Out of the Blue (Oxford University)

Out of the Blue (Oxford University)
Out of the Blue
Background information
Origin Oxford University
Genres A cappella
Years active 2000–present
Website www.ootb.org.uk
Nick Barstow (St Catherine's)
Christopher Bland (New)
Laurie Cottam (Oxford Brookes University)
Selali Fiamanya (St Catherine's)
Nick Fletcher (Exeter)
Francis Gush (Brasenose)
Patrick Lee (Wolfson)
Callum Lovett (Oxford Brookes University)
Jolyon Loy (Magdalen)
Thomas Lyle (Oriel)
Oliver Ralph (Magdalen)
Sam Scarrow (Teddy Hall)
Dominic Stockbridge (Hertford)
Sam Swinnerton (Oxford Brookes University)
Domhnall Talbot (New)

Out of the Blue (OOTB) is an all-male a cappella group at University of Oxford[1] in England. The student-run group sings an eclectic mix of songs, focusing on covers of modern rock and pop hits.

Since its foundation in 2000, Out of the Blue has enjoyed success both nationally and internationally. The group regularly performs at both private and public functions in Oxford and the surrounding area,[2] has toured the UK, Ireland, the USA, and Scandinavia, and has received critical acclaim for their performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Out of the Blue has also produced nine studio albums,[3] been crowned UK Champions of A Cappella three times, has competed at the finals of the ICCAs on three occasions, and come second in that competition twice.



Out of the Blue was founded by a postgraduate student at the University of Oxford, Derek Smith, in October 2000. Derek had previously been a member of The Harvard Callbacks whilst studying as an undergraduate in Harvard University. After distributing posters to many of Oxford University's colleges advertising auditions, Out of the Blue was formed and became Oxford's first all-male a cappella group.

The original ten-strong group debuted at G&D′s ice cream cafe on Oxford’s Little Clarendon Street; this has become the traditional venue for the group's maiden concert each academic year. In their first year they performed a series of local gigs, collaborating with fellow Oxford-based group The Oxford Belles, which climaxed with an end-of-year garden concert in New College cloisters to an audience of over two hundred: a highlight of the year for the nascent group.

The most notable events in the group's second year was their private performance for Bill Clinton and the release of their first album, Out of the Blue. In March 2001 Out of the Blue embarked on its first overseas tour in Canada and the USA, and that summer performed at numerous Oxbridge college balls including Trinity College in Cambridge.

Regular Concerts

Out of the Blue achieved two firsts in 2003: its first performance at one of Oxford's largest venues, The Oxford Playhouse,[4] and its first visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The group gave a total of eleven performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at C Venues's C-1 auditorium on Chambers Street, the first to only nine audience members.

In the following years, following their success at The Oxford Playhouse, the group upgraded to the 1800-seat New Theatre in Oxford for their end-of-year performance.[5] This concert has become an annual event for the group, with the most recent concert taking place on the 30th of May 2011 [6]

Out of the Blue also currently perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year. Out of the Blue earned Fringe Sell-Out Awards for their month-long runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2006 to 2009, and in 2010 the group opted to expand into the more impressive George Square Theatre (C Plaza) where they performed to over 8000 audience members over the course of their twenty-five show run. This year, the group will be working with the Pleasance at the Fringe throughout August.[7]

Further Afield

Having toured the East Coast of America in 2003, the group visited the West Coast in 2004 and have continued to alternate their annual American tours between the two seaboards. During their 2006 tour of the East Coast of America, the group gave a guest performance at the finals of the ICCA South Regional Finals, held at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.[8] The following year they competed themselves at the ICCA Finals at the Lincoln Center in New York, finishing second and so becoming the first group outside of the USA to be placed in the top three.

Out of the Blue have since returned twice more to the ICCA Finals, once in 2008 and again in 2009. On the latter occasion the group was once more awarded second place and also the award for Outstanding Arrangement for Edmund Thomson Jones's Cold Water by Damien Rice.[9]

Other Performances

The group regularly perform in Oxford and have travelled extensively around the UK, performing at schools, weddings, parties and other public or private occasions.

Prestigious performances

To date, Out of the Blue has performed at the following prestigious events:[10]

Out of the Blue at Childish Things 5

Television appearances

Out of the Blue has appeared on British television on a number of occasions, including:

Radio appearances

Out of the Blue often appear on local radio stations in the Oxford area. Most recently:

The group has also made radio appearances overseas:

  • KUSC[16] in Los Angeles, CA (22 April 2010)
  • Irish radio (February 2003)

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Out of the Blue has performed a 50-minute show annually at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 2005. Until 2009 the group performed in the then-largest theatre available at C Venues’s main building on Chambers Street (C -1) and was given four consecutive Fringe Sell-Out Awards from 2006 to 2009. In 2010 the group relocated to the George Square Theatre (C Plaza)[17] and performed to over 8000 audience members over the course of the festival.

