Ultimate Artists Showcase

Hatfield University Campus

Sunday 23 August 2015

UA run teaching courses for aspiring singers, taking them through vocal coaching, presentation, microphone technique, musical theatre, song selection and composition and much, much more – in fact, everything us roughnecked muso’s had to teach ourselves….. this event was the culmination of a course which by all accounts was pretty intense for the students BUT thoroughly rewarding. The press folk attending had an enjoyable evening ( and excellent dinner) watching the final presentation by the singers – all ages and all young – justifying the great inspiration from the tutors and all involved in hosting the event…

The venue is a fantastic modern concert hall with upper floors, bars, effective lighting, plenty of room. The campus is in the middle of nowhere, away from the town of Hatfield and you would have no idea it was there unless you visited the site.

The four piece house hand were first class, giving every act a good musical backdrop and bringing out the dynamics of each number performed. Josh, one of the tutors did a grand job of hosting the show – even if every third word he uttered was ‘Guys!’ – and was genuinely fired up by the results of his positive approach to getting the best out of everybody. Even if, as he remarked, they didn’t realise they had it in them ! Guest tutors and the team’s own Sheena Ladwa had clearly built up an affectionate rapport with all the youngsters and indeed their families and supporters, speaking to several of them. Many of the students seemed born to emote and perform ; it seems that many of them had visited from Malta, where Josh teaches sometimes. This is very much pop / modern R&B in musical scope, so all or any of these singers could be on your radio or TV in the near. Nothing from X Factor comes near to the standard attained tonight, I felt a lot of the singers could walk straight on to a West End stage and rip it up. Being from a more rock/ roots background, I had not heard many of the songs too much ; inevitably a couple of numbers here were from the songbook of dreary high-whiner Sam Smith, but sounded better performed by these rising stars. There was not one entrant who failed to impress in at least a couple of ways. Luckily this time, I was not one of the judges but those at the table had a tough time sorting out an order of merit, I imagine. I know Ray from Time Out and Line from iSing magazine were taken with a lot of what they heard and saw. As a fashion disaster, I cannot comment with any authority on what was worn on stage, but to me the finery was striking and entirely appropriate to the night. It felt special, it was special…..

Before the main part of the show we were treated to several individuals’ performances from the muscle theatre side of the course, mentors present and playing piano, too. Without exception these were exceptional, crisply delivered and not too syrupy or overdone. This set a classy tone for the night. Any fears of a Liza Minelli wallow-fest were fast disappearing, for me. I am not a fan of musicals though I have seen plenty, including the original Rocky Horror Show in the Kings Road and the pre-Travolta Grease at Drury Lane and starring Richard Gere.

Guest act was a trio of junior rockers – combined age 31! – calling themselves Magician’s Nephew. They were upfront with song announcements – two steps short of cocky – and clearly proud of their ‘many originals’. Singing with Busted-style enthusiasm and playing fine keyboards, dynamic guitar and astonishingly tuneful and driven sax, the trio gave us Monday Morning, Ice Cream, Superhero, Roll Over Beethoven and We Will Rock You, to sustained applause and a general thumbs up from the audience. Proud Dad lurked in the background….blimey, imagine being in a family where your preferred music is not treated with disdain and contempt!

A songwriting spot showed a lot of effort by the teams allocated tracks to work with and to pitch to established stars. A good, practical exercise.

Shall I say something about the performers I saw? OK then :

Nuala Bennett Wilford – Aristocrat – redhead, acoustic guitar, Tracy Chapman style song, style above diction at times

Lana Petrovic – Hallelujah – Laughing Lenny Cohen song, but maybe heard via Jeff Buckley ? Slovenian, age 15! sincerely delivered

Luena Martinez – Vogue – we were all ordered onto our feet. Spirited but it ain’t much of a song. She can sing, however

Christina Malley McKenna – Getting In The Way. Goth look, two backing singers. Stunning delivery of a funky Jill Scott cut.

Annalise Mifsud – Oh Had I A Golden Thread. Fresh voice, organ waltz. Brave choice and effective

Jake Camilleri – Sam Smith song I think. Sung very well for all that

Christian Aquilina- Latch /Ordinary People. Age 17. Strong voice but stay off the falsetto!

Larissa Borg – My Heart Belongs To Daddy. Lounge song purred out to perfection, with the band excelling

Victoria Sciberras – Feeling Good. Slightly mannered but tuneful delivery. Ace pvc mini dress in Battenburg cake colours. So much potential, here. Already looks like a pop star

Aiden Cassar – Almost is Never Enough. Deep rich voice, not unlike the great Billy Fury PLUS a cool high-range too! Worked a treat

Jasmine Abela – I Care. Fine neo-soul voice, great movement in tiny black dress. A natural

Chloe Hine – Beat The Bullies. Protest song from own experience, so heartfelt but for me a bit right-on. I am sure she can do more, though as she is writing

Whatever the many sponsors eg Century Soho, Spirit of London Awards and others were expecting, the high standard on display here must have justified their help and involvement. I was pleasantly surprised

Pete Sargeant

Thanks Sheena, Sam, Adrian

UA – slogan ‘More Than Music’ can be investigated on www.ultimateartistsuk.com