BWW Feature: VOCTAVE Soars Into The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre In Broken Arrow
(Full disclosure, Voctave's high soprano Kate Lott is one of Ronn's college buddies from their time together at Shenandoah Conservatory!
Ronn Burton: I've heard everyone in Voctave has been involved in Disneyworld's Voices Of Liberty at some point. But was there any other criteria or spark that brought this particular group of singers together?
Jamey Ray: Everyone was in Voices of Liberty at some point, but it was a combination of that, session work and other outside projects that helped me find everyone for the group.
Ronn Burton: How do you choose and arrange your material? Is it a collaborative process with the whole group? Is there a musical "leader" so to speak?
Jamey Ray: We love getting together to discuss thoughts and ideas for song titles when we do new projects and usually end up with about 50 songs too many for an album. We are in that process right now for the next album! After that, I will start to weed through and see what songs speak to me as the arranger and where certain voices can be featured and try to come up with a decent balance for the album. I will then arrange all the music, write all the parts down, record a demo and send it to the group. We will rehearse through the songs, giving me a chance to hear and adjust anything we feel needs some work and then we take it into the studio to record it.
Ronn Burton: With a capella music more popular than ever before, thanks to the Pitch Perfect movies and competition shows like The Sing Off, a capella groups are making a name for themselves, with artists like Home Free, Straight No Chaser, and of course Pentatonix. What makes Voctave unique? How would you describe your particular approach to a capella music? What sets you apart artistically?
Jamey Ray: Voctave is definitely unique because all of the previous groups listed have very similar styles to each other. We are huge fans of all of the groups listed and appreciate their great talents and style. However, Voctave almost has its own style. While there are pop elements and legit elements and choral elements, they all come together to create our style that basically crosses multiple genre lines. We have 8 year old fans, and 80 year fans and everything in between. We love that families can come to our shows and parents can hear songs that excite them and children hear songs that are just for them as well. Between Broadway, Disney and jazz, we have things for everyone. Also, something that does make Voctave unique is the vast vocal range of the group. Just one song in our show can cover almost 5 full octaves. People are always blown away by the high notes and the low notes. I mean, Kate sings two high F's in the very first song, if that doesn't grab people, I don't know what will.
Ronn Burton: Social media and videos have helped spread your talent around the world. What's one of the differences performing for a live audience vs. making a recording? Do you change your arrangements, dynamics, or approach to the songs?
Jamey Ray: We love singing together, whether it is in a studio or rehearsing in a practice room or someone's home, but what makes what we do special is getting to have the energy of a live audience. I think that is true for every artist for all of time. There is a different energy and excitement you get when you are able to see how people are reacting to what it is you are creating in real time. The arrangements are identical to the recording, but the performance of it is what can shift because our audience is different every night and it's our job to figure out the best way to communicate with the audience that sits in front of us each night.
KATE LOTT: Besides adding a couple of breaths for live performance, they are identical. We sound a lot like our albums and people love that.
Ronn Burton: Can I hear a little from each of you about your musical background? What draws you to a capella music specifically? Do you have other musical interests or aspirations for other types of performing?
Jamey Ray: Personally, I have been singing for most of my life. I started in the Florida Boychoir and never stopped. I have always been a fan of choral music and that has had a huge impact on my life and my writing. I currently am a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL where I get to teach music theory and music production to really talented students and only hope I can give them the necessary tools to be able to go out and do the things they always dreamed of, just like I'm getting to do.
KATE LOTT: I grew up doing musical theatre and was in choir at church and throughout my schooling. I got a BFA in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah University. I started a cappella music when I was hired Full Time into Voices of Liberty at Walt Disney World. I love it. It's a unique art form. I will always love Musical Theatre and still hope to do more.
Now let's talk about this concert. Voctave blew me away with the simplicity and pure power of their heartfelt harmonies. With an evening ranging from Disney hits to Jazz standards and Broadway classics, Voctave gave the audience chills time and again, song after song. Kicking off the night with their Disney "Fly" medley - featuring "You Can Fly," "Let's Go Fly A Kite," and "Second Star To The Right" - Voctave had the crowd soaring from the first moment. Other highlights of the night included jazz treasures like "Orange Colored Sky," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and "Moon River." Broadway fans were treated to old chestnuts like "Anything You Can Do" from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN - this hilarious Battle of the Sexes multiplied by five as the men faced off against the women! - and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" from THE WIZARD OF OZ. One of my favorite numbers from the night was the charming, heartwarming magic of Mr. Rogers' "Won't You Be My Neighbor" - whose complicated harmonies and sophisticated chords were accentuated by Jamey Ray's arrangement and respect for Fred Rogers' jazz-influenced musicianship. Voctave didn't forget their "Mouse-y" roots, though - Disney fans were treated to medleys and solos of favorites like "How Far I'll Go," "Zip A Dee Do Dah," "Under The Sea," "Just Can't Wait To Be King," and "Be Our Guest."
Though Voctave's blending and intricate arrangements are always front and center, each member of the ensemble got a moment to shine, from Jamey Ray's easy charm as our host, to Kurt von Schmittou's zany antics, and Kate Lott's awe-inspiring high notes. (Seriously, the vocal control Ms. Lott displays by returning to the stratosphere song after song is breathtaking. She makes it look easy, but any musician knows it takes masterful control to make something that challenging seem so effortless.) One of my favorite numbers from the night was when each female member was given the chance to shine in the "Disney Princess Medley," including "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Once Upon A Dream," "Part Of Your World," "Reflection," and "Colors Of The Wind," ...seriously, these ladies can "sang!" Two powerful showstoppers closed out each act of the show - E.J. Cardona's sky-rocketing tenor wowed the crowd with "Being Alive" from COMPANY, and Tiffany Coburn's gutsy belt shook the rafters with "The Impossible Dream" from MAN OF LA MANCHA.
Voctave's masterful musicianship can be enjoyed from their recordings and videos, but that's nothing compared to the spine-tingling experience of hearing them live in-person. Their most recent tour is now concluded, but be sure to follow them on social media and visit their website regularly to see when they might be coming to your area next. You won't want to miss them.
High Soprano: Kate Lott. Soprano: Tiffany Coburn, Ashley Espinoza. Alto: Sarah Whittemore, Chrystal Johnson. High Tenor: E.J. Cardona. Tenor: Jamey Ray. Baritone: Kurt von Schmittou. Bass: J.C. Fullerton, Karl Hudson.
Tickets, recordings, and more info at www.voctave.com