Holbrook: Renowned Juice Vocal Ensemble play Royal Hospital School this weekend

Juice Vocal Ensemble, at the Royal Hospital School Holbrook. Picture: Dannie Price

Juice Vocal Ensemble, at the Royal Hospital School Holbrook. Picture: Dannie Price - Credit: Archant

Bonding over our love for the movie Pitch Perfect, I confess to Kerry Andrew of Juice Vocal Ensemble how I wish I could sing.

Marvel at the power of the voice. Picture: Dannie Price

Marvel at the power of the voice. Picture: Dannie Price - Credit: Archant

“Everyone can sing, you’re not allowed to say that,” she laughs as I offer to prove her ‘a-ca’ wrong, as they’d say in the film.

“We’d get you singing. We do loads of workshops with all standards - tiny kids up to 80-year-olds. It doesn’t necessarily have to be beautiful pop or classical... you can use your voice in all sorts of ways. It can sound like an instrument, all sorts of things.”

Alto Kerry and sopranos Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey will be performing at Royal Hospital School on Sunday, February 2, from 4pm.

Sat somewhere between a Glee-like a capella outfit and a sort of King’s Singers classical choral group, they celebrated their 10th anniversary together last year although they’ve known each other much longer having studied music together at university in York.

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“We were doing a lot of singing the three of us, but with lots of other people as well. We found our three voices seemed to work pretty well together, we clicked musically but also found we wanted the same things - we wanted to explore new music, wanted people to write for us all the time instead of doing lots of pre-existing music.”

In 2010 they asked very diverse composers to write them a three-minute a cappella piece. The only rule, they had to be a love song of some kind. The result was a very varied range of work with elements of pop, folk, RnB and classical all exploring love. Mostly, laughs Kerry, from the darker side.

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“We do a complete mixture of stuff as long as it’s a cappella. Our focus is on doing interesting things with the voice. We don’t snub our noses at any genre at all and are game for anything and like to tell composers we’ll basically do anything within reason.”

A lot of careful thought went into the artists approached to make sure there was a real difference.

“We got people like classical composer Gavin Bryars who wrote us this very beautiful, very classical sounding piece set to an old italian poem. We’ve got something where we have to play these little mouth harps from Vietnam...

“It was all very unexpected even though we had a good idea of what all the artists were going to come up with to a point. We’re really pleased with the commission, it’s a really fun programme to perform because they are all so different.”

Some of them are really difficult too.

“One, by a Japanese composer, is absolutely fiendish; easily the hardest piece we’ve ever performed. We do like to rise to a challenge, we can do it but it just took us a little while longer to learn,” she laughs.

Many of these songs, as well as their “wacky” a cappella covers of love songs by the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Erasure, Rihanna and Mariah Carey, will feature in Sunday’s concert and on Juice’s second album Laid Bare, out in April, the follow-up to their international Independent Music Award winning Songspin. New single Heal You is out this month.

“We’ll be doing Sweet Child ‘O Mine. The three of us all work on different arrangements and this is mine. I always wanted the three of us to sing the guitarist between us, we have a note each and take it in turns. If you haven’t heard anything like this before we’ll show you how much you can do with just three voices.

“There’s absolutely nowhere to hide,” she laughs. “The tuning between the three of you, between any small vocal ensemble, has to be absolutely tip-top otherwise even if you’re not an expert in singing you’ll hear it’s a bit dodgy. You can’t hide behind a piano, drum kit, anything else, it’s just you guys.”

For more about Juice visit www.juicevocalensemble.net. For the latest entertainment news, follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne.

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