Where it began
The Oxford Gargoyles, Oxford’s only jazz a cappella group, were founded by Divya Seshamani and Hannah Harper in early 1998, the lovechild of a passion for jazz and an excuse to cover up the potentially antisocial habit of breaking into song at the smallest encouragement! The group quickly gathered momentum: their first all-you-can-drink concerts at St John’s Auditorium were soon followed by recording dates, busking sessions, arts festival appearances and performances at college balls. It wasn’t long before The Gargoyles had achieved a reputation for their exciting, innovative and, of course, black-tied performing style.
Way back then
In 2000, The Gargoyles hosted the Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones on their tour of Europe. This helped whet the group’s own appetite for travel, leading to The Gargoyles’ zenith thus far: a 10 day tour to the USA! In a whirlwind trip around the universities of the East Coast and other venues, The Gargoyles joined forces with such groups as The Veritones, The Princeton Tigertones and The Brown University Jabberwocks. The highlight of the trip, however, was the group’s one minute appearance to 10 million viewers as background music for NBC’s Today Weather Forecast!
Over the next few years, the group continued to go from strength to strength. While continuing to put on their traditional concerts, as well as contributing to the huge success of ‘The Big Bang’, the annual a cappella-fest at the town hall, the Gargoyles found time to release several studio albums. In 2005, the group again travelled to the East Coast of America — reunions with The Jabberwocks, Veritones and Tigertones ensued, and joint concerts at the likes of Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Brown interspersed with enthusiastic drinking sessions at their various fraternities and eating clubs!
A rise in popularity
In 2006, The Gargoyles made their first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, putting in on a run of 12 concerts at C Too – to standing ovations, sell-out audiences, and rave reviews (“Sheer Brilliance” — ThreeWeeks; “Altogether perfect a cappella” — EdinburghGuide.com).
In February 2007, the Gargoyles won the Western European category of the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), which meant several breathless weeks of fundraising, wowing a London audience at Holy Trinity Church, South Kensington, and packing our bags for New York to compete in the world final at the Lincoln Center! While across the pond we found time to visit our old pals the Tigertones and perform at Harlem jazz club St Nick’s Pub, supporting singer Michelle Walker.
Once we had got over our jet-lag it was time for a couple of packed end-of-year concerts and balls. August saw the release of our 6th album Sitting on a Rainbow and our second year at the Edinburgh Fringe, of which the Herald said, “The Gargoyles are European Collegiate Champions and it’s easy to hear why”. The Oxford Cherwell called the show “a visual, aural and comedic feast” and advised its readers to “Seize any opportunity to see them”.
The following years saw continued success for The Gargoyles but another huge success was in 2010 when the group won The Voice Festival UK, beating all other UK student groups to the prize, this lead to the group being invited to the ICCA World Championship Finals at the Lincoln Centre in New York, an event that unfortunately had to be missed due to Oxford’s exam timetable!
Over the years, the group has supplemented its concerts and ball appearances in Oxford with numerous private and corporate functions: Blenheim Palace, the Ministry of Defence, the Savoy Hotel and the Bodleian’s Divinity School have been some of the most memorable venues. The Gargoyles have even supported the Real Group at the King’s Place during the London A cappella Festival and were described as ”charm personified” by The Times. We’ve also found a home from home in Oxford’s famous Turf Tavern, which has played host to some of our rowdiest gigs, including singalongs with Out of the Blue and the Tigertones.
Life goes on
With the beginning of the new 2011 academic year The Gargoyles welcomed 8 new members to their ranks. Over the easter vacation the group visited the USA for their tour, and went to New York, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. The Gargoyles continued a great year with a scintillating run of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. During their time up in Scotland, the group sang at Alan Steadman’s award-winning Hospitalfield jazz club. The other half of the joint bill that night was 2011 Parliamentary Jazz Musician of the Year Brian Kellock!
However, the best was still to come; in October 2012 The Oxford Gargoyles were crowned ‘Open Category Winners’ of the Choir of the Year competition. This lead to a drastic increase in media coverage of the group, which was capped by the televised ‘Grand Final’ of the competition, which was shown on BBC FOUR, and BBC HD.
The following year was to be The Oxford Gargoyles 15th year and the group continued to excel, making an appearance on BBC TWO at the end of their first term. The group held a fantastic anniversary concert in London at the start of the Easter break, bringing together a huge number of Alumni and singing ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’ with the largest gathering of Gargoyles ever. Without skipping a beat the group jumped straight into recording their 11th album and then, as ever, toured the East Coast of the USA. They continued to have the most successful run of the Fringe to date, returning once more to the Hospitalfield jazz club to finish up a great run.
Sixteen and going strong
After recording an album in Salisbury just a stone's throw from the Salisbury Cathedral, the Gargoyles embarked on their first tour to Asia, visiting Hong Kong and Macau for two weeks, and singing a total of 33 concerts, including 10 school performances and workshops. While there, they were covered by TVB Jade, TVB Pearl, RTHK TV Digital, TDM Macau, RTHK Radio 3, the South China Morning Post and HK Magazine. The featured musical group at the first ever Meeting Minds: Oxford Asia Alumni Weekend, they performed for many distinguished alumni in Asia, including Lord Chris Patten. After a week of performances in venues such as Grappa's Cellar, Hong Kong City Hall, and the Hong Kong Fringe Club, they sang at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, and held a charity concert in the historic Teatro Dom Pedro V Theatre in Macau.
This summer, they will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe for the 9th year running, and hope to tour a number of new destinations in Asia again in June-July 2015. If you'd like to bring the Gargoyles to you, please feel free to contact us.