The Engler Center for the Performing Arts will host Voces8, an a cappella group from London which sings a wide range of music from early English and European Renaissance choral works to their own arrangements, this Friday evening at 7 p.m.
Paul Smith, a founding member of the vocal ensemble, came to Chilton High School a week before the concert to hold workshops for the elementary and middle school students, as well as the high school choir members.  The 55-member CHS Concert Chorale will be fortunate enough to share the stage with Voces8 for a portion of the concert Friday.   
Smith said he and his younger brother, Barnaby, started the group in 2005, initially as just a group of friends that used to get together for chamber choirs and the like. “Then we entered a competition in Italy because we got a free trip to Italy out of it, and we happened to win, and suddenly people started phoning us, asking us if we would like to come and do a concert.”  
Smith admitted they came up with their group name, Voces8, as they rode to the singing competition in Gorizia.  “We needed a name to go on stage and there were eight of us and we were in Italy. We wanted something that feels like voices but had that Latin vibe to it, so we went with voces.”
Smith has actually been performing since the age of 10, getting his start early while attending boarding school at Westminster Abbey, where he said the expectation was to sing three or four hours a day, in addition to performing at a daily church service. He added, “There’s a constant expectation that you’re learning new music and then singing it that night, and that’s why, above all, we learned how to sight-read and most of the repertoire that we’ve grown up in was Renaissance and Cathedral music.”
While Smith majored in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of York, he continued singing the whole time with various youth choirs.  After graduating, he realized he preferred music and decided to give the music industry a try, and if it didn’t go well, he had something else to fall back on.    
Smith said his parents had always been really supportive of his and Barnaby’s interest in music, even though they weren’t professional musicians.  He believes his parents’ careers in the civil services, his mom was a nurse and his dad was a vicar, has filtered into what he does today.  “They had this kind of social duty.  So we feel like we had an amazing music education, and that’s why we want to be people who can share this.  We figure if we’re not sharing what we do with as many students as possible, then how can we expect anyone else to.”
Smith said the group enjoys their visits to the U.S. adding, “It’s such an amazing singing scene.  There’s so much amazing choral music happening, we love coming over here.  And everywhere we go seems to really appreciate the British tradition of singing as well, so we feel we get to share that which is quite fun.”  
In addition to spending about 2 months of the year performing in the U.S., the group’s touring schedule takes them to the UK, Germany, France and Japan, as well as most of the other European countries. The group does educational outreach programs in those areas, too.  All told, Smith believes they see around 40,000 students a year, from school-aged kids to adults.   
Regarding the educational component of the group, a few years ago Smith wrote a book called The Voces8 Method, which he believes is now being used by about three and a half thousand schools.  He said, “It’s designed to help teachers who can’t necessarily teach music learn how to do it very simply.”  He also stressed the importance of finding the way to get students involved that avoids the three obstacles he sees as money, time and fear.  
While Smith stepped away from performing with the group last summer to become more involved with the educational program, Barnaby still sings and serves as the musical director for Voces8.  The other members include Andrea Halsey, Emily Dickens, Christopher Wardle, Sam Dressel, Blake Morgan, Robert Clark and Jonathan Pacey.  
Smith’s visit to the Chilton School District and the Voces8 concert have been funded by money received from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, thanks to a grant submitted by former Superintendent Claire Martin, Melissa Ebert, Music Instructor Joy Paffenroth and Art Instructor Brittni Nelson to bring arts integration curriculum and practices into the District.  Ebert and Paffenroth first heard Voces8 in 2015 in Salt Lake City at the National American Choral Directors Association Conference where they presented on Building Community.

The Arts Integration Open House, featuring projects that students from all grade levels have been doing across all art content areas including theater, dance, music and art, will take place at 6 p.m. before the concert.