A new year means there are lots of new and exciting shows, music, albums, comedy and much around the corner and we have an exciting month for you! In true Phoenix Remix tradition we are chatting to lots of different acts all about what they have in store for 2022. The act that is leading the way in this months feature is musical improv troupe Acaprov. They have a very exciting year in store for the troupe including new members who are also going to there to enjoy the ride. All month I have a very special exclusive interview with the band to talk all things improv. This week we talk about rehearsals and musical improv.
How do you rehearse for Acapella based improv shows?
We check in for a good 30 minutes – no connection, no caring, no show.
Then we do a thorough vocal and physical warm up – health first and safety first – always.
Then we look at what needs our immediate attention based on the latest shows, as well as picking from our wish list of things we want to try – and they become the 1 or 2 focuses that week, as well as drilling the basics every week, recapping and embedding last weeks things, and running the show. A jam packed 3 hours – then a well earned drink in the pub!
‘The Basics’ for us are: harmonising, staying in key and in time (which calls on our body percussion and beat boxing), pitching, conducting, rhyming (in both song and rap), painting pictures with words, detailed spacework, connected improv and anything that remotely resembles dance!
How do you warm up your voices before a show?
We do a thorough vocal warm up (taken from the Royal ENT Hospital and our qualified singing teachers):
Release any physical tension especially in the neck, tongue or jaw.
Warming up the vocal chords safely with trills, straw exercises or blowing on your wrist.
Resonance and safe projection.
Scales for pitching and range
Tongue Twisters for diction
Harmonising (Lisa invented exercises)
Rhythm’s including beat boxing and body percussion (Lisa invented exercises)
Plus anything our resident singing teachers (Christian and Lara) suggest
What will make you different to other musical improv shows out there?
The fact that we are doing it a cappella. Plus (depending on the show you’re comparing us to) ours is very much aiming to come across as a musical that happens to be improvised, as opposed to a comedy ‘improv musical’ – so less game, more emotional connection, plus we are mostly professional singers.
What is the best thing about performing music improv?
The songs speaking from the soul when dialogue isn’t enough (to convey the emotion the character is feeling at that moment in that scene).
Dance captain Scott refers to our dancing as ‘ just moving’ which is much more apt (due to the lack of technique) – but MOVING is a huge part of the show, it is, after all, a musical!Acaprov
Are you a fan of Acapella groups? If so what ones do you enjoy and why?
‘In Transit’ is an INCREDIBLE a cappella musical – we are only gutted we never got to see it on Broadway (though the writers gave us permission to produce a cover of one of the songs – so watch this space!)
Pentatonix are FIRE
But we also love watching all the home grown uni groups performing at the Edinburgh Fringe – it’s so….Pitch Perfect UK!
What is your favourite thing about performing Acapella?
The hive mind – it’s always better than anything we could have come up with on our own. We can always surprise and delight each other with tiny things we didn’t realise the music needed, until it was added. Plus drop out’s feel extra EPIC
Is there any special techniques you have to learn for it?
Everyone’s had to learn something for this show – be it beat boxing, body percussion, singing, dancing, acting, improv, RAP or conducting
A cappella is incredibly exposing, and with the emotional truth we want, an out of tune score can really throw everybody out of the moment.Acaprov
Lets talk about dancing – is this an important part of the show?
It’s not VITAL, as for many of our players it is one of their weakest strands. Dance captain Scott refers to our dancing as ‘ just moving’ which is much more apt (due to the lack of technique) – but MOVING is a huge part of the show, it is, after all, a musical! What we lack in technique we make up for in enthusiasm – we have had the occasional lift, and we are adding more technique all the time – an improvised tap routine is on our long list wish list! Plus any move when it’s done repeatedly by 3+ people becomes choreography!
How do you know when is the perfect time to burst into song?
When your character feels more than they can convey in words alone.
What has been your favourite suggestion for a show and why?
Tesco on a tropical island was great because it gave us somewhere we know (for game and word play) but opened it up too making it more exciting. Other favourites have been: a sleepy village; Disneyland-world-park; and a library.
Our get is ‘a place where two lovely people might meet’ – we CAN (and have) done shows set in Hell or the Men’s toilets, but we prefer not to play the game of ‘finding the sublime in the ridiculous’ and prefer instead to find the magical in the ordinary.
Tell us about the sort of rehearsals you do to get ready for a show?
Same as always, working on whatever’s needed – with a show of our next performances length at the end be that 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, or 60 minutes! One day we hope to move to the full length musical with an interval like SHOWSTOPPER!
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting an improv troupe?
Find your tribe – make sure you love the people as much as you admire their work – it is no fun playing with talented people you don’t feel safe and comfortable to be yourself with. Diversify, so you can all share in each other’s experiences and create richer more relatable content. Get on the same page – make sure you all know and agree on the aims and vision for the show, so you are all pulling in the same direction and doing what is best for the show. Plus, as a bonus, if you all geek out on the same stuff it doesn’t feel like work, it is just utterly joyous!
What about extra advice for those wanting to focus on music?
Train. Respect the craft. Even if you have talent, the Performing Arts industry is like the Sports industry – you need to put the hours in. For improvising a cappella music? Remain humble (to take the sport analogy further, being good at one sport may give you an advantage, but it does not mean you will be equally expert at a different sport – so be kind to yourself, and give it time).
You are an act on the London Improv scene that is well known – when you first start performing shows, what is your key advice to new troupes to finding the stage time and getting key slots?
Ask. It sounds overly simple but if you don’t ask you don’t get – like SFTH or Amorphous Horse, you may be able to approach a venue that has never even heard of improv before and create your own night! It may start out as friends only *but there’s no better audience while you hone your craft) once you have reviews and a good reputation, venues will be biting your hand off!
We can always surprise and delight each other with tiny things we didn’t realise the music needed, until it was added.Acaprov
Is being a professional singer an important part of doing music in improv? Why?
No. It totally depends on the show you want to create. If your focus is improv comedy it is often funnier when people ‘can’t sing’, or can’t sing well – everyone can sing, everyone has a song in their heart, even if it is completely out of tune – it can be beautiful! Plus a piano, or indeed a full band can hide a multitude of sins/surprises.
For a cappella improv the stickler is that other people need to pitch to what you put out, so if you invent a key, it is hard for 9+ other people to find you – which is why we made the difficult decision to now only hire professional singers, or improvisers happy to speak sing, beatbox, do body percussion, dance, act and RAP only – for the sake of the show. A cappella is incredibly exposing, and with the emotional truth we want, an out of tune score can really throw everybody out of the moment. For our workshops however, we learn by making mistakes, and you always have the ‘speak sing, beatbox, do body percussion, dance, act and RAP only’ option when it comes to the jam/show (if your pitching doesn’t bring you joy) – it’s about having fun! Plus we have tricks up our sleeve to keep people in time, even on zoom!
Finally, what are some of your favourite songs that you have come up with in shows that you remember?
Brighton 2019: Sleepy Village end song with Scott’s dancing chorus
(Put your left foot in and your left foot out,
put your right foot in and right foot out,
Boogie on down and boogie on up, and then we go and take a nap!)
Manchester show 2019
BEV NO MORE Beth
Sam’s coffee shop song at our most recent gig at Hoopla 2021 SO MUCH COFFEE TRIVIA
Jamal’s ‘want song’ in Gothenburg at Improfest in the gaming shop show : GAME OVER (Flips and spinning kicks included)