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Ben 18th January 2012

Last Friday saw our first visit to King’s Place and the London A Cappella Festival.  The Festival started two years ago and has quickly become a draw to a cappella fans from across the globe. 

It was a very different type of performance for us. We were singing in the foyer area between concerts given by ‘Cadence’ and ‘Fork’ from Canada and Finland respectively.  Although this was not the full concert of the type we normally do, it was a great opportunity to show our wares to a new audience as well as our faithful supporters.  It was great to hear other groups performing as well.  To be honest, it was not the easiest performance venue we’ve ever sung in – for the first time we had a pair of microphones helping us out and the nature of the occasion meant that our ‘audience’ were also discussing what they had just been to see or were about to see.  This meant we had to bring our ‘A’ game and the response from the listeners was very generous. 

Our short set was a mixture of very old, old and new.  The new were two new arrangements of mine of the song ‘Heartbeats’ which accompanied a well-known advert for Sony televisions a few years back; and ‘Be Your Husband’, a cool combination of Jeff Buckley and The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’.  The old (for us anyway!) were tracks from ‘Midnight’, ‘Mr Bojangles’ and ‘I’m Crazy about my Baby’ which both went down very well.  We finished off with very old in the form of ‘La Guerre’, a piece that we all love to sing and thankfully the audience loved to listen to!

After the gig, we celebrated in the usual way and I was lucky enough to spend the next day in London with my girlfriend Catherine, catching some fabulous busking at Covent Garden and getting a possible idea for a future album by seeing the West End Gershwin show, ‘Crazy for You’!

All in all, a fab weekend!

Ben x

 

Rob 11th January 2012

We're back from our Christmas break, during which we get to relax and do vaguely normal things, and straight into another busy month for the group.

It's an exciting week for The Songmen, which kicked off with our appearance on The Choir on BBC Radio 3, with some choice compliments from presenter Aled Jones. If you missed it, it's available on BBC iPlayer until Sunday evening — our appearance is just over an hour in.

Of course we're gearing up for our debut at the London A Cappella Festival on Friday evening. It's free and unticketed so if you're in London there's no excuse for not coming along to Kings Place at 8pm!

As if that weren't enough, we have just had a first opportunity to listen to our sacred CD which we recorded in the Autumn — look out for preview tracks on the website in the near future. If you can't catch us on Friday, check our calendar for a forthcoming concert near you — and if there isn't one, why not get your favourite venue to book us?

Rob x

 

Ben 8th January 2012

If you haven't already seen through our Facebook page, we are excited to be appearing this afternoon on Aled Jones's Radio 3 programme 'The Choir' at 5pm. According to the BBC website, our version of 'Bright Eyes' will be played in this special edition promoting next week's London A Cappella Festival, at which we are singing on Friday evening.  'Bright Eyes' is a track from our forthcoming album 'Midnight'.

The album can currently be bought directly from us at our concerts but will be on general release in the coming months (details to follow), so if you like what you hear, do come along to one of the concerts listed on our Forthcoming Concerts page or keep an eye on our website for news and updates.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy listening to the track - we will post a link for iPlayer after the show has finished if you missed out on the live show.

Finally, don't forget to come and hear us live at Kings Place near King's Cross Station at 8pm. Other groups singing that evening include Apollo 5 and All The King's Men.

Until then, continue to enjoy a happy New Year!

The Songmen x

 

Jon 22nd December 2011

It is with great pleasure that I write my final blog of 2011 reflecting on what has been, undoubtedly, a good year ...

Performing ... well that's what we do and this year has been absolutely brilliant.  I have visited and performed in more countries this year than ever before and I love meeting new friends and getting to experience a little bit of their culture.

Educational work is another string on the Songmen bow and, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is something I love.  The standard of the groups we work with just keeps getting better and better.  Love them or loathe them, the current trend for talent shows is helping to bring about a new era of British vocal creativity.

We have also made two recordings this year and we are very pleased with the results – if you haven't heard Midnight, take a listen on the music page of our website and if you have, well why not listen again?

But best of all, in 2011 I was able to spend more time than ever before singing with my best friends.

So, what does 2012 hold in store for The Songmen? ... well, that would be telling ... but I have access to the insider information and, trust me, it is going to be awesome!

I'm off now for some mulled wine, a mince pie and to sing a carol or two to get me in the festive mood!

