Sitting down with the co-Presidents of LUU A Capella Society, George Hulkes and Patrick Ashby, Susy Goldstone discusses the ins-and-outs of singing without music.
So, how is LUU A Capella Society structured?
George: This year we’ve had a really big change. Last year we had a group called the Cosmopolitones and a group called the Songsmiths and they were two different competition groups, one was all female and one was mixed. This year, we are only having the Songsmiths as our competition group, so there’s 16 of us in total, and we have created a brand new group. They are called the Gryphonics and are an auditioned non-competition inclusive society group and there’s about 35 of them. They rehearse from 7-9pm on a Tuesday night just to learn some songs together because we wanted to make sure that there was an environment where more people could sing for fun.
Patrick: We always have about 150 people auditioning every year and in the past we’ve only taken maybe about eight people across two groups – some years more – and there are so many people who sing so well but we haven’t been able to offer them a spot. By reshuffling the groups this year, we’ve got space for 30 more people which is really nice. The competition group rehearse twice a week so it’s really intense and towards competition time there’s a lot of work to do. We can offer people who can’t come to rehearse twice a week the opportunity to still sing A Capella and still be part of the society.
Was it a good thing having the restructure? Has it been successful?
George: Yeah we were definitely worried because the society has never been structured that way before; it was a huge change for all of us and we were unsure, at first, how best to run the rehearsals, what people would want or whether people would even want do to another group. Luckily it has gone down really, really well. It was just finding our feet in the first couple of weeks but our Musical Director Lydia has done really well in making everything really positive and happy and still really professional.
Tell me a bit about the Northern Showcase you guys are doing.
Patrick: It’s something we’ve thought about for a while. There is a huge scene for A Capella in the south and they have a Best of the South West competition,.They get to go on boat parties and they all seem to know each other really well, but in the North we don’t know any of the other groups. We see them for competitions but that’s very stressful, so we thought it would be really nice to invite them up to Leeds, socialise with them, then have the chance to perform for each other which is a rewarding way to practice being on-stage away from the competition scene. It’s very informal for this year at least because we just wanted to see if people will come, if we can get a good enough audience, maybe in the future we’ll make it more competitive.
George: It’s at the School of Music in Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall on the 18th November and tickets go on sale this week. A lot of university A Capella societies don’t really know what it is, so I think a lot of people are coming along and are interested to support it. Even the people that aren’t coming to perform. Everyone’s really enthusiastic about it.
Patrick: We’d like to do it every year if it goes well. It would be nice to keep it in Leeds and maybe if it’s successful another year we could consider moving it to another city and they could host it.
So what are A Capella competitions like?
Patrick: Our first competition will be next semester and it’s the competition from Pitch Perfect – the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella. If you get to the final, you get to go to New York and there’s always one British group who gets to go. It’s never been us in the final but this could be our year!Last year we got further than ever and got to go to London so hopefully we’ll get to go all the way to New York this year.
What kind of things do you do as a society – I know you guys have recently been on a weekend away?
Patrick: It’s hard to explain without it sounding a bit cult-ish but we go to a large bunk barn which is a really cute house in the Yorkshire Dales every year. We go on walks, do a lot of singing and it’s really lovely, we all cook for each other and play loads of games, it’s really good fun. We do a lot of really good socials thanks to our Social Sec, Rebecca. We do a lot of karaoke, we always have a massive Otley Run at the end of the year which is nice and everyone in the society dresses up which is always good fun.
George: Every year we also have a Christmas Showcase and a Summer Showcase. We do lots of gigs around the University and across Leeds and we are available to hire. It’s a nice mix of singing together, being professional, we do choreography on occasion – that gets quite exciting, especially when most of us cannot dance very well!
When and where is your Christmas Showcase?
George: Our Christmas showcase is on the 11th December at Leftbank Church, just past Hyde Park. There will be performances from the Songsmiths and the Gryphonics and also some small A Capella performances, and that’s always really lovely. We also do a raffle, there are lanterns everywhere, it’s just Christmas magic!
What more can we expect to see from LUU A Capella across the rest of the year?
George: We’re doing mid-year auditions this year, which we’ve never been able to do before because the competition groups are fixed for the whole year and we need to be ready for competition time in January and February. There has never been a chance to do the Refreshers thing, so this year we’re going to organise new auditions for the Gryphonics in January so we can welcome some more people who may have missed us during Freshers and can fill the spots of those who will leave after Christmas.
Patrick: Every year we get so many messages from people saying that they didn’t see us at the Freshers’ fair and didn’t audition and would like to join and we can’t take them. But now this is the first time we’ve been able to do auditions during Refreshers.