The Kingstones Summer Concert

I had my last ever official concert with my a cappella group, The Kingstones, on Saturday. Unlike last year, we didn’t have a theme. None of our songs really had anything to create a theme from. But if you think I had any less fun than last year, you’re wrong.

I started the day helping to decorate the room and chatting to the group members, as well as our alumni, Jess. She always turns up before we perform to go over how everything looks and sounds. Since they’re mostly her arrangements, it’s fair enough. Plus, she’s The Kingstones number one fan. After a while, we warmed up and went through the setlist, tweaking anything that needed tweaking. I went over two songs the night before I was unsure about, just to be prepared. Once we’d done that, we waited around for the concert to begin.

10 minutes beforehand, James, Jess and Emma gave an inspirational speech to motivate us to perform well and have a blast. After all, a cappella’s no fun if you’re not enjoying yourself. In fact, right before we went in, James said to me, ‘enjoy your last concert!’ I nearly cried then, but I thankfully didn’t.

This time, I wasn’t nervous. Maybe a little, but not nearly as much as when I first began performing. We performed our setlist from start to finish with no interval. Like last year, small group performed and we left to go to the back of the room. I took that time to very quickly go to the toilet since I was desperate and there was no way I would’ve been able to perform properly if I hadn’t. I enjoyed watching small group’s performances.

Once the performance was over, we spoke with our loved ones before saying goodbye to them and hanging around. We posed for some pictures and relaxed in university. We’d ordered pizza for dinner and continued to relax as we ate. A wonderful evening spent with my a cappella group after the semi stressful 48 hours. Although, if I thought I was stressed, I wasn’t in comparison to Emma, Susannah and James who basically did everything for the concert.

The truth still hurts that this was my last official concert with The Kingstones. I will spend forever being thankful and grateful that this group of people entered my life. My confidence has grown so much thanks to them and I wouldn’t be as capable to do what I can if it weren’t for any of them. I wouldn’t have known about the UK a cappella scene, nor the talent that comes with it. I’ll miss them all very dearly and I love them.

Goodbye University

Goodbyes. They never do get easier do they?

The stabs in my heart as the memories flood my brain, threatening to bring me to tears as I say goodbye. Goodbye to those I met and made friends with along the way. Goodbye to those I became familiar with but never quite made it beyond acquaintances. Goodbye to those lecturers who supported me and cared about me, opened my eyes to things I never thought I’d learn.

My brain instructs me not to cry, but my heart disagrees. My body is torn. My eyes want to listen to the hurt my heart is exaggerating. To release the pain I feel in the form of tears. But I grew up with the belief that tears were a sign of weakness and I should only release them when alone, except under specific scenarios. I wish I hadn’t conditioned my heart to do so, since the tears would ease my heartache to a bearable pain. Not this uncomfortable feeling churning round my stomach.

Sometimes, goodbyes are good. They open up to the possibility of something better entering. But in this scenario, giving up my security for the unknown is terrifying. I have no idea what’s to come next. Again, my body is torn. Torn between relishing in the freedom to be whoever I wanna be but panicking over losing my safety net. Again. Seems to be a constant nowadays.

Goodbyes are painful. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t have such an impact on me. This goodbye hurts because it mattered. Because the past three years counted. My friends I’ve made along the way will become faces and names in years to come. For now, they’re still here. Present. Prepared to meet up again. For now, I find comfort in that.

For now, I’ll wallow in the pain of goodbye and await the hellos. My brain will fill with memories of the past three years and replay them for me as the tears slide down my face, once I allow it. I’ll open my heart up to the pain so it’ll heal faster. I’ll fill with nostalgia and let it settle there for a while, before I kick it out like an unwelcome guest. I’ll let the pain win, for now.

Goodbye to all those I have to say goodbye to. To a time in my life I won’t forget, but might regret years later. To friends I made along the way and stuck by me. To lecturers who pushed me and supported me. To an experience I’ll both love and hate.

To end, here’s some song lyrics that feel particularly relevant right now:

Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start
The Scientist, Coldplay
Goodbye.

 

My Blog

Since I first set up my blog back in October 2014, I have kept changing what I would post onto this blog after I noticed how sparse my blog had become, typically when my deadlines were finished.

While I’ll write about university in upcoming posts, I do want to change my blog… again. I’ve lost track of how many times I have ‘changed’ this blog, and to those who have loyally followed me since the beginning, I can only apologise.

I will still be posting book reviews. Now that I am done with university deadlines for good, reading should happen more frequently. Additionally, the same can be said of writing. I’m no longer writing for a degree or grade, but for my own pleasure. I will still continue to attend a cappella events and shamelessly post about my own group, and I will still post about my various travels if and when I do them.

