Naked Choir winners Sons of Pitches have just finished their first UK tour on a high in Sheffield - and there were some familiar faces in the City Hall audience.
Jamie Hughes’ mum Kate Hodges is from Dronfield Woodhouse but moved with Jamie’s dad to Bristol before he was born
Some of his cousins and his grandparents Pat and Lol Hodges live in Dronfield Woodhouse, so they were in the front row for the packed City Hall Ballroom show.
The six likeable lads met at Birmingham University and now all are performing full-time, except for beatboxer Midé Naike.
He’s just found out that he passed the third year of his pharmacy masters degree and is looking forward to combining his final year with touring and recording.
The group became an instant hit on Gareth Malone’s latest TV choir quest with their witty a cappella covers of new and old pop hits.
Jamie said: “We gave up our job mid-October, November time and plunged into this as a career. We’re trying to make a go of it. It was tricky to start off with but now during this tour hopefully things will pick up for us.
“It’s a dream that prancing around on stage is our job..”
The tour sold out two-thirds of its dates and was so successful that another is planned for the autumn. The nearest date to Sheffield is the Manchester RNCM Concert Hall on November 7.
They also have an album out in September.
Their popularity has taken the group by surprise. Jamie said: “We’d forgotten it was on prime-time TV. We had a ridiculously better reaction to the tour than we’d anticipated. We didn't know how it was going to go.
“There's all different ages of people as well. We don't really cater for one audience. We had a four-year-old in Derby and an 86-year-old.
They’re still surprised to be recognised by fans, too.
Joe Hinds said: “We got recognised while we were at a service station. We saw reduced bacon and eggs for 20p and these people came across for a photograph.
“We thought they wanted to take a picture of the bacon and eggs as they were so cheap!”
Lots of youngsters want to be able to beatbox like Midé, so he gave us some tips.
“Try and develop good rhythm first, trying to identify the rhythms in songs. The sounds come later. Once you’ve got that in place, practise using whatever random words to develop that rhythm.
“There’s loads of YouTube tutorials, learn the sounds from there and put them into your rhythms.”
It took Midé four years of solid practising to get as expert as he is now. His solo slot in the live show is truly jaw-dropping as he produces so many sounds and beats all at once.
The group have become known for their clever videos for songs such as Little Mix’s hit Move. They can’t use that visual trickery on stage, so how do you make six guys singing look interesting?
Jamie said: “The thing we’re proudest of is that our energy comes across and we really look like we’re enjoying it. Then there’s the way we move on stage and the idiosyncracies of the gestures we all make with our hands.
“People are hearing something with lots of notes and rhythms. We try our best to make it visually interesting.”
Gareth Malone is still in touch with the Sons and came to see one of their London shows.
Joe said: “He gave us a bit of feedback, which was mainly positive. He stood around and chatted to use afterwards.They’re already filming the next series of The Naked Choir.
“Lots of people queued to get a picture with him and he waited until he’d spoken to all of them.”
The Naked Choir winners were on fine form on the final date of their first-ever tour, showing the combination of multi-layered a cappella singing and beats and laid-back charm that made them such a TV hit.
After a sung introduction, they began their set with Little Mix cover Move, whose clever video has been a big hit, and went into their version of Justin Bieber’s Sorry.
Both are great showcases for their clever arrangements, with so much going on at the same time combining to make a far bigger noise than seems possible for six guys using only their voices, with beats and noises blended into the music.
They make it all look so easy, saying their main worry was to avoid finding out the England match score (wasn’t worth the effort, lads). Apart from a lot of hard work, their secret is that they’re having fun.
To show off their skills, they involved the audience in picking a topic for an improvised song in a folk style, which naturally involved Henderson’s Relish and chip butties (not THAT song, though).
Later, they pulled an audience member, Phil Butterworth, on stage and he delighted in playing along with the maracas, wearing a sombrero and poncho, to the song Tequila.
One of the highlights of the first half was a version of Buddy Holly’s song True Love Ways and they also covered dubstep with a version of She’s a Maniac, plus a witty take on Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights.
Pretending to be offended by being called a boy band, they went on to do a medley of 30 years of boy band songs. Even PJ and Duncan got a lookiin.
Other highlights included their 10-genre version of Hanson’s Mmm Bop, Blondie’s Heart of Glass and the medley of Toxic and Annie’s Song they did on Naked Choir.
We got a little taste of their songwriting talents with Foundations, sung by half the group, before lead beat boxer Midé Naike gave an astounding performance of his skills.
My co-reviewer Reuben, aged eight, declared it “best thing ever!”, adding that Sorry was his favourite song. Hope he got up for school the next day...