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ReVoice! 2014: collaboration is a key to success

Bruce Lindsay By

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The ReVoice! Festival—a celebration of the human voice—is five years old in 2014. Happy Birthday congratulations are in order for the London based festival—this milestone anniversary is an indication of its success and of the wealth of vocalists in the jazz world and beyond. From small beginnings (just five concerts) in 2010 the festival has grown year on year. The 2014 festival program, running from 9-20 October, includes a total of 26 performances across 12 nights in four different venues. Its headliners include Rebecca Parris, Carmen Lundy, Ian Shaw and Claire Martin. It also reaches out beyond London for the first time.

The ReVoice! Festival's success is due to many factors: intelligent programming, audience-friendly venues and talented and entertaining performers are all crucial. So, too, is the dynamism of the festival's founder and director, Georgia Mancio—herself one of the UK scene's top singers. One theme comes across particularly strongly, encompassing performance, organisation and programming—collaboration. It's a theme that Mancio was only too happy to discuss, as were two of the 2014 festival's stars—British pianist and singer Joe Stilgoe and American vocalist and percussionist Vinx.

As usual, the Pizza Express jazz club in Soho's Dean Street is the ReVoice! Festival's central venue—according to Mancio ..."the festival wouldn't happen without the Pizza Express and Ross Dines, he's got years of experience as a promoter." Mancio and Dines have worked together to develop the festival since its inception. Unlike many larger festivals, ReVoice! receives no public funding.

The festival closes with a night at another iconic London venue, the 606 Club: it also moves out of London, with shows at the Watermill Jazz Club in Dorking and the Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds. "There were quite a few possible venues," says Mancio, "but logistics intervene and it wasn't possible to program them all. The Watermill jumped on board immediately, very straightforward. The Bury St Edmunds gig came about very organically. Chris Ingham, the pianist, invited me to do my Antonio Carlos Jobim show at the Hunter Club a little while ago. The audience was phenomenal—I just wanted to put them in my pocket and take them to my other gigs. Chris suggested I came back to do part two of the show. I suggested coming to the club as part of ReVoice! instead, with Chris as my collaborator: everything was planned in a couple of hours, it was a dream! The out of London thing is important, not just because the scene is national but also in terms of building the ReVoice! brand. I'm dipping my toe in the water, we'll see how it develops."

From the beginning, a central element of the ReVoice! Festival has been Mancio's own musical collaborations: a bewildering array of duo performances with UK musicians which she has delivered in support of headline acts from around the world. In the 2014 festival Mancio will give another series of performances, with eight different collaborators including pianists Robin Aspland, Dave Newton and Andrew McCormack, guitarist Colin Oxley and bassist Michael Janisch.

In 2014 Mancio has chosen to work with a mix of old and new collaborators. "The hardest thing is deciding who not to work with. There's so much choice. For practical reasons I tend to collaborate with London-based musicians because we need to get together, rehearse. Travelling long distances to do that isn't possible for me. It's great to work with musicians I know I have a rapport with. I also push myself to work with new partnerships. When you play with someone for the first time it's such a great experience, so freeing. You have to listen very quickly, respond very quickly. I think duo collaborations are very pure, the conversation is direct." She keeps her sets short, around 30 minutes, conscious of the issues that can arise when opening for headliners. "You're playing to an audience that's come to see the star. You've got very little time to showcase yourself, to get across and win over an audience that's waiting to see someone else. For me, it's the main challenge of ReVoice!."

With such an array of partnerships, in just a couple of weeks, Mancio isn't planning on making every set list unique. "The first year I didn't repeat anything, but that was just five nights. Mostly the set lists are pretty different. Some songs lend themselves to some collaborations better than others. The show in Bury St Edmunds, with Gabrielle Ducomble headlining, is a Latin themed night, but the others are open to mix of songs and styles."

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