From the big stage to the small screen


Bar­ber­shop group Em­bel­lished was formed as a way of re­unit­ing old com­peti­tors.

But less than two years on, it’s not each other they are com­pet­ing against.

The group’s all-fe­male cast mem­bers are mak­ing their way to the small screen, fea­tur­ing on TVZN 1’s new show The Naked Choir.

Em­bel­lished has made it in to the show’s fi­nal eight groups af­ter au­di­tion­ing with an a cap­pella ren­di­tion of End Of Time by Bey­once.

Group mem­ber and co-founder Brenda Leasi says the spot­light of tele­vi­sion cam­eras proved a dif­fi­cult one. ‘‘It is very dif­fer­ent, none of us had been on TV, let alone re­al­ity TV,’’ she says. ‘‘It was very nerve-wrack­ing.’’

The group was founded with the idea to re­unite singers she com­peted against in the Young Singers In Har­mony pro­gramme.

‘‘I ap­proached head of depart­ment for mu­sic at Tawa Col­lege Mar­i­lyn Baigent and David Brooks [of Aotea Col­lege] about the idea,’’ Leasi says.

‘‘They were both re­ally sup­port­ive, so I put the feel­ers out there to see which girls were out there who would want to take part.’’

Pri­mar­ily formed as a bar­ber­shop group, Em­bel­lished’s transition to a cap­pella proved a chal­lenge. ‘‘It was quite dif­fer­ent … In bar­ber­shop, we only have our four parts,’’ Leasi says.

‘‘A capella adds a whole other el­e­ment in the form of per­cus­sion, beat box­ing, rhythm and things like that.’’

As well as star­rring on TV, Em­bel­lished also per­formed at last year’s Pan Pa­cific Har­mony Fes­ti­val, tak­ing out the top prize.

Leasi says the group owes a lot of its suc­cess to the tute­lage of mu­si­cal di­rec­tor David Brooks.

‘‘He is an ex­pert in what he does… His ex­pe­ri­ence has re­ally helped us. He is a re­ally good bar­ber­shop teacher and a very good vo­cal coach.’’

As well as di­rect­ing the group, the Aotea Col­lege mu­sic teacher spends the rest of his spare time as the co-di­rec­tor of Welling­ton City Cho­rus.

‘‘When you work with peo­ple for a while you want to see the dream con­tinue,’’ Brooks says.

His work for Em­bel­lished is un­paid, and Brooks ex­plains that he en­joys the watch­ing the group grow. ‘‘It is al­ways in­ter­est­ing try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent… it was their first ex­pe­ri­ence with the more a cap­pella styles.’’

Brooks says they were well pre­pared for the show, de­spite their lack of a cap­pella ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘Bar­ber­shop is the mar­tial arts of the a cap­pella world, we knew [the show] would in­volve bar­ber­shop.

‘‘Em­bel­lished is de­signed so that the girls aged 18-25 can keep singing. Let’s keep them singing.’’

Bar­ber­shop group Em­bel­lished will fea­ture on TVNZ’s new re­al­ity show, The Naked Choir.

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