Mixing it Up The Bristol Mix
Fascinating Rhythm Insights 11: Mixing It Up – what it’s like being part of a regional mixed chorus

Mixing It Up – what it’s like being part of a regional mixed chorus

The Bristol Mix is a new, mixed barbershop chorus, made up of singers from a cappella close harmony choirs across the Bristol area. Several Fascinating Rhythm members sing with The Bristol Mix, alongside ladies from Avon Harmony, Black Sheep Harmony, Bristol Fashion, and men from the Great Western Chorus.

The Bristol Mix recently competed at the British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) Sing 2022 at the Harrogate Convention Centre, where they achieved first place in the mixed chorus contest. The Bristol Mix’s stunning debut performance comprised two songs – ‘What Kind of Fool Am I’ and ‘You’re From Heaven and You’re Mine’ – under the direction of Craig Kehoe and Linda Corcoran.

We caught up with some of the Fascinating Rhythm ladies who are members of The Bristol Mix to find out more about their experience of singing in a mixed barbershop chorus and the thrill of winning a gold medal on the BABS Convention stage.

Amy

I’m in the Tenor section at The Bristol Mix but I sing Lead with Fascinating Rhythm and in my quartet Specs Appeal. I’m a big fan of all the local barbershop choruses and saw joining The Bristol Mix as a chance to make some friends and the opportunity to compete at the BABS Convention.

It was so exhilarating to be back at Convention (although it was a bit surreal after the pandemic) and, right up until the day, I was half-expecting it to be cancelled! The stage was fabulous – the rush of the lights coming up and your brain going a bit mushy with panic – but the songs felt good and everything went according to plan. When we walked off stage, it felt like we had given a good account of ourselves for our first sing-out. At the end of the competition, when The Bristol Mix was announced as the winner, I leapt out of my seat and danced for joy! After a two-year break from competition and all the sadness of covid, I let it all out in a high-pitched shriek and allowed myself to be genuinely happy. It was a moment I’ll never forget – so much pride for us as a group. The hard work paid off, especially as we’d only had a couple of months to learn our up-tune.

The last time I sang with men (well, teenage ‘men’) was in a Sixth Form production of Grease. I really enjoyed it and thought it would be fun to see if singing in a mixed voice choir was as good as I remembered. Having seen all the other Bristol choruses perform on stage, it’s fun to stand alongside them and make friends. The atmosphere at rehearsal is relaxed and fun.

I’d describe singing with The Bristol Mix as challenging, but joyful and rewarding. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of joining a mixed voice choir. You get to work with different Musical Directors and Section Leaders, learn fun new songs, and singing with male and female voices brings a whole new dimension to a cappella singing.

My favourite The Bristol Mix song is ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’. I love the work we did on it in rehearsal to make it really lyrical, which changed it from being sad to a thought-provoking story. And the rich tone of the male basses really comes out in this song to make some lovely ringing chords.

Brenda

I sing baritone in The Bristol Mix, which is a change for me as I sing Bass with Fascinating Rhythm. It’s quite a challenge because I haven’t sung Baritone for some time – I seem to tune into the bass line but it’s way too low for most women in a mixed chorus!

I sang in a small mixed group a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so as soon as I heard about this brand new mixed chorus I knew I wanted to audition. I love the depth of sound produced by a mixed group and my favourite The Bristol Mix song is ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ by The Beach Boys.

It has been great getting to know members of other local choruses, who all share the same passion for singing. Usually, when our choruses meet, we’re competing against each other so it’s lovely at The Bristol Mix to be singing together on the same side! There is a great camaraderie developing and some of the male chorus members are very witty, so we have lots of laughs!

I felt very excited to be back on the Convention stage in Harrogate. As it was The Bristol Mix’s first-ever public performance, we had no expectations whatsoever, we just wanted to show what we could do and enjoy ourselves. It was a complete shock to hear The Bristol Mix announced as the first-placed chorus! I couldn’t believe my ears – it was so exciting! As you can imagine, the roar of amazement and delight went on for some considerable time! Receiving my gold medal after so many years of singing barbershop felt very special.

My advice to anyone thinking of joining a mixed voice choir is to go for it! I’ve already been trying to persuade more Basses from Fascinating Rhythm to join The Bristol Mix because it’s such a fun, exhilarating and challenging experience.

Hazel

I sing Tenor with The Bristol Mix and Lead with Fascinating Rhythm. And I used to sing with TUBBS, which was a mixed a cappella chorus at the University of Bristol.

When I sang with TUBBS, I completely fell in love with barbershop music, the complex harmonics and the huge sounds that we produced so effortlessly. After I left university, I moved a couple of times and sang with choral music choirs but always had it in the back of my mind that I’d return to barbershop one day.

When the pandemic came, I found I really missed singing. When I changed jobs at the end of 2020 and started living in Bristol again, I felt it was time for me to return to barbershop. As soon as possible, I joined Fascinating Rhythm and when The Bristol Mix started auditioning for members, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to join a mixed chorus and re-live the glory of my university days!

