VIDEO: In the Smoke in the smoke

We’ve written before about how we like to record the same way we perform: the whole group together, often including the soloist. We like the authenticity, we find it more enjoyable, it’s cheaper and quicker (!)…

But we’ve decided to give it a go the other way: recording each part individually and letting our MD Michael play with it until it is something very different indeed.

More on that soon, but it was after one of these sessions that a few of us treated ourselves to a pub lunch. They must have recognised us, as shortly after finishing our meals (but, frustratingly, before we had finished the jug of Pimm’s), they laid on a fire alarm and oodles of smoke, presumably just for us.

It quickly spilled out into the beer garden:


…and even after we finished our drinks classily on the pavement outside, the journey to the toilets was a bit like being in Knightmare:


We’re assured it wasn’t actually a fire – somebody accidentally hit the alarm – but we never got an explanation as to where else the smoke might have come from. Anyway, it was In the Smoke (in the pub) in the smoke, which we agreed was worthy of a blog.

Here’s a trailer for our 31 July Summer Extravaganza – be there or… no, just be there.

– James

VIDEO: The magic number

With our Summer Extravaganza less than three weeks away, preparations are in full swing – in particular for our 10 (yes, 10!) new numbers as well as a brand new, never-seen-before skit, which will no doubt have you rolling in the aisles.*

A particular favourite of mine is Sia’s Chandelier, arranged by Michael and featuring the dulcet tones of Katie in the solo spot. Michael’s arrangement centres around the girls, with one to a part, bringing the gentlemen in later as the song climaxes into rich 10 (yes, 10!)-part harmony. Whilst it’s highly likely that our dancing will not match up to that of child prodigy Maddie Ziegler, who features in the original 2014 music video, I’m willing to bet Michael’s arrangement will send the good kind of shivers down your spine.

As well as our 10 (yes, 10!) new numbers, there will of course be an opportunity to hear some old favourites including the tUnE-yArDs’ Water Fountain, our award-winning Musicals Medley and a teary rendition of No Air performed by departing a-cappellists Shirley and Teddy.

In the Smoke’s Summer Extravaganza will be taking place at the Greenwood Theatre near London Bridge at 8pm on Friday 31 July. Tickets can be purchased online or at a discounted rate via a group member. We’d love to see you there!

*We cannot guarantee that this will be down to the hilarity of the skit.

– Anna

VIDEO: Method in the medleys

If you have been a fan of In the Smoke for some time, you may know that we LOVE a medley. Practised hands, their skills sharpened on Britney, The Beatles and Bond, have brought Don’t Stop the Music, Kids’ TV and a Disney Medley to our repertoire.

Earlier this year, we were crowned Voice Festival UK Community Champions having performed our latest medley – a 12-minute musical theatre treat:

Why do we love this format so?

The great advantages of the medley are clear to the audience-focused, the impatient and the indecisive alike. Presenting a new arrangement of a single song to the group might cause division of opinion; medleys are safer as most people will like at least a bit of it! Arranging a whole song needs variety to keep the audience’s interest; changing from song to song means you don’t have to think of another way to do the chorus. What’s more, just choosing what to arrange is never easy; think of the medley as an all you can eat buffet! As you can see, the medley is a secret democratic weapon!

– Shirley-Anne

You can see our Voice Festival UK-winning 12-minute musicals medley AND our infamous 57-song Disney Medley at our summer concert on 31 July 2015. Book your tickets now!

VIDEO: Come and join us at the Brighton Fringe!

Hello everyone!

On a rainy day in Birmingham we were thrilled to win the Voice Festival Community Competition – and what better way to celebrate than to bring our competition set and many more aca-classics to the sunny seaside for the Brighton Fringe.

We’ll be at the Old Courtroom on Saturday 9 May at 5.30pm and Sunday 10 May at 3pm. Tickets can be booked in advance here.

Check out the video for what to expect, and get yourself out from under the boardwalk and into the front row for our two gigs!



What good is sitting alone in your room… when you could be at the Voice Festival 2015?

Just one rehearsal left before we head up to Birmingham to compete in the Voice Festival 2015. *Gulp*

We gave some of our London-based friends a sneak peek of our set on Thursday 2 April – thank you to everyone who came along and let us know what you thought! And for anyone who missed it, here’s a little teaser…

Looking forward to seeing some of you (and meeting lots of fellow a cappella-yellers) at the Festival Weekend. Everyone else, keep your fingers crossed for us – we’ll let you know how we get on!

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…

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!


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…