PREVIEW: London A Cappella International Summer School. 1-4 August at Kings Place.

Nicky Schrire previews the inaugural London A Cappella International Summer School. 1-4 August at Kings Place.


In recent years, a cappella singing has soared in popularity, thanks to shows like Glee and NBC’s The Sing-Off. The USA has a thriving a cappella community based in colleges with over twelve hundred groups (including groups with imaginative titles like University of Pennsylvania’s Hindi group Penn Masala and Berklee’s Pitch Slapped).

The UK has it’s own pool to draw from with around 50 university ensembles, for example Sons of Pitches from Birmingham and The Ultrasounds – an all-medic group from Oxford. It’s exciting to see how the style continues to develop and to bridge the gaps between musical genres like pop, jazz, electronic and folk.

Outside tertiary education, the unaccompanied singing style lends itself particularly well to those who are grounded in the jazz tradition. Groups that are both purely a cappella and those that shift between accompanied and unaccompanied include Take 6, Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, The King’s Singers, Manhattan Transfer, New York Voices and the Swingle Singers.


New York Voices and the Swingle Singers, along with the London Vocal Project, will be performing as part of this year’s London A Cappella Summer Concerts, which take place in conjunction with the inaugural London A Cappella International Summer School, running from 1-4 August at Kings Place. The idea grew out of the success of the London A Cappella Festival which is run annually in January, also at Kings Place.

Singers aged seventeen and older, will spend four days refining their a cappella skills under the guidance of the Swingle Singers, Dominic Peckham (Musical Director of the London Oriana Choir), Tine Fris (Denmark), Nick Girard (Maine, USA), Anita Wardell, Philip Lawson (The King’s Singers ’94-’12) and Female Beatboxing World Champion Bellatrix.

The workshop culminates with the Participants Showcase on Monday 4th August. The students will spend their mornings working with the resident tutors followed by afternoon sessions focusing on specific topics such as delving into the quintessential British a cappella sound, Scandinavian vocal technique, and scat singing & improvisation.


For a first experience of A Cappella, I’d recommend either the concert on 1st August (New York Voices with support from the London Vocal Project) or 3rd August (The Swingle Singers)  at Kings Place. There’s no better way to be introduced to the thrills of a cappella singing than to hear New York Voices poignant version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, or to revel in the genius of the Swingle Singers’ arrangement of Chick Corea’s energetic Spain.

The concerts are also an opportunity to hear a world-premiere collaboration between both groups, as well as to experience London’s own 24-strong choir, whose most recent collaboration is with   John Hendricks (see recent review), and who have worked with Sir John Dankworth, Kenny Wheeler and Bobby McFerrin, under the leadership of Pete Churchill.

The London A Cappella International Summer School is presented by Ikon Arts Management in association with Kings Place.

Concert tickets can be booked at the following links:

New York Voices (Aug 1) 
The Swingle Singers  (Aug 3) 

London A CappellaSummer School Website   
January 2015 A Cappella Festival 

Categories: miscellaneous

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