All-male a cappella vocal group Out of the Blue is formed entirely from students at Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities. Known for their yearly visits to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in 2011 they made the live semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent.
BWW:UK spoke to Selali Fiamanya, second tenor for the group, ahead of Out of the Blue's theatrical concert on the 11th-12th of June in Oxford, which will be the largest student-run a cappella event in the UK. Selali is a medical student who joined OOTB in 2010.
Out of the Blue was founded in 2000, way before Glee made a cappella famous in the UK. Did GLee Change the types of songs you sing or the way that you perform them?
Glee was great for us in that it created a hunger for a cappella in Britain which wasn't really there before. Although we both sing mainly pop songs, it hasn't really affected what we sing as there's such a huge variety to choose from, and every a cappella arrangement is different in its own way.
How extreme is your practice regime?
We rehearse three times week for two hours each, with one or two gigs a week on top of that. At the beginning of the year the goal is to learn about a song a week, and as we progress the rate of learning decreases slightly while our Musical Director Nick Barstow fine-tunes us to make the most of the arrangements.
How do you balance practice with your university work?
With difficulty! Thankfully we do all appreciate that everyone has work to do, so if people need to take time out for exams or deadlines, people are really supportive - I got loads of edible treats in my pigeonhole from the guys during exams. It definitely teaches you how to organise your time, though. Also, a touch of gentle bribery goes a long way with tutors...
Apart from auditioning, what sort of initiations do you guys have for new members?
Now that would be telling, wouldn't it... Though thankfully no-one has been arrested since the debacle of 2008, and my vision was restored after only one week wearing an eyepatch.
What's the worst thing that has happened to the group during a live show?
We do a serenade skit in one of our biggest annual shows at the New Theatre in Oxford every year. We get someone on stage and have a competition in quartets to win her heart. We can't really see who we're picking though, and once the girl we got onstage couldn't have been older than 11. Of course, it was my turn to serenade and the song choreo involved what immediately felt an inordinate amount of thrusting. Cringe.
What luxury items do you demand are left in your dressing room?
We're usually pretty easy-going. One of the best green room platters I remember had chocolate covered popcorn. I never knew such delights existed in this world.
What contact have you had recently with a cappella groups in the US?
We do US tours every year. Most recently we toured California, where we sang with loads of great groups, such as the UC Berkeley Men's Octet, the Davis Spokes and the Claremont Shades. Since a cappella is so established in the States there is such a high standard of singing, so it's great to watch and share musical ideas, and of course to party afterwards.
When you look back over the last year, what events stand out in your mind and why?
There are some big ones which were great for the group, like Britain's Got Talent and our debut headline gig in London, but even better personal events are things like our visit to Helen and Douglas House, the world's first children's hospice, which we fundraise for. We got to see what they do and sing for the kids, which was so rewarding: the music turned out to be therapeutic for one young man in particular, who had been unresponsive to staff for several days.
Out of the Blue will perform 11th-12th of June at 7:30 PM in the New Theatre, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG.
Tickets are £16/10 general admission from www.atgtickets.co.uk/oxford or 0844 871 3020.