Happy International Women’s Day to Wonder Women Everywhere!

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The Original 1941 Wonder Woman!

In ‘Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines’, a documentary film screened to launch the Birds Eye View Film Festival, juice learned that the creator of ‘Wonder Woman’, William Moulton Marston, in 1941, envisaged a world 100 years hence that would be entirely ruled by women. Well, we’re not quite there yet girls but there’s still time…

There were so few female role models in the comic books and cartoons when we were growing up during the 1980’s, that we threw ourselves in desperation at the only ones available even if they were in some way compromised or undermined in the way they were controlled by (male) media executives. Both He-man’s sister, She-rah and pop-star/super-spy, Jem were rubbished which we felt was a little harsh as they were all we’d had! But we later bonded over our love of Cheetara from ‘Thundercats’, whose backflips I once tried to imitate in the living room much to my mother’s distress when I fatally wounded her beloved indoor bay tree…

People often ask juice our opinions on gender and music, why they are seemingly so few well-known female conductors/composers, why women are so under-represented in musical compositional history.  We say that, yes, women’s contribution in the history of classical music has been severely neglected and are often still treated very differently by their male counterparts (the Vasily Petrenko incident being a good example of this). We like to commission as many new pieces as we can from female composers, not because they are women, but because their music is amazing. We commission just as many men.

We have faced misconceptions as a group. People often say that they didn’t know what to expect from three young women on stage and that we blew away their pre-conceptions. We once auditioned for a concert series very early in our career and were expecting questions on our programmes and repertoire and instead got asked just one question before being ceremoniously dismissed…why we were all wearing different coloured shoes…

As recently as last Christmas I received a ‘jokey’ comment about juice. After describing our line up, their very first comment was..’Lesbians?’ Because, yes, OBVIOUSLY, the thought of three women wanting to work and perform together without the help of any man is clearly a ridiculous concept and therefore we MUST be passionately in love with each other and MUST be gay.

In the photoshoot for our latest album, (due for release late spring) we had a dilemma. We were all wearing these white chiffon blouses but none of us had thought about the sheerness of the material or how that might affect our choice of bra…After descending rapidly into hysteria during the shoot, we’re now busy editing out any traces of visible nipple (or what I’ve seen rather hilariously described online as ‘smuggle peas’ – I hate peas and would certainly never try and smuggle them anywhere). But this whole episode led to us asking some very interesting questions about how we see ourselves and how women are portrayed or treated differently in the arts.

Last week both Kerry and myself had our music performed by students at Cardiff University and I was interviewed by BBC Radio Wales on the matter of programming works by women. The arguments that concert programmers shouldn’t make female composers ‘tokens’ or that it prejudices against male composers or that gender shouldn’t override artistic merit all seem ridiculous to me when we’ve been in such the vast minority for the best part of nearly 2000 years of classical music history and there have been plenty of male compositional misfires during that period!

Right, now I’ve gotten all that off my chest….(oh, haha.)

Don’t give up the fight!

InTuneLast week heralded two big musical events for us. Firstly, ‘Heal You’, our first ever single was released by Nonclassical to lovely reviews and played on Radio 3′s ‘In Tune’. Listen to the full interview here (Sarah’s on at about 37mins in). Look out for a second single and album release late Spring.

Secondly, we premiered ‘The Girls Who Wished to Marry Stars’, a new work by Luke Styles for juice and contemporary jazz group, Tangent, at LICA, an amazing arts centre at the University of Lancaster. This was the musical premiere, with three dancers being added to the mix for our performances at Southbank and Glasgow in July and August. It tells the Native American story of three young girls who want to get hitched so badly that they fly up into the sky and marry some stars. Unfortunately, the stars don’t seem to match their high expectations and, getting rapidly bored, they gaze longingly down to earth to try and ensnare some new and very different husbands, namely a bear, a snake and a wolverine.

The work is part of a larger project entitled ‘New Music Biennial’ organised by the PRSF supporting 20 new commissions to celebrate the arrival of the Commonwealth Games to the UK. During times of austerity, programmes such as this are vital to our economy, as proven last year by a report that said the Arts is worth more than £850m to the UK (read it in full here). Now, my usual juice blogs are normally full of light-hearted revelry…and this one will be no different in some respects! However, I feel so passionately about the following topic that I had to commit fingers to keypad.

Now, being performed simultaneously in the theatre next door, that very same evening, was ‘The Vagina Monologues’, an annual student event run to raise money to end violence against women and girls. In its twelfth year, a fantastic achievement, we discovered that it very nearly didn’t start at all, the University initially saying that the word ‘vagina’ had no place being displayed anywhere in public on campus or in university buildings. My reaction to hearing this was to make me want to run around screaming the word ‘vagina’ relentlessly (hmmm…maybe I can get it into a juice piece?!). Why would any academic institution be so ridiculous? And how brilliant is it that female students fought against that stupid decision and can now go about happily selling ‘chocolate vagina lollipops’?

