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

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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: Three weeks and counting…

Video

This week was all about the girls: we had a stonking new solo from Anna in Russian Roulette, Shirley-Anne taking on the female lead in No Air (both arranged by Michael), Mel giving it her all in Hazel’s Happy, Rachel and Lizzie mashing up Joel’s Fidelity/Pumpkin Soup… Katie was the only lady duetter whose partner was present and so who had to share – she and Michael are showing Hazel’s Falling Slowly who’s boss.

The girls also get all the best moves, not least Mel’s octopodeian Ursula impression for Poor Unfortunate Souls in James’ Disney Medley, which gave rise to handy choreo mnemonic ‘After the octopus, get into the bra’. Check it out on the video…

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: Our trip to France – general impressions

It’s always fun when your brief is a lot more vague than those of your brothers and sisters. Oh well, here goes nothing. Adopting a gestalt approach, the bits that seemed to stand out for people were:

1. the presence of Tyler
2. the absence of sunshine
3. a kind of thick wettish mist rising through our Pyrenean forest home
4. books everywhere (although maybe that was just me)
5. a screaming goat

So you might suggest a short story: A lonely tiler, laid off, tramps through a kind of thick wettish mist. Bored, he happens upon a pile of unread books, sits, cross-legged on the ground, and begins to read. Through the dark moisture, he hears the rich golden tones of Bill Withers, “…ain’t no sunshine, when she’s..”. Suddenly a goat screams, as if outraged.

–Vish

BLOG: Communal Cooking

ITS tradition during weekends recording or rehearsing is to intersperse intensive practice with equally intensive eating. In the early days, teams organising breakfast, lunch and dinner would make so much effort (and so much food) that we needed naps to recover which was not good for rehearsal efficiency! We have learned to eat lighter breakfasts and lunches to concentrate on our music (and minimise weight gain).

One of the many desirable attributes the boys of In the Smoke boast is their cookery skills. Without exception, all ITS menfolk (past and present) have been enthusiastic co-ordinators of communal cookery during our various weekends away.* Whether you fancy a fiery curry, creamy chowder, a full Sunday roast with all the trimmings or enough guacamole to wash your face in, the gentlemen (and let’s face it they really are) will provide.**

Ladies of the world, take a tip from we Smokettes: choose your man (or men) carefully and you may enjoy the payback your grandma earned. We sit back, look pretty, drink wine, sing when required and let the lads look after us. Because we’re worth it!

* Interested ladies: unfortunately (but probably unsurprisingly) none of these highly eligible men are currently available for dates. Should this change we probably won’t let you know – we know when we’re onto a good thing.

** Prospective new male members, please be aware that a ‘signature dish’ should be provided at any audition for our consideration.

– Shirley-Anne

GIG: Tickets on sale now!

Celebrating our fifth anniversary and launching our new (fourth) album, we’re doing a proper full length show in a proper big theatre, and tickets are NOW ON SALE!

Expect brand new, never-before-performed arrangements alongside highlights from our first half-decade, and the sets that earned us the title of Champions (2012) and the Ward Swingle Award for Originality (2013) at the Voice Festival UK Community Competition.

In the Smoke: The Story So Far
Saturday 3 August 2013, 7.30pm (doors open at 7.00pm)
Greenwood Theatre, 55 Weston St, London SE1 3RA
Tickets £7 (adult), £3 (concession), FREE for under-16s or school pupils
Book online now at http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/inthesmoke (no booking fee)

Load up on puns, bring your friends…  And while you’re there, buy our shiny new CD.  Sneak preview now available at Soundcloud, or a video on YouTube!

GIG ALERT! ItS 5th Anniversary album launch – Sat 3rd August – SAVE THE DATE!

ImageCome to join your favourite a cappella band this August for our summer love-in in the “Big Smoke”.

DATE: Saturday 3rd August 2013

TIME: Early Evening (pm)

PLACE: Greenwood Theatre, London. SE1 3RA

MAP: http://goo.gl/maps/8OcxT

Yes, your favourite, all-original vocal only band, In the Smoke (ItS) has its biggest ever summer gig coming up where we’ll be celebrating our 5th (wooden) anniversary and launching our new album.

Best of all YOU are ALL invited!

Early bird tickets available soon and we’ll need your help naming our CD too. More on that soon.

So follow the advice from our original, Ward Swingle-endorsed set and: “Load up on funds, tell your friends, In the Smoke gig near London Bridge ends.”

Love a cappella? Come to join ITS this summer for our summer love-in in the “Big Smoke”.

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