Leeds Contemporary Singers take on BBC Pitch Battle final

By Kath Hartley

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Leeds Contemporary Singers

Leeds Contemporary Singers will take on the final of BBC1’s Pitch Battle, which takes place this Saturday 22nd July.

Leeds Contemporary Singers are a nine-piece vocal group made up of Leeds College of Music Students from the Popular Music & Jazz courses; Becky Bowe, Adam Tucker, Amelia Streatfeild-James, Miss Idele, Thomas Daniel, Robyn Keech, Hannah Slavin, Akin Amusan; alongside Senior Lecturer on Popular Music, Craig Lees.

The group successfully saw off fierce competition during the heats, to great accolade from judges Gareth Malone, Kelis and Will Young.

We caught up with Craig Lees ahead of the final on Saturday to get his take on the competition, what they’ve learned as a group and what’s in store for the final…

Where did it all begin for Leeds Contemporary Singers?

LCS was borne out of the LCoM Contemporary Pop Choir. When I heard about Pitch Battle, I thought it would be great to build a group with a unique sound. The choir is excellent in its own standing, but I realised that there would be many choirs in the competition and so we needed something different. LCS brings together a collaboration of nine separate musicians with their own tastes and styles, which is what gives the group its unique voice. It also showcases what we do here at LCoM, in that we champion artistry, creativity and originality.

The group have put in so much hard work towards the competition – how has everyone developed as musicians throughout this process?

The biggest thing is that they’ve been gaining great insight into how the industry works, and they’ve had some fantastic exposure throughout the process too. There have been so may little things that we’ve all learned along the way increasing everyone’s knowledge and skills. For example, we’ve learned what it’s like to sing three to nine part harmonies on mic – something we’d never done prior to the show.

You mentioned that you take a collaborative approach to developing your songs – how does this work in rehearsal?

We’ve tried to make it as collaborative as possible – firstly there would never be anything in the repertoire that anybody really didn’t want to sing! During rehearsals we’ve worked with everybody’s ideas – if someone has suggested shaping the song in a certain way then we’ve given it a go. Akin is a talented arranger and has been quite involved in the arrangements for this round. It’s really important to champion these original ideas when you’ve got nine different musicians with nine different takes on how things could work – it’s what really contributes to the unique sound.  

Can you tell us what’s in store for Saturday?

I can’t reveal our song choices, but we have made a conscious decision to do something different enough in the final so that we don’t come across as a one-trick pony. Although the soft, flowing legato pieces worked well for us in the heat, we aren’t going to stick with the same format – we’re moving towards more punchy, rhythmic, driven songs. It might be a bit of a gamble – but for the final we’ve got to either go big or go home!

There will also be some solos from different members of the group who didn’t have chance to solo in the first episode. One of the most amazing things about this group is that there isn’t just one stand-out soloist and a group of choral backing singers. We can blend really well as singers, but equally I know that I could give a solo to any one member of this group and they would smash it.

As for Saturday – I just don’t feel like it’s going to be real until we start singing. There are some amazing groups in the final, but we’ve just got to be ourselves and do what we do best. As long as we can walk away knowing we gave absolutely everything we could, we’ll be happy. Yes, of course we want to win, but whatever happens we’ve got to the final and we’re one of the top six vocal groups in the country. That’s definitely a win in itself!

Don’t miss the final of Pitch Battle, this Saturday at 7.25pm on BBC1!

 

By Kath Hartley

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