VOCES8 performs and teaches at Concordia

The Concordia Courier

VOCES8 as they appeared in the concert program

By Eva Prewitt | 2/24/2023

On Tues, Feb. 21, acapella music group VOCES8 visited Concordia, hosting a workshop for music students, and later in the evening, a concert for the Concordia community and local area at large. The Courier had an opportunity to sit down with a few of the talented singers and discuss the concert, workshop and the group’s future plans and goals. 

VOCES8 is currently in the midst of their first tour of the U.S. where they visited locations across the east coast; the group began their tour of the western side of the country this week.

“We were in Palm Desert last night, and before that, we were on the east coast, and had concerts in New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New Jersey. We got to the west coast at the beginning of this week,” said tenor, Euan Williamson. 

“From here, we are going to San Francisco, then over to Colorado, we’ve got Denver and Boulder, and then we are finishing up in Houston,” said alto and artistic director Barnaby Smith. “We tour two to three times a year to the States. We tend to spend as much as three months of the year here, and I think I’ve visited 48 of the states out of the group.” 

VOCES8 was founded 18 years ago by Smith and his brother Paul, who was in attendance at the workshop and concert. Smith is the only founding member remaining in the group. 

Speaking about the group’s origins, Smith said that he “just wanted to keep singing with [his] friends,” and that he would host practices in his home. “We won a competition purely by luck. We entered this competition - didn’t mean to - and we won it, and people started offering us work, and here we are, 18 years later.”

VOCES8 is known for its varied repertoire, which often includes renaissance music, jazz and pop. Some of the pieces that they performed at Tuesday evening’s concert included “Magnificat Primi Toni” by Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina, “Moondance” by Van Morrison, “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by Nat King Cole and “Haec Dies” by William Byrd. 

The group chose to visit Concordia due to their unique goal of helping to educate young musicians across the globe. Concordia’s avid vocal education program was a prime location for the musical group to help young performers learn how to use their talents to their fullest potential. 

“We always look out for places we can do education, with local schools and colleges,” said Williamson. “We really try to maintain a 50/50 split of education and performance. We’re an education charity. We have a charity called the VOCES8 Foundation in both the U.S. and U.K., which offers music education opportunities and concerts for schools. The goal is to expand access to music education. It’s one of our main drives.”

“We exist for two main reasons. One is to bring music into the community, and the other is to bring music into the curriculum,” said Smith. “On a very broad scale, we’re lobbying, but we’re also trying to provide some of the work ourselves. Our education work ranges hugely in terms of its scope, so sometimes we’re working with two to three thousand kids at a time, leading big singing sessions, other times we’re working with professionals to do professional development, and that’s much smaller in number.”

According to the concert program, the VOCES8 Foundation “actively promotes Music Education For All,” and is “dedicated to supporting promising young singers.” 

“Wherever we go, we’re trying to provide something that’s not just a single visit, but has a little bit of sustainability to it,” said Smith. “We’re trying to have a positive impact on communities, either to sustain singing they already have going on, or to rekindle an interest in singing in the hope that all young people get to experience what it is to use their voice.”

Smith added that the group hopes to expand the reach of their foundation beyond the U.S. and U.K. “where there’s opportunity to make a positive impact…if that means we have the opportunity to expand in terms of forming more charitable organizations elsewhere, then we’ll take that.”


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