Antoine has been involved in music for most of his life, probably since he picked up the cello at the start of primary school because it seemed a good idea to bag the only instrument you were allowed to play sitting down (he still stands, if you’ll pardon the pun, by that decision). He has played in many orchestras and ensembles nationwide, and in 2007 he somehow managed to pick up a Recital Diploma with distinction, despite realising halfway through the exam that he had forgotten some of his music and it all being generally highly embarrassing.
He joined his first quartet in sixth form, and it has pretty much been a story of accelerating enthusiasm from there. In 2008 he headed to the University of Manchester and began a music degree, and in his second year he founded the Manchester University Barbershop Chorus, which now boasts a membership of 30+ university singers and regularly puts on concerts to wide acclaim (and occasionally deafens people at house parties). He also wrote a dissertation on the social contexts of barbershop activities, which was met by the academic community with a general sense of bemusement.
Since graduating in summer 2011, he has been concerned about the impact of a working life on his barbershop activities, but, being a music graduate, he needn’t have worried. He now fills his ample spare time by honing and practising his teach track craft, and by singing with a number of choruses and quartets, including the Spirit of Harmony and Hallmark of Harmony choruses, as well as being the vice-chair and secretary of the National Barbershop Youth Chorus. In November 2011 his quartet, Mach 4, came 1st in the national quartet preliminary contest, and he will be travelling with them to Portland to compete in the international collegiate contest in summer 2012.
Alex’s musical origins reportedly date back to when he used to brighten up family walks by fashioning a toy violin out of two sticks. This was a reasonably unambiguous indication of instrumental ambitions as far as they go, but since there was no space in the school violin class, his parents sought to channel his creative potential through piano lessons instead. Thankfully Alex’s attention span was (and arguably still is) short enough for the change not really to matter all that much, to the point where he was probably slightly confused when he found himself getting violin lessons too when a space opened up a few weeks later.
Despite continuing with both instruments in many guises to this day, it was quickly clear that Alex’s real passion lay in composing and arranging. The arrival of music software opened up a myriad of possibilities, enabling wildly ambitious projects to be realised in full glorious 128-polyphony MIDI sounds. Some time later, Alex came to the realisation that real people could perform his arrangements too, so long as, for example, some care is taken to limit the number of pedal changes required in the Harp 3 part. He composed for string quintets, choirs, funk rock groups and other outfits at school, picking up a number of awards along the way.
University life saw the final piece of the puzzle fall into place when Alex discovered a cappella, through the combined influences of the National Barbershop Youth Chorus (for which he is now the treasurer), the Oxford University jazz a cappella group The Oxford Gargoyles (for which he was the musical director) and barbershop videos on youtube, causing him to rethink his implicit assumption that it’s not cool for teenage boys to sing. Having set about learning the arts of barbershop and jazz harmony, Alex began arranging exclusively for vocal groups, picking up the ‘best arrangement’ award at the UK student a cappella championships two years running with The Oxford Gargoyles. They also took his arrangements to the US and the Edinburgh Festival, picking up multiple 5 star reviews for their performances there. Sending out a barbershop arrangement to a mailing list led to his first commission, and as the word spread, Alex found himself with a number of exciting projects for a variety of different groups. His free time from a life of academia (and let’s be honest, there’s a fair bit) is spent either arranging or singing with his quartet Mach 4, who you’ve probably already read about. Well done for reading this far!