Juice Vocal Ensemble: Ten things you need to know about the contemporary classical sensations

November 27, 2013
Juice Vocal Ensemble
Juice Vocal Ensemble
Photo by Dannie Price

The Juice Vocal Ensemble have a lot of fun with vocal music, actively questioning what it means to create musical experiences in a range of different traditions.

Nothing these young performers do is restricted to a canon — classical, popular, or otherwise. Taking a lead from unclassifiable musicians like Bjork, there is no telling what the Juice Vocal Ensemble's approach will be to any given piece or performance. Constantly expanding the range of possibility, their achievements form a bridge between the worlds of music we think we know and worlds as yet unexplored as the group members jet among cathedrals, clubs, and festivals.

Here are ten things you need to know about these dynamic UK-based performers.

1. The group comprises three women — sopranos Anna Snow and Sarah Dacey, and alto Kerry Andrew — who have been together for ten years, blending all things musical without care for the typical delineations of classical, jazz, pop, or electronic.

2. They are on the label Nonclassical, which is not only a label, but hosts one-off club nights whose success, according to the label's website, is due to the fact that they present "classical as if it were rock or electronic music. Bands play through the pub's PA, everyone has a pint in their hand, and perhaps most importantly, there are DJs playing throughout the night." (Photo via Nonclassical on Flickr.)

3. The Juice Vocal Ensemble's first album, Songspin, was released in 2012 by Nonclassical and went on to win the 2012 Best Contemporary Classical Album award in the Independent Music Awards, along with a 2012 Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award nomination for Best Classical Album.

4. The ensemble have a new album planned for 2014.

5. Snow, Dacey, and Andrew are a vocal group, but they don't just sing. In The Triadic Riddles of Water, for example, handclaps are brought into play.

6. In planning their performances, the ensemble members pay attention to the importance of visuals.

7. As they proudly note on their website, "Juice are passionate educators, regularly running workshops in ensemble singing, contemporary vocal repertoire and composition [...] for groups of all ages and abilities [...] They have been Ensemble-in-Residence at the universities of York and Ulster." 8. The ensemble just made their operatic debut in Richard Barnard's The Hidden Valley, presented in August at the Tete a Tete opera festival in London. "Barnard's music wove folk elements into more complex strands," said reviewer Robert Hugill, "with the musical material being rather eclectic but synthesised into a single rather fascinating texture. Much of his orchestration was evocative and rather spiky in texture and the write for Juice Vocals clearly took advantage of the vocal techniques that they like to use."

9. In addition to their recent collaborations with MaJiker (seen above), many projects are in the works including a new piece from the beatboxer Shlomo and a live score by Mira Calix, with electronics, for Alfred Hitchcock's 1928 film Champagne.

10. The Juice Vocal Ensemble are making a cappella cool. (Was it ever anything but? Discuss amongst yourselves.)

Garrett Tiedemann is a writer, filmmaker and composer who owns the multimedia lab CyNar Pictures and its record label American Residue Records.