However, what is even more ludicrous is that Lancaster University is shutting its Music Department at the end of this year. The ‘management’ had this to say:

“Lancaster recognises the importance of music as a discipline to draw on within the wider arts, and is investing in the arts while retaining disciplinary expertise in music. While there will not be a single major degree in music, there will still be teaching in the broad area of music available across arts degrees at Lancaster. A wealth of UK and international artists of the highest calibre come to Lancaster every year in public programmes of professional theatre, dance, exhibitions and concerts. This will continue in the future.”

Lancaster is not unusual in making this decision. UEA also shut their utterly brilliant Music Department not that long ago, to outcry from musicians all around the country. However, there are many academic institutions bucking the trend, investing and expanding their departments, a good example being the University of Kent .

I will testify that LICA’s Great Hall is a brilliant venue, the front of house team fantastically well-organised and the sound technicians excellent. The public audience were very appreciative…but where were the students? The support that the university management claim they give to the arts centre, failed to materialize. The fact that they had some of the UK’s foremost young artists presenting classical, jazz and contemporary music in their Great Hall should have been something that they celebrated in their University and involved students in heavily. Where is the joy in not doing so?

Lancaster University needs to help its students develop their appreciation of the beauty in the world around them by enabling them to attend music events which inspire them, regardless of their field of study. As many studies have proven, music improves learning, concentration – in short, it makes you brainier! Our own government has even supported this notion, saying:

“Arts and culture strengthen communities, bringing people together and removing social barriers. Involving young people in the arts increases their academic performance, encourages creativity, and supports talent.”

Now, I see the irony in a government stating its support for subjects that it also undermines with funding cuts but it’s even more ironic that UK University administrators see Music departments as dead weight when in fact investing in them would raise not only the University profile but improve academic results.

I feel proud of our achievements in commissioning a great new piece and forming a lasting partnership with a very different ensemble. It breaks my heart to think that students will no longer be able to pursue a musical career by studying at Lancaster when our studies at the University of York formed such a solid foundation for our own.

Juice make waves in U.S.

Our recent trip to Connecticut and NYC in November brought us some fantastic press coverage, the best of which we’ll now proudly display here for all and sundry. We even had an article written about us by Minnesota Public Radio…and we didn’t even GO to Minnesota. Brilliant.

“Juice’s masterful vocal interpretations and a diverse song selection go beyond the act of exploring and deconstructing for the sake of exploring and deconstructing. These talented female vocalists are charismatic and sophisticated musical storytellers, creating situations, characters, and environments by interweaving solos and flawless harmonies.” – WNPR

“Forget what you think you know about a cappella music: London’s Juice Vocal Ensemble is one of the most original groups out there” – WNYC   (for the full radio interview, go HERE)

“Who says you can’t mix pop, folk, experimental, and classical? The Juice Vocal Ensemble certainly doesn’t. These three women not only sing the parts well but have captured a style that is endearing in its deeply dedicated but light-hearted approach…The value in such a group is not only the obvious entertainment appeal to those of us in the audience but to the music world as a whole. Their very existence richly expands repertoire, where it might otherwise be lacking. And when they can throw in the popular and familiar, they do it with a splash” – Seen and Heard International

“Juice Vocal Ensemble are making a cappella cool” – Minnesota Public Radio

 

 

“Yes, we speak Parseltongue…just like Harry Potter”

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We’ve now returned from our U.S. tour and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

First stop was Wesleyan University who looked after us very well indeed! Excited to be staying in the same hotel that both Kevin Costner and Danny DeVito frequented, we treated ourselves to a Hollywood star breakfast of ‘short stack’ pancakes…SHORT?! They were ENORMOUS. I instantly knew that this trip would be a success!