All that is left to say is Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lots of love

Jon xx

 

Chris 7th December 2011

I have been thinking about education work a lot recently. After I left uni, I spent some time working in a private school in Gloucester where I fiddled with the school’s IT and got just a little taster of a teacher’s life. Becoming a teacher is a common choice for music graduates; the other is moving to London to try and make a living as a musician along with the billion other talented musicians already there (and probably end up moving into teaching a few years later anyway!). For some, teaching is very much the right decision and I applaud them for it, but for me, much as I liked the kids and the good friends I had in the school, after two-years I was quite happy to move on having proved that a teacher’s life was not for me (and, if I am honest, I am no loss to the British education system).

Since the founding of The Songmen, I have had the opportunity to go into schools again and work with kids of all ages – pre-prep through to A-Level and everything in between, and it’s become something that I really enjoy. Sometimes, I even think, gosh, I’m not that bad at it either...

Last week, I took Guy with me to my wife’s school to see their production of “Oklahoma” that she had directed. We both really enjoyed the show (my wife is an amazingly talented drama teacher and director), but Guy made a point that really chimed with me. School productions, master-classes, adjudications and similar activities can be the best part of a teacher’s job, but alongside comes the overhead of marking, reports, class discipline, school trips, homework, parents evenings, school politics, registration and break duty etc. ad infinitum.

We half-dozen in The Songmen get to have all the best bits – going into a school and actually working with a bunch of talented and/or enthusiast young musicians – without that long list of complications.

Sometimes I forget how lucky we are and perhaps that’s one of the reason why I like our education outreach work so much nowadays.


Chris x

 

Guy 29th November 2011

It seems that every time it's my turn to write a blog I am either just returning from, or going to, London. Regular readers will know how much I love London (I try and get over there a few times a month to see friends and go to the odd concert or too). My last London 'concert' was actually a jaunt to The Coliseum, the home of English National Opera, where I saw the fabulous opera 'Castor and Pollux' by Rameau. The opera was AMAZING and the performance was made all the more special by seeing an old singing colleague of mine, Ed Lyon, make his ENO debut.

When I was just seventeen Ed, another friend, James Mustard, and I sang William Byrd's Three Part Mass together as three soloists in Tewkesbury Abbey for a Sunday morning Eucharist. The lasting memory I have of that particular service was that James (the bass) asked me to sing a trill on the last chord of the Benedictus, which seemed a little odd. However I didn't argue because he was good and (a bit) older (sorry James if you're reading this) and so did as I was asked. Since then I've probably sung Byrd's Three Part Mass over a dozen times and not once have I been asked to trill on the final chord of the Benedictus... To this day I still don't know whether James and Ed were playing a musical prank on me or whether James had some English Renaissance 'insider' scholarly knowledge... All I will say is that Ed's French Baroque trills in 'Castor and Pollux' were a lot, lot more beautiful (and more appropriate) than my adolescent attempts that Sunday morning in Tewkesbury Abbey!

So, tomorrow Chris and I are off to London to help our good friend Paul Smith (from Voces8) celebrate his 30th birthday (being 24 I really can't imagine being that old) which we're both really looking forward to. On Thursday we've got a couple of Songmen business meetings and then we're back home where we'll both, no doubt, be met with piles of Songmen admin; Chris is our point of contact for all foreign matters and I'm currently in negotiations with several UK Concert Societies and Festivals about 2014 programmes (How organised am I?!)

We'll next be singing in my favourite city in January at The London A Cappella Festival. We're performing in the foyer of Kings Place on Friday 13th January 2012 before the headline event. Details for the festival can be found here:

www.londonacappellafestival.co.uk

Hope to see you there!

I'll leave you with a photo that I've been meaning to post for ages. It's of Ben and Chris in Spain being mobbed by a young Spanish choir in the street who had just seen us performing a concert... fun times!



Love,

Guy
x

 

Ben 23rd November 2011

It was Guy's birthday last week (one of his 24th birthdays), and I was reading through the long list of messages wishing him well for the day and was delighted to read that we are to see a good friend of ours in the not too distant future. 


