I recently caught up with the University’s top A Capella groups and spoke to Eddie Henley from Semi-Toned (the boys) and Penny Caudle from Sweet Nothings (the girls)…
Firstly, congratulations to you both for competing in the Voice Festival 2012! What was it like having that extra pressure of a competitive environment?
Semi-Toned: Thanks very much – we had so much fun participating and it was extra interesting because we’d never done anything like that before. The sense of competition and being up against really talented groups meant that we really had to up our game.
Sweet Nothings: The Voice Festival was a great event for us last year and thank you very much for the congratulations. We worked extremely hard for this event as we knew we were up against some very talented groups.
How did you change up your usual routines to fit with the special occasion? Did it require a lot more thought and rehearsal than usual?
Semi-Toned: We added a lot of choreography, which is a nice change from the usual singing in an arc that is a feature of many of our normal gigs. During the Festival season we went from 1 rehearsal a week to about 3 or 4 a week including 2 7am starts on the week of the competition!
Sweet Nothings: We added in a lot of choreography to our songs which was great fun to do and a nice change to our usual semi circle formation! It didn’t require any extra rehearsals as we mainly focussed on the songs for the competition.
A second congratulation to Semi-Toned for getting through to the regionals at Bristol. You also recently performed on the BBC Children in Need program, what were those experiences like?
Semi-Toned: Thanks again! We were really lucky to have been involved in what was a really successful event. Being called up and asked with 20 minutes notice to appear live on BBC radio 2 and being told there were 2 million people listening is an experience none of us will ever forget. We also performed live on BBC spotlight at lunchtime and got to meet some amazing people who were involved with the event. The evening was my favourite part – we performed two sets infront of an amazing crowd in the forum.
How do you guys pick which/how many songs you guys want to mix together? Is it seeing which ones obviously connect or testing how innovative you can be?
Semi-Toned: In terms of choosing songs, last year we just picked anything we could find an arrangement for, this left us with a repertoire of mainly older songs which we felt didn’t give us that much of an edge. This year we’ve been arranging our own repertoire so we have been picking songs that students can relate to. Favourites at the moment include Skrillex’s ‘Bangarang’ and ‘White Winter Hymnal’ by Fleet Foxes. We have an ongoing repertoire of about 20 songs of which we just take a handful for a gig.
Sweet Nothings: Last year we mainly sung songs that had been done in previous years however we did arrange our own version of Sweet Dreams with a Sweet Nothings twist to it, which became our most popular song. This year we have found and arranged our own repertoire which is great as we have done some really current songs such as ‘Call me Maybe’. This year we have about 15 songs, with new ones being learnt on a weekly basis.
What is it about acapella that interests you and your members in particular?
Semi-Toned: For me it’s a really social thing – we’re all best friends in Semi-Toned so doing a rehearsal or playing a gig is often combined with a night out or a trip to the pub. For others the novelty that’s attached to a cappella singing means that we get to be involved with some amazing events. We recently did a joint concert with the Military Wive’s choir in a packed out great hall and tomorrow (Thurs 22nd) we’re going to Barnstaple to support Beverley Knight at the town’s Christmas switch on!
Sweet Nothings: Creating such beautiful harmonies and singing great songs is a particular highlight. However the social side is also an important part for me. We all get along very well and have lots of fun during our rehearsals. Performing to different audiences at amazing events is also a particular highlight. We have been asked to perform at the Exeter Christian Union Christmas Carol Service in front of 3000 people which we are really excited about!
How hard is it singing without accompaniment?
Semi-Toned: Singing without accompaniment definitely brings an extra challenge to performing with typical problems being keeping in time and staying in tune and trying to overcome those problems we find tends to sharpen discipline and technique.
Sweet Nothings: Singing without accompaniment is definitely challenging as we have to stay in time and in tune with each other. Blend is also very important in an a capella group as all voices need to complement one another. We also love experimenting with using beat boxing as this can bring more levels to a song.
Is there any friendly boy vs. girl competition?
Semi-Toned: We’re really good friends with the girls in the Sweet Nothings and do a good number of joint concerts with them including two recently at Mama Stones. Whenever we see them perform we are inspired to try harder and up our game so I guess it’s a healthy competition.
Sweet Nothings: We really get on with the boys and frequently join them on ‘Sweet-Toned’ socials and sing at gigs with them. I feel both groups really complement each other. The boys are good competition and inspirational, so we are always upping our game by arranging challenging songs and adding an entertaining element.
How can people get involved? Is there an audition process or do you scout for talent amongst other music societies?
Semi-Toned: We audition our members at the start of each year in September though a few of us attended ‘Music Week’ – the week before freshers week for students who enjoy music to try and scout potential members. We post all our information up on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/semitoned) or on twitter (@semitoned).
Sweet Nothings: We audition all our members at the start of the academic year in September after a taster session in Freshers Week. Information is usually posted on our Facebook page and by Posters on campus.
And to finish off in true Razz style…if somebody asked you to ‘razz their berries’ what would you say?
Semi-Toned: A Cappella dubstep would razz anyone’s berries!
Sweet Nothings: A Cappella would Razz up your Sweet berries for Nothing!
Thank you to both group reps for talking to Razz! We wish them all the best with their upcoming concerts.