Surrounded by beautiful autumnal colours, we worked with amazing student a cappella groups, sang for 150 high school students and assisted, what seemed to be the entire university football team, learn Sacred Harp songs. We thwarted their attempts to keep us there by locking us in the concert hall by setting off the security alarm…We were also interviewed by NPR for a documentary about the Centre for the Arts at Wesleyan to be broadcast early 2014 so watch this space!
A couple of days later, we were celebrating our arrival in NYC with a spanish brunch of omelettes and Bloody Mary’s and spent a night in watching a cappella movie comedy, ‘Pitch Perfect’. It was so ridiculously brilliant that we were quoting it all week, our favourite words being ‘A-ca-scuse me?’, ‘A-ca-bitches’, ‘A-ca-awkward’ and ‘pitch-slapped’.
We were staying in West Village, just around the corner from where Merce Cunningham had his studio, surrounded by chic bistros and organic coffee shops – check out ‘Grounded’ if you’re ever over there. Their Pumpkin Whoopie Pie is amazing.
After working with composer, Toby Twining, on the new piece he’d written for us (‘Ferrara Redux’), we treated ourselves to a night at the pictures to see the utterly devastating ’12 Years as a Slave’. During the trailers, we were subjected to a sneak-peak of the ‘historical’ film, ‘Pompeii’ staring Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow in Game of Thrones) who opened the scene baring all bar a bit of fur and leather. Being complete GOT’s (and KH) obsessives, our audible gasp caused the entire row of burly blokes in front of us to turn around and start laughing.
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Following a very cold morning walk across the High Line Gardens that follow an old railway line above the city, we made our way to the brilliant ‘SubCulture’ for our first gig. You can read a lovely review of it here.
NY is full of musicians and we were treated to a smorgasbord of styles over the week. The subway buskers are just incredible, a lot more diverse than the ones you see in London. In ONE day, we were treated to ‘The Saw Lady’ (google her!) playing ‘My Heart will go on’ from Titanic on a saw, a classical cellist playing the theme from ‘Star Wars’ incredibly romantically, an accordionist playing Coolio’s 1990′s hit ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, a samba percussion duet playing nothing but empty upturned plastic paint pots, a nearby rubbish bin and the subway floor and what I’ve now worked out was a Chinese Erhu player!
We also went to two gigs. Firstly an american folk night at ‘Jalopy’ in Brooklyn which included blues, klezmer and country songs performed on guitars, banjos, violins, mandolins, double bass and hammer dulcimer. We followed that with a very intense concert of avant-garde vocal music from the brilliant ‘Ekemeles’.
Following an interview on WNYC’s ‘Soundcheck’ with John Schaefer which you can listen to here, we went to the amazing Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. This is a secondhand book store run completely by volunteers to raise money for HIV/Aids charities. We went to this monthly event called ‘Ask Roulette’ in which strangers ask each other any question they want, big or small, in front of a live audience, both in the cafe and on radio. We were simultaneously disappointed/relieved not to get our names pulled out of the bag as the process can be a little intimidating. Questions ranged from ‘What things do you love about the world’ to ‘Chicken or Beef?’.
Our trip finished with a lovely concert in Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, prompting our best quote EVER from audience member 8-year-old Elliot. Having asked his mother whether she thought we knew Harry Potter (being British), on hearing us start ‘Go to sleep you little baby’ with lots of ‘sss’ and ‘sssh’ he exclaimed ‘do they speak Parseltongue?!’. Brilliant.
Composer Tarik O’Regan helped us finish our week in style by taking us out for the most amazing cocktails called ‘Stars and Garters’ and ‘London Maid’ very shortly before our flight back to blighty. VERY VERY SHORTLY. Turned out that our flight was cancelled and we only just made the earlier one…oops! But it turns out that Tarik was right – alcohol DOES help….
We had such a great time and cannot wait to go back – USA! USA! :)
Juice x
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Happy Birthday to juice, Happy Birthday to juice…etc..

picture taken by Dimitri Djuric at Nonclassical studios

picture taken by Dimitri Djuric at Nonclassical studios

10 years. Where did it all go?! We’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time so far, performing new music all over the UK and beyond. Fortunately for us, people seem genuinely surprised to hear our ‘ensemble age’..so we’ve either just not worked hard enough (and kept our youthful glow, haha!) or our effervescent nature powers us through leaving audiences refreshed perhaps? Who knows! Maybe it’s all that gin…

Anyhoo…we had a great party/gig at King’s Place on 13th October accompanied by lots of fantastic musical colleagues who we’ve gigged with over the years. We will forever be in awe of MaJiKer’s amazing circular breathing and Laura Moody’s insanely versatile vocal tessitura. Bea, John and Sam of Firefly Burning played the role of zen-like singing Yodas in our performance of Meredith Monk’s ‘Three Heavens and Hells’. Phil Minton’s performance of John Cage’s ‘Mesostics’ completely blew my mind. Mikhail’s manipulation of his electric juicer during John Cage’s ‘Aria’ was comedy genius and to all those members of the audience who performed with us during the concert – thank you. It truly made our concert a fantastically celebratory and magical occasion.

Here’s to the next 10 years! HURRAH!

lovely pic taken by Sarah's papa!

lovely pic taken by Sarah’s papa!

 

U.S. Tour!

SubCulture - New York

SubCulture – New York

Juice make a rare visit to the U.S. this month to premiere a new work by American composer, Toby Twining. First stop is Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a series of workshops and concert on 9th November, followed by two gigs in New York.

Tuesday 12th November we perform at ultra-hip venue, SubCulture.

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Madison Avenue Presbyterian – New York

Sunday 17th November we perform at the beautiful Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

For ticket info, go to our Future Events page!

Juice Celebrate 10 Years at King’s Place!

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Juice are currently celebrating their 10th Anniversary year and are throwing a party/concert at King’s Place on 13th October. Entitled ‘The Juice Collective’ it features performances from fellow contemporary music nuts, Mikhail Karikis, Laura Moody, MaJiKer, Phil Minton and members of Firefly Burning. Programme includes juicy re-interpretations of famous contemporary classics such as Cathy Berberian’s cartoon strip classic ‘Stripsody’ (pictured above), John Cage’s ‘Aria’ and Meredith Monk’s rarely heard work, ‘Three Heavens and Hells’.

FREE vocal workshop for ticket holders! 2-3.30pm, St Pancras Room

Juice will be leading a free, fun and accessible workshop for people of any vocal ability who have an enthusiastic pair of lungs! Come along to learn brilliant group vocal pieces by Meredith Monk, Cornelius Cardew and John White, which you’ll then perform as part of our 4pm gig!