A Cappella Singing at York

There is an immense number of student-run music groups in the department, from folk bands to jazz bands, gospel choirs to clarinet choirs – there’s even a guitar orchestra! And the brilliant thing is that if you see a space for a group that doesn’t currently exist, there’s nothing stopping you from setting it up yourself!

As a singer I have always been involved with choirs of the conventional sort (i.e. ones with voices rather than clarinets), but my particular favourite style is a cappella singing. No idea what I’m on about? Well, ‘a cappella’ means singing without any instrumental accompaniment. It’s actually really popular in the United States, as most high schools and colleges have groups of the sort, and there are regular nationwide competitions – think Pentatonix or Naturally 7, or the film, Pitch Perfect.

In the UK, the style isn’t so deeply ingrained in our culture as it is over the pond. But that’s not to say that a cappella singing doesn’t happen – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of a cappella groups around the country, The Swingle Singers, formed in Paris way back in 1962, are perhaps  the most well-renowned (this cover of J.S. Bach’s ‘Badinerie’ is one of my favourites of theirs).

And so when I arrived at York I was eager to see what the a cappella scene was like. Fortunately enough the music department does indeed have its very own unaccompanied contemporary singing ensemble, and it’s called Vox. It was founded just over three years ago by four music students who have since graduated, but it continues on today, and I am lucky enough to be one of the four current leaders.

We are made up of 14 singers – seven girls and seven boys – and one beatboxer, and draw together students from much further afield than just the music department; among us there are also WDP (writing, directing and performing), history, art history, and economics students. We’re all in different years too – there are six first-years, two second-years, six third-years and even one MA student. As you may have gathered, anyone and everyone studying at the university is welcome to audition for a spot in the group – the more the merrier!

Post-concert grins
Shameless post-concert grins

Back in November, we put on a lunchtime concert that was attended by some 50 people – possibly one of the highest lunchtime concert attendances of the term! This was the first outing of this year’s lineup of singers so was a slightly nervy affair but, according to various eyewitness reporters, a resounding success nonetheless! Here’s what we sang:

  1. My Country by tUnE-yArDs
  2. Green Garden by Laura Mvula
  3. A&E by Goldfrapp
  4. They by Jem
  5. For by C Duncan
  6. Single Ladies by Beyoncé (the Pomplamoose version)
  7. Hey Now by London Grammar
  8. Mykonos by Fleet Foxes

Like what you hear? Well we aren’t stopping there; that’s just the beginning! This term not only will we have another lunchtime concert, but we are also potentially accompanying part of the DanceSoc showcase, and have been invited to sing at the Scarborough arts festival, Coastival, in mid-February. Keep up-to-date with all things Vox on our Facebook and SoundCloud pages, and who knows, maybe you could be one of our singers next year!

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I am a second year music student who plays the piano, clarinet and sings. I am involved in a number of choirs and also regularly take to the stage in musicals and DramaSoc productions.

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