However, I may start posting personal posts again. I know I initially did post personal posts, but I deleted them in order to focus on reading and writing. Upon reflection, if I’m allowing a cappella and travel to seep their way into my blog, why not other things? Things that inspire me to write. Things that anger me. Things that fascinate me.

Voicing my thoughts has fallen by the wayside. Partially due to deadlines taking over my life. Partially due to a personal blog I own that I swore I’d write down my thoughts on and never have. Oops? But more than that, I find I don’t necessarily want to voice all my thoughts (most of them are quite irrelevant – picture scenarios of me as a superhero or riding dragons and you’ll get the gist). I prefer to keep my personal views to myself, such as politics, religion, etc. You never can win with people on those topics and whilst I don’t mind speaking up for myself, I don’t like conflict.

Still, there are times when people and the world fascinate me, enough to compel me to write about it. I don’t want to neglect that part of me anymore. I enjoy writing down my thoughts that aren’t harmful to most (there are always exceptions) and I refuse to neglect that part anymore.

So, May, I dub thee the month I start over… again.

Is there such thing as too many fresh starts?

(Also, apologies about posting off schedule. I will start my schedule again, promise)

ICCA Semi Final

After a two month wait, the night was finally upon us: the ICCA semi final. What a fantastic night it was! The talent these groups had was phenomenally, and each provided a unique performance. I’m so glad the UK a cappella scene is expanding, cos the world deserves to know about these groups. Unfortunately, only group is allowed to progress on, and the best group definitely won.

To clarify, the ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) is a competition wherein a cappella groups compete to be announced the best collegiate a cappella group. The competition was a solely American competition, but three years ago, they opened the competition up to the UK. Each group is scored based on their arrangements and choreography, and those points determine whether they go into the final or not.

I watched eight incredible groups perform. In order of who performed when: Bristol Suspensions, The Rolling Tones, Northern Lights, Aberpella, Cadenza, The Accidentals, The Illuminations and Aquapella. All kept me entertained for the whole 12 minutes they had to perform in, and proved why they deserved to have made it to the semi final.

The Bristol Suspensions have improved massively from last year, and keep getting better. Their performance was humour based, and wonderfully done. I loved their rendition of Cell Block Tango and Car Wash. Apologies, but I don’t remember what their second song was. Regardless, it had a light hearted tone to it, while showing off their vocal range and choreography. Very well done indeed.

The Rolling Tones have remained consistent in their set. I’ll admit, I have seen their set a few times now, so I could tell you what they were going to do. However, it still gives me chills, and their choreography for one of their songs is still so inventive. They sang Teardrops, Sleepless Child (which is an original arrangement), and a mashup of Bang Bang and Survivor. All beautifully sang.

Northern Lights looked like they were having a great time on stage. They remained united throughout, while simultaneously showing off their vocal range. Unfortunately, I don’t actually know what two of the songs were that they sang, so apologies for that. But the last was a mashup between Mambo No. 5, Candyman and Pon De Replay, among other songs. A great mashup, giving a few people a chance to show off their solo range. The choreography helped the performance too, making it more engaging.

Aberpella were a force to be reckoned with, especially with their male soloist. They sang three songs that really showed off his vocal range. The songs were Animals, mashed up with Map, and Demons and Friction. I quite liked the choreography and performance, but it was clear you were supposed to focus on the soloist, which I did. He had impressive vocals.

Cadenza sang two mashups, and a beautiful rendition of When We Were Young. The two mashups were Can’t Stop The Feeling with Shout Out To My Ex, and Lady Is A Tramp with Fancy. They were interesting choices to put together, but they worked in a way. I especially enjoyed the basses and tenors, who were pretending to play jazz instruments in Lady Is A Tramp. They were loving life, I swear.

The Accidentals had a very pretty performance. They sang two mashups, and unfortunately, I don’t know the name of one of the songs they mashed up, but they mashed it up with Tears. They also sang In The Air, and an Ariana Grande mashup. Much like other performances, they allowed the soloist to shine, but managing to keep a pretty tone to it. The Ariana Grande mashup matched their tone, and kept me entertained, cos I wasn’t sure which song they’d mashup next.

The Illuminations started with a voiceover before they went into Radioactive. I quite enjoyed their introduction, because it built up an atmosphere for their song. I don’t know the name of their second song, but it was beautifully sang by the soloist. They ended on a Lion King mashup, by pairing Circle Of Life with He Lives In You. I’m a Disney fan, so that was a win in my books. A good variety of songs to show off their vocal performance.

