Singing to the tune of…

In The Pink

Vaguely agreeing to live next door to Miranda (now president of In The Pink) when confused by the balloting system in my naïve fresher days may have been a mistake. However, in return for spending a week in the life of In the Pink, she has agreed to ‘reign herself in’ and limit her plays of her own YouTube channel at top volume.

The opening day of this social experiment involved a lengthy CD recording to past midnight: not what I had in mind when Miranda said I could “spend an evening” with the girls.  Although my loud walking received a critical reception from expert Suzie (apparently I was ruining the recordings), they laid down track after track, overcoming the inconvenience of my presence. Sadly my offers of a post-recording nightcap were refused.

Day two and the girls were busy receiving a stash order. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the new fluorescent pink hoodies before they are revealed to the public at their weekly Saturday busking. The complicated assembly of their promotional materials and flyers proved too much for me, so, still smarting from last night’s rejection, I thought I’d play it cool and withdraw.

Day three was again a flurry of organisation as the girls added the finishing touches to their trip to Berlin. As I nursed my post-Camera hangover, I was baffled to find that Miranda had been up since the ungodly hour of 8am churning out a 5-page itinerary for their upcoming trip to Berlin. The excited shriek of Musical Director Becca Nicholls soon reverberated through the walls, having not seen her partner in crime since their last business meeting over a Hassan’s kebab the night before. Curious to hear a man’s voice emanating from her room, I burst in to find a Skype conference call with a gruff 50 year old man named Horst, going over their collaboration with the interestingly named German group ‘Popkon’ and an intricate lighting plan for the festival.

The day before the Union Ball gig saw a busy rehearsal where the girls polished off their set. Choreography was perfected, though for some reason my input was ignored. However, such concentration quickly descended into madness as social secretary Clare ‘good at what she does’ Joyce revealed that she had bagged a crew date the following week with the fabled Out of the Blue. Following on from a rather successful At Thai with the medic gentlemen from the Ultrasounds (I didn’t ask for details), the girls seemed overjoyed at the prospect of training their sights on new prey.

Friday was the day of In the Pink’s performance at the Union ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Ball. The performance went down well with high levels of poise and professionalism from the girls – a far cry from the ‘banter’ of Thursday’s rehearsal.

Today saw me being wheeled out into the open, accompanying the girls on their new weekly initiative of busking on Cornmarket Street. Surrounded by violent shades of pink in both their attire and the flyers they were thrusting on unsuspecting tourists, they did their best to out-sing a cacophony of noise, largely from a 30-strong military drumming band. Despite a few problems with relative volume, they won the ‘tweens’ over with their passionate rendition of One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ including Camilla Draycott’s lively cries of ‘Come on! Sing along! Get involved!’ This was followed by skipper Miranda’s valiant attempts to woo the school-boy crowd with a charming rendition of Take That’s ‘Never Forget’, reminding all that soon ‘this will be someone else’s dream’. Powerful stuff. After inspiring legions of tourists wandering around Oxford, they decamped to Regent’s Park to prepare their sets for their imminent summer concert and trip to Berlin.

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It’s been a busy week in the life of In the Pink. The last day of my exhausting initiation was more relaxed – the group were planning their trip to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so I was swatted out of another ‘business meeting’ when I tried offering input for their poster design and huge online database. Although the week began with reluctance on my part, enjoying their interesting and diverse range of music and seeing how hard they work has led me to buy a ticket for their summer concert, this time without a group member breathing down my neck! Good luck with the future galz.

In the Pink are singing at their Summer Concert on Monday of 5th week (May 21st), 6:30pm at Wadham Moser Theatre.


Out Of The Blue


 Image: Alex Beckett

Never has the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ been better utilised than in describing OOTB’s rehearsal ethic. For two hours, three nights every week, an unsuspecting college room or chapel becomes the scene of what can only be described as organised chaos, as Musical Director Nick Barstow navigates the general banter of the 15-strong group to ensure that they maintain the high standards we have all come to know and love.

Functioning as a democracy, positions of responsibility and solos are all voted for by the group members themselves.  I arrive at the rehearsal just in time to hear the final round of auditions for the solo of one of their newest arrangements and am then treated to an insight into their choreography preparations.  Many hip thrusts and iconic OOTB ‘points’ later, the boys wind up and head to the JCR bar for a quick nightcap.

Like everyone in Oxford who hasn’t been living under a rock during their degree I have seen OOTB in some form or another, whether it be busking on Cornmarket Street, performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival or stealing the show on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2011. Each time I am struck by the group’s overriding sense of fun.  I had hoped that my week with the group would uncover something juicy – that they all secretly hate each other. Sadly I have to report back that this is not the case. The camaraderie between the boys is endearing and often full of joy. Such regular rehearsals and frequent performances bond the group for life and – while I’m sure that there must be the occasional disputes – their mutual love for singing and performing ensures that the guys are all best friends.

When I next meet with OOTB it is with the smaller executive committee, to discuss forthcoming engagements. Admin takes up a large amount of time – the president spends an average of three hours every morning replying to emails about gig enquiries and fan mail.

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The group tours America every Easter and has enjoyed a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the last five years, and this year seems to be even bigger and better.  Since appearing on Britain’s Got Talent last summer OOTB have performed at all manner of events, ranging from birthday parties, private dinners and weddings to a large-scale public concert in London, a tour of LA and San Francisco and even a personal performance at the request of the Prime Minister.  They won the accolade of ‘Best Overall Performance’ at this year’s Voice Festival UK, and this year have become available for purchase on iTunes.  Not bad, especially considering membership of over half the group changes every year, meaning that they essentially start again from scratch every October!

Discussed in the committee meeting are the preparations for Edinburgh this summer (you can catch the boys at The Assembly throughout August), booking of flights for a two-week tour of Japan in September, and the announcement that somebody wants to fly them out to Hong Kong and Singapore next December, all expenses paid. I sit there speechless – this is so unlike any other student group in the UK: they are verging on an institution.

Following this meeting, we are joined by the rest of the group and travel to a local school to run a  singing/performance workshop with 11-16 year olds.  The initially shy teenagers soon come round to the and get into the swing of learning an arrangement of Katy Perry’s ‘California Girls’.  It is revealed that many of the local schools will be joining OOTB on stage during the second night of their New Theatre concert this year.

In a similar vein it is important to note that – although the group commands a considerable fee for some of its performances – none of the boys themselves see any of the profits.  Rather, money is donated to Oxford’s own Helen & Douglas House, the world’s first children’s hospice.
Following their Thursday rehearsal I shadow the group as they perform at a private dinner.  Cries of ‘Look – it’s Out of the Blue!’ punctuate the walk to the venue, while one member reveals that a group of schoolgirls recently knocked on his door to ask for autographs and signed CDs.  Preparations for this year’s studio album were also underway earlier today, with the basses travelling to a nearby studio.

Friday night sees another event-filled evening, with first a performance at the Oxford Union Ball and then a launch night at Camera to promote their New Theatre concert which this year for the first time is on two consecutive nights, meaning marketing this term is at an all time high.  Don’t miss the ‘flash mob’ performances in bars and pubs and next week the daily lunch time busking sessions begin on Cornmarket Street.

Apparently they all do degrees as well…?

Book tickets now to see Out of the Blue at the New Theatre – 7.30pm, 11th & 12th June