Nearing the end of my time as Exeposé Online’s Music Editor, I am feeling suitably nostalgic. Reflecting on one of the most important things I have learnt as a Music Editor, I am here to tell you that quite often the hidden beauties of Exeter’s music scene are not restricted to the tiny stage of the Cavern but within our own musical societies.
Tell me a little bit about Thursday night?
Every year EUJO collaborate with Soul Choir. They each do their own sets and then get together for a finale. There’s a massive stand-up crowd and everyone gets the chance to dance which is nice because a lot of soul choir gigs are done sitting down. They both attract really big audiences so it makes sense to do it in the Phoenix. It is really easy to bring it all together. The transition is really easy and really fun.
Is EUJO purely instrumental then? And is it generally traditional jazz or modern covers?
EUJO is a 20 piece band with two singers and a classic set will be half instrumental and half vocal. We do all the 1920’s swing kind of stuff up to 80s power-funk. We recently got into doing covers of modern songs such as Radiohead and Oasis and stuff.
[Ears prick] Radiohead eh? How does that translate into jazz?
‘Everything in its Right Place’ is the cover we did. Luckily there was already a piece out there that someone had arranged for us. It just worked really well with all the multiple layers that the piece has. We have a rhythm guitar so it still had all of the original elements in there and a lot of the synth stuff could be played through the saxophones.
So, how many people are in the soul choir?
There are 46 of us and a band of 4. The style ranges from Tina Turner to Queen. We do modern songs too with a soul twist on them.
What are your favourite ones to play?
Somebody to Love – It is such a complex song and the choir nails it every single time. It is my favourite because it is the hardest song to arrange and rehearse.
Is it hard to organise a group which is so large?
EUJO: It is hard because we rehearse 2 days a week and we are very social group. When people get together and they haven’t seen each other for two days they like to chat a lot!
Soul Choir: It is the same with the soul choir, we’ve been in it for 3 years now and we think that we’ve got it to the best it can possibly be. And we’ve kept it fun too, we don’t like shouting too much!
What is the community like?
It is great. We have a Social Sec and she is brilliant. She really takes the time to make sure she knows everyone well and makes sure that people attend as many socials as they possibly can. It just makes it such a fun rehearsing space. Everyone gets along brilliantly and when you sing together at a gig it is the best thing. It is most supportive society I have ever been in. There is often a lot of competition within musical university societies but soul choir doesn’t feel like that, nobody is against each other. Everyone is there to sing and that is it.
What does ‘soul’ mean to you?
Putting a lot of your heart and emotion. You could think about it in terms of melody and the fundamental music but it is more to do with the way you sing it and the energy.
Is movement part of it?
We have the traditional step flick and we have a very small amount of choreography, watch out for it!
What is your favourite venue to play?
EUJO: We have our residency at Monkey Suit which is always a good crowd. Exeter Castle is very interesting too.
Soul Choir: It has to be the Phoenix. Everyone is having so much fun and it feels like a proper concert. We also have our charity/community based gig at the lodge care-home. It is always such a feel-good gig
What is the audition process like?
Soul Choir: We have 150 people every year going for 40 places. You have to say no to a lot of people unfortunately. It does serve as a chance for the new committee to spend some time together. We all auditioned, we know that it is nerve racking and we try to be as open and accommodating as possible. We make sure that we clap every time, it gives people much more confidence. Sometimes you don’t hear people if they don’t go for solos and when they re-audition you realise how amazing they actually are.
EUJO: EUJO is quite funny. We have 90 people going for audition, most are saxophones and we only have 4 saxophone places. It gets quite competitive. This year we introduced deputy players: cracking players that just missed out. We have a lot of singing auditions and only 2 places. We have many rounds of audition and the last one is a band vote – I feel worst for them.
Lewis Norman, Online Music Editor