The Idea of North

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Hailed as Australia’s leading a capella group, The Idea of North (TION) have performed worldwide, released ARIA award-winning albums, and will be kicking off the 2019 Concert Season for Musica Viva Armidale and New England Conservatorium on Thursday 4th April in the Armidale Town Hall. 

TION’s Nick Begbie spoke to us about the upcoming performance, their music, and why they’re looking forward to their concert in Armidale, featuring NECOM’s own New England Singers Choir.

Your concert repertoire is incredibly diverse. What can audiences look forward to?

The main reason for the breadth of music in our repertoire is a recognition of the fact that vocal textures are more similar to each other than different instruments, so we have always tried to maintain a repertoire that is inherently sonically diverse. That said, the sounds and colours we explore with our voices is vast, so one thing the audience can look forward to is hearing voices perform in ways they’ve never heard before – emulating instruments, colour tone ranging from dark to delightfully twangy, and a whole range of emotions. We aim to extract both laughter and tears from our audiences!

What advice would you offer to young musicians?

Woah! That’s a huge question. We’d have to say that in spite of the limited importance placed on the arts by certain facets of our government, the arts is Australia’s cultural lifeline, and we NEED you! Know that what you’re doing is of benefit to Australia and its collective psyche. And it’s also important for you, so stick it out. You will be rewarded greatly!

You will be performing with New England Singers, Armidale’s own award-winning choir. What’s it like working with choirs and incorporating them into your performances?

We LOVE working with other vocal ensembles, and often seek out choirs to produce multiple-bill performances. We love working with a range of choirs, so you can’t imagine how much we’re looking forward to working with an award-winning choir from Armidale.

What are your favourite musical styles to perform? Most definitely jazz. Oh, and pop. Hmmm, comedy as well. And folk music!

From your amazing output, do you have one or two favourite “gems” that you love to perform?

I think our “favourites” are different for each of us, but often they’re songs that are relatively new in the repertoire. For me, at the moment, my favourites are Not Perfect by Tim Minchin, and a beautiful original written by our alto Naomi Crellin, called Alice in the Underground.

Clever arrangers are often overshadowed by their composing counterparts. How important is the skill of arranging in your line of performance?

I believe that one of the most important things to make or break a group of this instrumentation (all voice) is the arranging. Naomi is also our musical director and main arranger, and I believe one of the best small-group a cappella vocal arrangers in the world. She’s constantly being commissioned by very well known groups on the other side of the world to arrange pieces for them, and I also feel a huge part of our success and appeal lies in her beautiful and creative arranging.

You’ve toured internationally, released more than a dozen albums and won ARIA awards; what do you enjoy most about touring the country and performing for regional audiences?

The thing that we really love about touring to regional Australia is it often takes us to new places, but the best thing is how appreciative regional audiences are – they come along expecting to have a great time; whereas, on occasion, more “metro” audiences have been known to come along expecting more to BE entertained by us … it’s a very subtle, but important distinction. The performance process is two-way, and we feel like regional audiences really get on board with us.

We are REALLY looking forward to coming!


Musica Viva Armidale and New England Conservatorium present The Idea of North.
Where: Armidale Town Hall.
When: 7pm, 4th March.

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