Regular readers will know that we are singing in the London A Cappella Festival in January and an eminent a cappella producer, Bill Hare is to be making an appearance.  For those of you who don't know, Bill is referred to as the 'Godfather of A Cappella' and is largely responsible for the now preferred a cappella sound coming out of America and now featuring in recordings by groups from the UK and across Europe.  He is responsible for producing Voces8's acclaimed 'Aces High', and discs by The Swingle Singers and The Flying Pickets, to name but a few. He is also the producer of our very own 'Midnight' and we are proud to have his name on the CD sleeve.  So it's going to be a real pleasure to see the great man again, not just for those of us who were able to go out to his home in Milpitas, around 50 miles south of San Francisco, but for the others who have yet to meet him. We're also excited to meet another collaborator on our album, Danny Ozment from Washington.


For more information about these chaps, check out www.dyz.com for Bill and emeraldcitypro.com for Danny, and don't forget to keep your eyes on our website for the official release date of our new albums, 'Midnight' and 'A Sacred Place'.


Till next time,


Ben


PS – at time of writing, just 31 more Facebook 'Likes' before we hit 500!  Keep spreading the word.

 

Rob 17th November 2011

After our Spanish sojourn it's back to the grindstone of planning next year's concerts. There's plenty in the calendar for next year and our first performance in 2012 will be at the London A Cappella Festival. We're looking forward to our tours across Europe and beyond later in the year (details soon), but it's always good to get down to London and we all have friends there that it'll be good to catch up with.

Meanwhile Ben and I have been busy working on some new compositions and arrangements for the group that we'll be unveiling next year. We had a first run through a couple of these in Zarautz. It's a great feeling hearing the guys bring these off the page and into life for the first time. On the early music front, we were given a wonderful gift in Borja of several books of Spanish polyphony, and I'm sure I'll find some gems in there to add to our repertoire.

So you see it's all non-stop Songmen fun even when we're not all together! Better get back to it…

Rob x

 

Jon 9 November 2011

Well, I cannot believe that a whole week has passed since we returned from Spain.  We made many new friends at the wonderful Tolosa Choral festival and it was a great success, but it has been lovely to have a more restful week.

This does not mean, however, that we haven't been making plans.

Thanks to the wonderful people that we have met during the past year we now have lots of opportunities to perform both in Europe and further afield over the next 18 months.  This week we have been actively planning for the concerts and tours that will be happening in the near future and have been getting quite excited about them.

Much of our discussions since coming back from Tolosa have been on the format of future programmes.  I shan't go into any great detail just now, but the idea is to compile them around certain themes that we think will make interesting listening.  We hope you will enjoy hearing the pieces nearly as much as we know we will enjoy performing them!

To tide you over until next time, at the bottom of the post I attach a link to our recent performance in Tolosa of the wonderful Beati Quorum Via...

One final, slightly cheeky request - we are rapidly approaching 500 friends on Facebook and we would love to become a Facebook 500 group.  So, if you enjoy the performance below please forward the link to all of your family and friends so that they too can share in the experience and become our friend on Facebook!

That's all for now.

Love

Jon x 

Beati Quorum Via  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0CH96yrYxg

 

BenC 1st November 2011

Hola guys,

Well our Spanish adventure draws to a close. We're enjoying a final drink at our hotel in Zarautz before heading back to the airport. Eskerrik asko to Jon for the round. We've been out here a week and have had a fantastic time.

I'm pleased to report that we have been very successful in winning two awards in the Tolosa International Choral competition and can now call ourselves an International Award winning vocal ensemble. One in the sacred competition and one in the profane. You can see our performances on YouTube (links are at the bottom of my blog). We've also met some fantastic new friends as a result of these competitions.

Aside from this, the highlights of the week have to be our three concerts. Being able to perform for three incredibly enthusiastic audiences has just been brilliant. To get standing ovations is always a thrill but to get such amazing reactions to our singing has made the trip a fantastic success.

I think we're all returning home with some fantastic memories of our time here, although most of us have had to take out our belts a little due to the fantastic after concert meals we've received from our hosts. Most of all we must thank our wonderful Spanish guide Jon for ensuring we always got where we needed to be. Without him we'd still probably be stuck at Bilbao airport!

Hope you enjoy the videos of our performances as much as we enjoyed performing them. Follow the links below.

Mr. Bojangles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMWh4evFXz0 
La Guerre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blOmolvcC7I
Classical Gas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMypdCA8f2U
Brigg  Fair http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX2hd5t7r74&NR=1

Adios,

Ben C x

 

 

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