Going to BABS Sing 2022 earlier this year was my first ever time at a barbershop Convention. When The Bristol Mix was announced as the winners I actually thought I’d misheard because I was convinced that we’d come fourth and missed out on a medal. My disbelief turned to joy – it was a very happy day!

If you’re thinking of singing with a mixed chorus, I’d definitely say come and join The Bristol Mix, It’s an extra commitment and you have to learn the songs in your own time but it’s very rewarding and worth the effort!

Kitty

I sing Lead with both The Bristol Mix and Fascinating Rhythm.

Everyone came to The Bristol Mix, when it first started, without expectations but with lots of energy. I joined The Bristol Mix for the experience of singing with male voices and to have the opportunity of being directed and taught by different people. Plus, there was the draw of learning a new repertoire of songs! My favourite The Bristol Mix song is ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I’.

Being on stage with The Bristol Mix felt like a very different experience – I felt calm, not at all nervous, and just there to enjoy the experience. The feeling of winning a gold medal was indescribably exciting! And being able to share that joy with new and old barbershop friends was fabulous.

Singing with The Bristol Mix is exciting, fulfilling and challenging. I’d definitely say that if you have the time and commitment to learning music independently and really strive to contribute to being an ‘A level’ chorus then joining The Bristol Mix is a great thing to do. It’s very rewarding and so much fun!

Rose

I sing baritone with The Bristol Mix and Bass with Fascinating Rhythm. I also sing with Go Vocal and have always enjoyed the mixed voices there.

I joined The Bristol Mix because I wanted to sing with people from other local choruses and especially to have some male voices in the choir. Apart from the mix of lovely voices, it is a great way to meet other singers who share the same love of a cappella and barbershop singing and to develop an understanding of how other choruses work.

The Bristol Mix feels like it’s starting to develop its own unique “sound” and way of doing things. I find it an enriching, exciting and incredible learning experience. I would definitely encourage anyone who’s tempted to join a mixed voice choir to take the plunge! I feel like I’ve learnt so much, especially around voice blending and understanding different directors’  instructions. But most of all, it’s HUGE fun!

I felt incredibly relaxed singing with The Bristol Mix on the BABS convention stage and very positive about the whole competition. Taking part was an incredible experience and I was thrilled to be part of such a wonderful sound. Although there was an expectation of a high standard of singing, this was not at all off-putting – I had a ball! Winning gold was exhilarating and exciting.

Sharon

I sing Baritone with The Bristol Mix, which is quite a challenge as I’m used to singing Bass with Fascinating Rhythm and that’s all ‘dums’ and ‘dos’! Baritone is also the only section in The Bristol Mix that’s truly mixed (i.e. made up of male and female voices).

I wanted to join The Bristol Mix because I enjoy listening to the Great Western Chorus and other male voice choirs and I love it when Fascinating Rhythm sing 8-part harmony songs with the men – it gives a whole different depth to the sound. Another draw was the opportunity of being directed by Linda; I’ve been in groups that have been coached by her in the past and I love her enthusiasm and talent for bringing the best out of singers. It was also an opportunity to be directed by Craig as well.

On stage at BABS Sing 2022, I felt totally relaxed. Standing on the risers whilst Jasper organised us, I looked out over the heads of the judges into the darkness and thought “it’s good to be back here”. As ever, the performance went by in a blur but I know I stuck to the plan. Waiting for the results, though, was nerve-wracking! As they were running through the third and second place choruses, I was getting more nervous, and then it was time for the gold medal announcement. I sat there with my fingers crossed just saying “The Bristol Mix, The Bristol Mix, The Bristol Mix” over and over again. When they announced our name, I jumped up and squealed with delight! We were all hugging each other and jumping up and down. It was just such an awesome feeling to be so happy – especially after the last couple of years. As I went to bed on the Sunday night, I put my medal on the bedside table; when I woke up the next morning, I looked at it to check that it wasn’t a dream – it was still there!

Singing with The Bristol Mix is exciting, challenging and welcoming and my favourite repertoire song is ‘You’re From Heaven And You’re Mine’ (although I didn’t like it to begin with because it’s very barbershoppy and has so many words!). The other great thing about The Bristol Mix is that you get to meet so many new friends and ring wonderful barbershop chords. It’s amazing what talent there is out there – we’re very lucky in the Bristol area! I’d encourage anyone who is thinking of joining a mixed voice choir to stop thinking about it and just get on and do it!

Thinking of joining a choir?

If you’re interested to find out more about barbershop singing, please get in touch with us via our website. You can also follow Fascinating Rhythm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and follow The Bristol Mix on Facebook.

You might also like to see other articles in the Fascinating Rhythm Insight series:

01 – Why singing is good for you

02 – Making your performance authentic

03 – Performance through vocal expression

04 – Teamwork makes the dream work

05 – Why warm up?

06 – The new members’ guide to joining a choir during a pandemic!

07 – Breathing to Sing

08 – Junior FR: how it started/how it’s going

09 – Singing is a family affair

10 – How we choose convention songs

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