The group’s performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have been recommended by the Daily Telegraph[18] and The Scotsman and received maximum five-star reviews from ThreeWeeks,[19] Fringe Review,[20] Broadway Baby,[21] The New Current,[22] one4review,[23] and Edinburgh Festival Magazine.[24]


International Competition for Collegiate A Cappella (ICCAs)

Out of the Blue was instrumental in starting the first regional round of the ICCAs to be held in Europe. The group won the inaugural Western European regional competition in 2006, with Cambridge University’s Fitz Barbershop in second and Oxford University's In the Pink in third. Out of the Blue also picked up the award for Outstanding Soloist for Marc Vastenavondt's performance of Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls and the award for Outstanding Vocal Percussion for Johannes Terwitte's performance in Franz Ferdinand's Matinée.

Having won the Western European round, Out of the Blue was invited to compete in the ICCAs Finals in the Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center, New York, on 29 April 2006. The group was awarded second place behind Brigham Young University’s Vocal Point. This was the first time that a group from outside the USA had achieved a place in the top three of the ICCA Finals: a milestone for UK a cappella.[25]

Out of the Blue was awarded second place in the Western European semifinal of the ICCAs in 2007 behind The Oxford Gargoyles, and was given the award for Outstanding Choreography.[26]

In 2008, the Western European region of the ICCAs expanded to include two quarterfinals, one held at the University of Oxford and the other at the University of St Andrews. Out of the Blue won both the Oxford quarterfinals and the semifinal, held at St Paul’s School, London, progressing to ICCAs Finals at New York’s Lincoln Center for the second time in three years. Out of the Blue’s then-President, Calum Melville, also won the award for Outstanding Choreography.[27]

Out of the Blue perform Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" at VFUK 2010

The Voice Festival UK (VF-UK)

In 2009 the UK's first nation-wide A Cappella festival, The Voice Festival UK, was established. In the first year of the VF-UK competition, Out of the Blue progressed from the Oxford round to defeat a cappella groups from St Andrews and Cambridge at the final in London.[28] The group was, once again, invited to compete in the ICCA Finals in New York, coming second and winning the award for Outstanding Arrangement for Edmund Thomson Jones's Cold Water by Damien Rice.[29]

In 2010, Out of the Blue won the award for Outstanding Musicality at the Oxford round of VF-UK and progressed to the final and picked up the Outstanding Song Award for Lady Gaga's "Poker Face".[30]

Britain's Got Talent

The group participated in series five of Britain's Got Talent. They performed a mash-up version of "Poker Face" and "SexyBack" for their first round audition, broadcast on 30 April 2011. They made it through to the live semi-finals where they performed a mash-up of "Jump (For My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters and "Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara. When the results of the semi-final were announced, and it was revealed that Steven Hall had beaten Out of the Blue to the last place in the top 3, the live audience booed the announcement and judges alike expressed outrage and confusion at the result. Jessie J also expressed her support for the group, and her disappointment that they didn't progress in the competition.[31] Hundreds of Twitter users also voiced their disapproval.[32]


Out of the Blue has performed in aid of various charities since its inception in 2000, such as Oxfam's Afghanaid Program (performance at Oxford Town Hall on 19 November 2001), Terrence Higgins Trust (performance at Christie's auction house on 18 February 2002). Out of the Blue has made donations to a number of charities, including the Maya Childcare Trust.

In August 2009, Out of the Blue visited Oaklands School, Edinburgh, to sing for its pupils.[33] The school educates children and young people with severe, profound and complex learning difficulties, including pupils with significant physical and motor impairment and pupils with sensory difficulties. The group returned in August 2010 and August 2011 to perform at an assembly and an evening fundraiser.

Helen & Douglas House

In recent years, the group has visited Oxford-based charity, Helen & Douglas House, as well as donating some of its end-of-year profits. Helen & Douglas House is a hospice that provides respite care for children and young adults with life-limiting conditions, and support for their families.

Helen & Douglas House hosts an annual fundraiser, Childish Things, held in the New Theatre, Oxford. The New Theatre offers the venue free of charge, its staff work for free on the night, and the theatre also donates profits from the bar and ice cream sales to Helen & Douglas House. So far the six iterations of Childish Things has raised a total of over £200,000. Out of the Blue has performed regularly at the event since 2007, alongside comedians such as Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Rowan Atkinson, and Rob Brydon. [34][35][36][37]


Studio albums

  • Rush (2011)
  • Resound (2010)
  • Childish Thing (2009)
  • Redshift (2007)
  • High Tide (2006)
  • Freefall (2005)
  • House Of Cards (2004)
  • Third Addiction (2003)
  • Unexpected (2002)
  • Out of the Blue (2001)

Live albums

  • Live 2011
  • Live 2010
  • Live 2009


  • Ten (2010)
  • BOCA 2010
  • Voices Only 2010


Out of the Blue is an Oxford University society and it membership consists mainly of Oxford University undergraduates, although it does accept members from outside the university. The group places no restriction on the subject or college: members study a range of subjects and belong to a range of Oxford colleges.


