Finding My Voice (Part 2)
Continuing the journey through the years and the changes to my vocal ability and style that occurred along the way. Last time, I spoke about early years and school. In part 2, it's off to university we go!
After Blues Brothers and the touring that went with it, A-levels began to take centre stage, meaning I didn't have time to do another drama performance. A few of us from the musicians who were in Blues Brothers, however, decided it would be great to make our own little band and rehearse at the weekends. A sort of Red Hot Chili Peppers-infused band that mixed covers with original songs. We had teamed up with other people to do a school performance here or there before but this was the start of something serious that would involve dedication as well as having fun. So, in 2009, Izzy Gomez was born, much to the delight of Izzy Gomez, who had a nice surprise when he decided to search for himself on the internet and found a band who, seemingly, had named themselves after him... We hadn't but we gained a fanboy all the same.
From the beginning, we had an album in mind and so started working on an EP - the Recession EP, writing some original songs that included 'Sugarcane', 'Why Is The Rum Gone', 'Here At The Top', 'Someone', and 'You Want It'. I believe 50 copies were made, some merchandise bought and sold, and 'Sugarcane' was put on the iTunes store. We toured around the Chew Valley, playing at the local rugby club, a few of the pubs in the area, and even did a couple of gigs in Bristol. Naturally, all things come to an end and once we all began to go to university, spreading out in different directions, the gigs became less frequent until we performed one last gig for the 2010 World Cup final. It might not have lasted long but it was a fun year.
For me, university is split into two very uneven parts. The first, and smaller, part takes place at Lancaster University. Dad, a proud Lancastrian, originally from Burnley and then Blackpool, was thrilled I had managed to get into Lancaster and so his excitement had rubbed off on me. That excitement wore off very quickly when I arrived. The music course itself was a shambles and the recession had hit the university hard but they'd been clever and had hidden all of the issues they were having during the open days and interviews, only showing us the better-looking areas. Now, however, the cuts were revealed and there were a lot. The course itself was on its last legs and, the following year, was due to be merged with the other creative subjects into an 'arts' course where students would do a bit of everything (music, drama, and art). Modules I had looked forward to taking were no longer being run and the music performance aspect of the course involved a 15-minute saxophone lesson every fortnight instead of an hour every week as had been advertised. It was a disappointment, to say the least. The people I met, however, were not.
The social aspect of Lancaster University personally remains the best I've ever come across (and I've been to three universities). The college system meant that there were nine areas of the campus, each with their own bar and social area making for fantastic bar crawls and, despite rivalries, the ability to meet a lot of new people very quickly. This also meant the societies were very good, the music society being one of the best. Full of students from various subjects, the music society had many different ensembles, of which I joined the choir, big band, wind orchestra, and teamed up with members of the choir to create a barber/barbie-shop.
Usually, in the first year of university, when it comes to ensembles, there is a hierarchy. The third years are the most important, taking up the 1st and perhaps 2nd desks, and usually running the ensemble. The second years then take up the 2nd and 3rd desks and the first years have all the lower desks with the boring and unimportant parts. I was surprised, therefore, that by the end of my 1st year here, I was already on the 1st desk in most ensembles and was even conducting the choir.
The choir's music was quite a variety of genres with more pop-based stuff than classical but, since my vocal range was quite flexible, I would jump between the tenor and alto parts depending on which one needed more support. One of the final concerts involved both the choir and the barber/barbie-shop. The latter of which had been rehearsing a challenging 8-part harmony version of Imogen Heap's 'Hide and Seek' for the performance. It had taken a lot of effort to learn but was great fun to do and went down well with the audience.
Singing with the Big Band had not happened straight away but after doing karaoke during a music society social, the leader of the band asked me if I'd like to sing and thought they had the perfect idea for a song that would fit nicely with my voice - Michael Bublé's 'Cry Me A River', which went on to be performed a lot, ending with a final performance on-stage at the end of year extravaganza in front of hundreds of people.
It was surprising to find that not many of the music students were involved in the music society (there were a lot of pianists) but did still wish to perform. So, again, as with Izzy Gomez, myself and a few other music students decided to form the band Underwater Gunfight, an experimental funk group. There was some singing but it was mostly saxophone.
ADAPTATION AND FUTURE
By this point, I'd been singing a lot of soul and popular music and had managed to form three different styles of singing. The 'belt', I used in the Big Band and Underwater Gunfight. As the only singer, I could afford to sing loud and project without losing tone. In choir and barber/barbie-shop, it was a subtler affair. The tenor side was much louder than the alto, where my 'head voice' was a little on the weak side while remaining good for reinforcing, but each was good at blending in with others. To have used the 'belt' here would have meant drowning out everyone else which is not what a choir is about.
I was having so much fun with the music society but, with the help of a friend also studying music, I realised that the music course was not worth spending the £3000 per year on (the fees hadn't gone up yet) and managed to secure a place at the University of Huddersfield with the agreement that I would restart. So, I finished the year and said goodbye to all the friends I had made here. I returned over the next couple of years for concerts and the extravaganzas. To this day, I can still say I met the most varied people and made many friends in such a short space of time.
Join me in part 3 where we make the move to Huddersfield, further adapting the singing, being pushed to the limits of my ability, and going beyond.