Connection, Just Voices, The Beatroots and us.

Drawing lots put In the Smoke at the top of the programme: with nothing to lose, we socked it to ’em!

A twelve-minute medley of musical theatre numbers arranged by our own Michael Humphrey was our 2015 offering. It was a tricky arrangement demanding vocal precision alongside a good deal of hamming it up. From ‘Send in the Clowns’ to ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ (yes, the yodelling one from The Sound of Music), it was an emotional roller-coaster!

It went down a storm and set the tone for a fantastic programme of a cappella showcasing. Our rivals treated us to arrangements of barbershop standards, recent pop hits and even a vocal arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon.

The judges were suitably impressed by the variety and effort that all the groups had put in to their performances and praised the attention to detail and general high standard of presentation.

When the verdict was given, we were delighted to be named as this year’s winners. A special award was also given to Michael for his outstanding arrangement.Community Champions 2015

Prizes aside, a fabulous weekend was had by all! Those of us who were around for the whole weekend enjoyed the workshops and were amazed at the high standard of the university groups competing – we especially loved the tongue-in-cheek self-reference of the song that one group wrote all about being in an a cappella group: ‘Who even listens to a cappella?’. It was definitely deserving of the Ward Swingle Award for Originality that it earned for Choral Stimulation!

All in all, it was great to meet new groups, share ideas and perform in front of fellow a ca-enthusiasts – thanks, Voice Festival!

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