On Friday the 20th of August, @thespaceUK ran an acappella-off hosted by Aisha Josiah between student-led groups, Semi-Toned, Sweet Nothings and The Songsmiths. The event took place in the Symposium Hall to a packed and enthusiastic audience ready to hear some exciting vocal acrobatics. As the award on the line was Voice Magazine’s Acappella Champion 2021, I went along as an honorary (or ‘token’ as the host dubbed me) judge, alongside a panel of experts.
There were three judges, Callum McIntosh of The Magnets fame, actress and reviewer Kate Copstick, and Dan Clowes representing Night Owl Shows. They provided feedback both complimentary and constructive, along with no small amount of wit.
It was exactly the sort of atmosphere that I had been missing during the long absence of live performance. The crowd cheered each act on and off stage, the performers and judges bantered with each other, and Josiah’s ongoing commentary kept the show running smoothly and filled the hall with laughter. It was certainly more of an authentic experience than an overly polished one.
The acts themselves took to the stage with clear passion and talent. Two of the groups, Semi-Toned and Sweet Nothings, came from the University of Exeter. Both are acappella veterans that have performed at the Edinburgh Festival to sold-out shows. With excellent soloists and backing vocals, a bass solo highlight for Semi-Toned and some very entertaining beat-boxing from Sweet Nothings.
The Songsmiths were the last to perform and stole the show with their creative style, risky but well-executed song transitions and distinct choreography. When it came time to deliberate the winners, the judges had little choice but to vote on The Songsmiths, who had just received a standing ovation from every member of the crowd, their competitors included. This spoke to the supportive nature of the acappella scene, with the three groups always ready to cheer the other ones on.
The judges and I handed out the Voice Magazine trophies to each member of The Songsmiths once the applause had died down. With a few encores, the event came to a close.