Aquapella were phenomenally. Much like Techtonics last year, they were on another level. Their entrance was spectacular, and I think they’d taken some inspiration from Gobsmacked. Basically, only one person walked on stage, and pretended to grab a ball, and the group started singing backstage, but stopped as soon as she flicked her wrist down. Then, she flicked her wrist back up again, and pretended to throw this object when a second member walked on. After about the fourth member, the rest of the group walked on simultaneously, and began their mashup performance of songs about sex. They included humour into their performance, which was fantastic, and I’m pretty sure a guy did a handstand in the middle of the performance. If not for that song, definitely for the next one, which happened to be Fallin’ (I think).

But it’s the last song that blew me away. The soloist did a rendition of Purple Rain, and her voice was absolutely phenomenal. Honestly, just thinking about her voice gave me literal chills. No video does the performance justice, because her voice was just on another level. Whatever she does after a cappella, I can tell you now, she for sure has a career in singing. Her vocal range was incredibly powerful and high. I just can’t get over it. The build up was fantastic too, and the group really supported the soloist.

The Bristol Suspensions came third, and the Rolling Tones came second. I love both groups, and I think they did a fantastic job. Their performance was inventive, and they should be proud of themselves. Unsurprisingly, Aquapella came first, and it was thoroughly deserved. They’ll go to New York to represent the UK. Let’s hope the UK can win it for a second year, eh? They were truly on another level, and brought their A game.

During the interval, the Grammy winning a cappella group, The Swingle Singers, performed. Up until now, I’d heard mentions of them, but I’d never actually heard them sing. After their stunning performance, they have a new fan. Their original songs were so well crafted, with each person making sounds I never thought a human could make, while singing too. It was absolutely stunning. I’d definitely recommend anyone to listen to them.

Overall, it was a great night. The Swingle Singers were stunning, and mesmerising to watch. I’m so glad Aquapella won, and I can’t wait to hear how they do in New York. I’m sure they’ll rock it no matter what.

Billy And Me Book Review

I won’t lie, part of the reason why I read this book was because of the name attached to it. When I read the blurb, I thought the story would be ideal for a story I’m writing for one of my creative writing modules, and to an extent, it did help. I enjoyed sections of this book, but the pivotal moments and lack of character development annoyed me too much to enjoy it beyond a certain point.

Sophie May is working in her local coffee shop when Billy Buskin, a famous actor, walks in. Billy falls for Sophie instantly, and the pair strike up a chemistry that develops into a relationship. Sophie tries to deal with the fame that accompanies Billy, but struggles to do so while living her own life.

First impressions: I can tell this is Giovanna’s first story because it was noticeable in places that the writing style needed work. Sophie May really irritates me as this story progresses. I sympathise with her up to a certain point, and it’s partially to do with how unrealistic the story becomes.

What I liked: I’m glad Sophie, and her mother, had a character development of sorts. Sophie definitely needed it, if the flashbacks were anything to go by. I loved Molly and her cosy little teashop.It sounded so wonderful inside. She might honestly be the saving grace of the story. I liked parts of Sophie and Billy’s relationship, especially the contrast moments. For example, I liked seeing their first date, to the first time Billy brings friends round at the early hours of the morning. It created conflict relatively well, until that inevitable climax that really shouldn’t have happened. I liked how fame was shown, especially the media side of things. Fame and the media can be ruthless, and I quite liked seeing a village girl’s perspective on it all.

What I disliked: Where do I begin? There is so much that is problematic with this story. The main reason is because this is Giovanna’s first story. The writing style is decent, but uses too many exclamation points where it’s not necessary. The flashbacks at the beginning and the conflict that causes the climax feel forced. They felt like they weren’t thought through, or put in for the sheer sake of explaining things that could’ve a) been teased out more, and b) shown more throughout the book. The ending felt far too coincidental altogether. Those last five pages were ridiculously coincidental, to the point of being unbelievable, and it relies on one very pivotal thing: Sophie watching the right thing at the right time. That’s a massive coincidence to make for such a moment to exist between two characters.

The large portion of the characters feel very two dimensional, with the exceptions of Sophie and her mother, but even they lack proper development. The most unbelievable being how closed off from reality Sophie is, even for a village girl. There is no way, in this day and age, she wouldn’t have a laptop of sorts. Plus, I find it unbelievable that Sophie, who has matured into an independent woman, drops everything in her life for Billy. Nobody in their right mind would do that. Yes, Billy’s schedule might be hectic, but quitting your day job and not pursuing anything? No way. Sophie’s paranoia and jealous feelings are explained away by the flashbacks, but again, it grew irksome. If she hated being on set, why stay? Why not find something more to do with your life? Her character felt too spoiled and whiny for me, and I couldn’t stand her after a certain point.

The story felt more like a young adult novel than an adult novel, and it definitely needs work. I’m sure Giovanna’s writing style has improved since, but this is a guilty pleasure read at best. The pivotal moments in this story irked me too much to find this story completely enjoyable, but I did enjoy parts of it, like Molly’s character, or the village life Giovanna wrote about. With some work, this book could’ve been a decent book, but unfortunately it is not.

