The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is now established as one of the world’s most versatile and best-loved singing groups. Touring extensively throughout Europe, North America and Asia, the ensemble performs a rich tapestry of music from Renaissance polyphony to contemporary commissions as well as popular arrangements. VOCES8 regularly commissions and collaborates with world- renowned contemporary composers including Ola Gjeilo, Roxanna Panufnik, Thomas Hewitt Jones, Alexander Levine and Ben Parry. With an ongoing schedule of live broadcasts and recordings, VOCES8 can be heard regularly on international television and radio. The ensemble is a Decca Classics Artist and their debut album Eventide hit number one on the Billboard Classical Chart.
VOCES8 is an Ambassador for Edition Peters, publisher of arrangements and educational material including the "VOCES8 A Cappella Songbook" and "The VOCES8 Method." The group is proud to be the flagship performance/education ensemble of the charitable foundation Voces Cantabiles Music, whose innovative education work has been praised by UNESCO. Inspiring creativity and excellence through music, VOCES8 leads a series of workshops reaching over 20,000 people annually worldwide.
We wanted to learn more about this dynamic group, so we sat down and asked them a few questions...
1. How did VOCES8 come to be?
In 2005, our Artistic Director Barney and his brother Paul set up a choir of friends who had originally sung together in the RSCM Millennium Youth Choir. Later that year, this new choir entered a choral competition in Gorizia, Italy under the name ‘VOCES8’ and took first place. The following year, they won another competition in Spain and decided to become a professional group.
2. Tell us about your charitable music foundation, Voces Cantabiles Music (VCM)?
From the beginning, we have been passionate about making our contribution to music education and passing on to the next generation the wonderful musical educations, which we were lucky enough to receive. To this end, we formed VCM in 2006.
3. Do you primarily use your voices as instruments, or do you collaborate with instrumental groups?
The vast majority of our concerts we perform a cappella (ie. with our voices alone), but we do occasionally collaborate with instrumental groups. We have a long-standing relationship with the baroque ensemble Les Inventions, and indeed have made a recording of Purcell with them, and we perform with them and others throughout the year, particularly at our summer school – the Milton Abbey International Music Festival.
4. Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘V’—that best describe your work.
Vivacious. Varied. Vain. Voluminous. Vocal (in every way). Victorious.
-- We know that’s 6, but we couldn’t decide!
5. What is the best advice that you have been given; what advice would you give young vocalists?
Two things: Look after your voice as well as you can (stay healthy, and drink lots of water), and SMILE!
6. Whom do you define as visionary?
That would have to be the early pioneers of modern a cappella – Ward Swingle and the founding members of The King’s Singers.
7. What is the most rewarding thing about being in VOCES8?
We get to see so many parts of the world that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, for example the countryside of Japan, Singapore and Nairobi. Also, we get to meet a wonderful variety of people. It’s really an education in life to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures.
8. what are some unique and/or memorable experiences you’ve had while traveling?
On a recent tour to the U.S., we spent a week in Albuquerque, NM, which is one of the highest and driest places I’ve ever been. The next item on the itinerary was a non-stop flight to Houston. Stepping off that plane, it felt like we were breathing soup for three days! You don’t get that kind of variation in Europe.
9. What message do you want to send to the world through your music?
Music (and singing particularly) is a positive, life-affirming force from which every human being will benefit in some way.
10. What songs, artists or genres of music are you currently listening to?
I think everyone in the group would have a different answer to that. Some of us like to get our musical heads completely away from choral/acappella, so they might listen to dance or hip-hop; others prefer to stay in that world, so they might listen to choirs like The King’s Singers, the Swingle Singers, Tenebrae or Polyphony; and some of us don’t want to listen to music at all! Audiobooks on planes are a useful tool there.