It was Village Harmony (known simply as "VH" to the many singers that passed through its ranks) where the concept - still seen in NSA - of a small a cappella group first took shape. VH performed well over 100 times throughout Sussex until 2003 when what had become the classical line-up of eight voices merged with The Vivace Singers to become "Vivace!"
Image: Village Harmony (early 1990s) featuring Russ (back row on left), John (back row, second right) and Alex (front row on left).
The history of NSA can be traced back over thirty years ago to the grandly-named Friends Provident Choral Society in Dorking, Surrey. Sadly, neither the choir nor the insurance company exists these days, but in around 1985 it was there that John and Russ first met. In 1989, John and Russ were invited by another choir member to join a small close-harmony group called Village Harmony (of which Alex was already a member) based in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.
Image: Friends Provident Choral Society (mid-1990s) featuring Russ (back row, third from left), John (front row, far right) and at least three other Village Harmony members.
The Vivace Singers, chaired by Phil, had been formed in 2003 out of current and former members of the Ditchling Choral Society (now known as Sussex Chorus) but, soon after John took over as their musical director, bringing with him most of the VH members at that time, it adopted the name Vivace! to represent the merger of the two groups of singers. VH kept a separate identity for a short while after the merger and soon found a new direction in the shape of a folk band called Village Folk incorporating some Vivace! personnel as well. Village Folk inspired an explosion of new groups of various sizes involving permutations of the their line-up, the most significant to the origins of NSA being a band called The Beamers.
Image: Village Folk (2005) featuring Russ (on left in waistcoat) and John (under gazebo, holding bass guitar).
The Beamers started life with Phil and John performing as a guitar duo in around 2005, but were soon joined by Alex and then Russ to become a vocal/instrumental quartet who could be seen and heard in various pubs and charity gigs around Sussex. Here could be found the prototype of the NSA line-up, and at one memorable open-air gig in Haywards Heath the band first came across Touchstone and the impressive vocals of Bonnie...
Image: Phil, Russ, Alex and John performing as The Beamers in 2007.
Meanwhile, Vivace! had been joined by David (an old choir-mate of Phil's from Ditchling Choral Society days) and Bonnie - with whom John had joined forces as Touchstone's bass player. By 2011, the idea of a smaller a cappella group as seen at one or two of Vivace!'s scaled-back appearances had become attractive to John and so five Vivace! singers (i.e. The Beamers + David) appeared at Crawley Folk Festival in 2012 as The Folk Collective. We then recruited Bonnie to complete the line-up and No Strings Attached was born.
Image: a sextet from Vivace! in 2012 closely resembling NSA (not present: David).
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