My rating: 2/5

Me Before You Book Review

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For months, I have longed to buy and read this book. My wish came true when my wonderful cousin bought it for me for Christmas, per my request. I’m so glad she did. I loved the journey these two characters brought me on.

The basic plot follows Louisa Clark, and consequently, Will Traynor. Louisa loses her job, and must find another. Will was involved in an accident that made him a quadriplegic. By chance, Louisa manages to get the job as a carer for Will for 6 months, and the pair enter a turbulent relationship rife with witty remarks and heartfelt confessions. She soon finds out his secret, and tries everything she can to make him change his mind. But is she too late?

First impressions: Holy crap! That ending was so bittersweet. If I could actually cry at books, I would’ve cried. I loved the interaction between Louisa and Will. Their banter was top notch. The story was wonderfully well written too.

What I liked: I loved Louisa and Will’s relationship, because it began by the pair resenting each other, to the pair falling in love, and the relationship was (obviously) the story. I loved the pace, with enough twists to keep you invested, and enough sympathy for Louisa to understand how she felt. The ending was well handled too, which is always a bonus. They could’ve made it too cheesy (don’t get me wrong, there was some cheese, but it was enough to be bearable), and that would’ve ruined the story, in my opinion. Just to mention it again, wonderfully well written. You really heard Louisa’s voice throughout, bonding us with her. I quite liked the occasional changing of perspectives too, adding more depth to Louisa and Will’s bond, and providing a bit of background on Will that Louisa wouldn’t have ever known.

What I disliked: Patrick, which was supposed to be the point. But his character was so lacklustre compared to the other characters. Even Mrs Traynor had more development and meat to her than Patrick. He was just the boyfriend in the background, acting as the obstacle to the plot. I understand why he was necessary, but god, give him some more… substance.

The story was beautifully crafted. The characterisations were believable and spot on. The topics handled with care and showing a good portrayal of them. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and would highly recommend this bittersweet love story, because it truly was a journey.

My rating: 5/5

Slight spoilers in the next paragraph!

Extra: I want to add about how well they handled disability and the whole Euthanasia argument. Typically, films and TV shows aren’t all that great at portraying disability, but this story really showed the gritty sides of a disability, along with people’s typical reactions to it. Euthanasia is a tough subject to talk about, but it has such dividing views about it all. Including those real life cases certainly helped the story, and argument too. I was very impressed with the way it was handled.

ICCA Quarter Final

After last year’s fantastic ICCA semi final held at Imperial College, I decided I had to go to the ICCAs again. This time, Imperial College hosted the quarter finals instead, because the competing a cappella groups have expanded in the UK that they have to have three separate quarter finals. The semi final will certainly be an interesting evening indeed.

To clarify, the ICCA (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) is a competition wherein a cappella groups compete to be announced the best collegiate a cappella group. The competition was a solely American competition, but three years ago, they opened the competition up to the UK. Each group is scored based on their arrangements and choreography, and those points determine whether they go into the semi final or not.

For the quarter finals, I saw five spectacular groups perform, but unfortunately, only two could go forward. The groups, in order, were The Imperialles, The Scopes, Surcery, The Rolling Tones and Cadenza.

Each provided a different unique set to the competition. The Imperialles used their range of voices to sing some powerful tunes. The Scopes made an explosive start, and used the dynamic of both males and females to create tension within the songs. Surcery were the most impressive, since they combined modern pop song with Hindi songs, and did a pop mashup towards the end of their set. Cadenza had good choreography with their good song choices. I’ve seen The Rolling Tones set a few times, and each time, I love it as much as the last. The choreography was still superb, and the arrangements were still stunning.

The Rolling Tones won the ICCA quarter final, and Candenza came second, meaning they’ll both move forward. The Scopes came third. The other two places weren’t mentioned.

I’m so glad The Rolling Tones won. They thoroughly deserved to. They obviously put in the time and effort to ensure their set is as phenomenal as they could make it. Plus, their choreography is inventive, and different from the typical a cappella moves. Not to mention how beautiful their voices sounded when they sang.

The half time entertainment were Techtonics, and I won’t lie, I have become obsessed with them. Their chemistry, energy and set are phenomenal. They seem to improve every time I watch them. Words cannot do justice to how good these guys are. They just have something unique about them, and if you ever get the chance, go and see them live. You won’t regret it.

It was a great night. I love attending a cappella events, because you really get to see what you can do with just your voice and body. It’s truly remarkable.

Congratulations The Rolling Tones and Cadenza, and I look forward to watching you in the semi final.