Alumni are listed in under the year in which they joined the group. (PRES: President; MD: Musical Director; BM: Business Manager)[38]

Rajat Chowdhury
Stephen Doughty
Seb Falk
Philip Haines
Julian Harris
Johannes Haushofer
Joseph McAuley
Kyu Park
John Rendel
Derek Smith

Seb Allen
Joshua Nassiri
Ben Sparks
Jason Dean

Vishal Bhavsar
Ben Burnett
Andre Flemmings (BM 03/04)
Tim Lewis
Pedro Ruiz Castell
David Sclar
Tom Searle
James Smith (MD 03/04)
Angus Turner (PRES 03/04)
Adam Walton

Ed Arnold
Edward Brightman (BM 04/05)
Darren Chadwick
Todd Crawford
Andrew Henderson (PRES 04)
Ron Hess
Michael Humphrey (MD 04/05)

Simon Bello (PRES 05)
Matt Chinery (BM 05/06)
James Duboff
Tim Elton
Richard Holdsworth
Alex Martin
Shaun Melvin
Jason Ng (PRES 05/06)
Harry Shearer
Johannes Terwitte (MD 05/06)

David Ehrhardt
Tom Gatten
Harry Martin (PRES 06/07)
Arden Moscati
Marc Vastenavondt
Ben Woodgates (MD 06/07)

Phil Birkett
Deep Basu Ray
Mark Cartwright
Joe Hasell (MD 07/08)
Calum Melville (PRES 07/08)
Harry Smith (BM 06/07)
Will Stuart
Terry Tamm
Stephan von Perger
Jonathan Webb

Laurie Cottam (PRES 11/12)
Jack Durtnall
Sean Genis
David Jones
Ben Millinchip
Scott Riseborough (BM 08/09)
Jack Stamp
Nick Thomas Peter (BM 07/08, PRES 08/09)
Edmund Thomson Jones (MD 08/09)
Chris Waite

George Eddy
Benjamin Lindley (MD 09/10)
Tim Jones (PRES 09/10)
Tom Lyle
Laurence Osbourn
Nick Pritchard
Ben Wingfield
David Wisby

David Brennan (PRES 10/11)
Dominic Fladrich
Harry Fox
Ben Holder
Alexei Kalveks (MD 10/11)
Matthew Lynch
Fergus McIntosh
Mark Smith (BM 09/10)
Grant Swanson
Danny Swift (BM 10/11)

Nick Barstow (MD 11/12)
Christopher Bland
Selali Fiamanya
Nick Fletcher
James Kay
James Leveson
Ben Mullaney
Jonathan Soman
Ollie Stephenson (BM 10/11)
Dominic Stockbridge (BM 11/12)
Samuel Swinnerton

Francis Gush
Patrick Lee
Callum Lovett
Jolyon Loy
Oliver Ralph
Sam Scarrow
Domhnall Talbot


  1. ^ OUSU website: Clubs and Societies, The University and Cultural Life: Music Societies
  2. ^ Out of the Blue website: Calendar
  3. ^ Out of the Blue website: Shop Out of the Blue Discography at Facebook
  4. ^ Daily Info review
  5. ^ Daily Info reviews
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ http://www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh
  8. ^ ICCA 2005 results
  9. ^ ICCA results (2009)
  10. ^ Out of the Blue website: Book us
  11. ^ London A Cappella Festival
  12. ^ OOTB at the Nassau Coliseum at Facebook
  13. ^ The Culture Show, Series 1, Episode 9
  14. ^ OOTB on 'The Slammer' on YouTube
  15. ^ Jack FM podcast
  16. ^ KUSC podcast
  17. ^ Out of the Blue performance info C Venues website
  18. ^ Daily Telegraph article
  19. ^ ThreeWeeks review (2010)
  20. ^ Fringe Review review (2010)
  21. ^ Broadway Baby review (2006), Broadway Baby review (2007)
  22. ^ The New Current review (2010)
  23. ^ one4review review (2004)
  24. ^ Edinburgh Festival Magazine review (2009), Edinburgh Festival Magazine review (2010)
  25. ^ ICCA results (2006)
  26. ^ ICCA results (2007)
  27. ^ ICCA results (2008)
  28. ^ VF-UK results (2009)
  29. ^ ICCA results (2009)
  30. ^ VF-UK results (2010)
  31. ^ http://thetalentzone.co.uk/musictv/bgt/5083/britain%E2%80%99s-got-talent-2011-jessie-j-is-a-fan-of-oxford-students-out-of-the-blue/#more-5083
  32. ^ http://www.list.co.uk/article/34790-jai-mcdowall-and-steven-hall-through-to-bgt-final/ Jai McDowall and Steven Hall through to BGT final
  33. ^ Oaklands School newsletter
  34. ^ Childish Things at Helen & Douglas House
  35. ^ Childish Things 4 at Helen & Douglas House, Childish Things 4 at Oxford Mail
  36. ^ Childish Things 5 at Helen & Douglas House, Childish Things 5 at Oxford Mail (May 2009), Childish Things 5 at Oxford Mail (June 2009)
  37. ^ Childish Things 6 at Oxford Mail
  38. ^ Out of the Blue website: Alumni

External links

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