Dean Close singing teacher, Ben Sawyer, has been sharing his knowledge and talent on the brand new Sky One show, Sing: Ultimate A Capella. Ben is one of the esteemed judges on the show, presented by Cat Deeley, where the grand prize for the winning vocal group is the opportunity to record an album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios and release a single in time for Christmas.
At Dean Close, Ben runs two vocal groups; Close Harmony, a pupil a capella group and DC Voices, a community choir. He is also the Vocal Tutor for the Schola Cantorum, the Tewkesbury Abbey choristers. On top of his many School commitments, Ben is part of an a capella group himself, The Songmen, an international, multi-award winning professional a cappella ensemble. It was through his success with The Songmen that Ben was invited to be a judge on the new TV show.
Having recovered from his initial shock and excitement, Ben said, “The thing that made me say ‘yes’ was that the producer I spoke to went to great lengths to explain that this was no ordinary TV talent show. This was all about the groups and designed to be a wholly positive experience for everyone. No ‘mean judges’ here, just a group of five experienced professionals that would listen to each performance and give marks accordingly, so the singing very much came first.”
Ben’s fellow judges are; Rachel Mason, who ran an award-winning Show Choir, toured internationally and judged competitions across the world; Aaron Lee Lambert, an actor on the West End and a cappella singer at Yale University; Joanna L’Estrange, former director of The Swingle Singers and a renowned jazz and session singer; Carol Pemberton MBE, founder of ‘Black Voices’, a female group based in Birmingham. Also joining the panel will be Old Decanian Emma Brain-Gabbott, member of The Sixteen, ready to stand in if any of the judges fall ill. Each judge has their own individual style and expertise and will be looking for something different in an a cappella performance.
‘Sing: Ultimate A Cappella’ really is 100% a cappella, right down to the intro music. In fact, the house band for the show is an a cappella group: the brilliant ‘Sons of Pitches’. One of the most versatile groups around, with any number of them able to take a solo lead at any given time. “One of their biggest challenges was the link music, where they would have to sing a six-second snippet of a song to introduce the next slot. Not easy, but always done superbly!” Ben enthused. “The greatest thing about music is the friends you pick up along the way, and through ‘Sing: Ultimate A Cappella’, I have another group of great friends who have shared with me in this wonderful experience!”
Sing: Ultimate A Cappella’ airs on Friday 6 October at 9pm, on Sky 1 and NOW TV.
Ben and Old Decanian Emma Brain-Gabbott The judging panel with presenter Cat Deeley