Three years ago, members of Cardiff University’s A Cappella Society were blissfully unaware of what was about to come over the horizon.

A cappella, the art of singing without music, is massive in the USA, and while it is growing quickly across the UK, it is still mainly centred around university campuses.

For the members of Cardiff University’s CU VOX, joining the group offered an opportunity to do what they loved, with concerts and competitions a bonus and reward for tireless rehearsals and choreographed routines.

Then, Netflix’s Sex Education landed.

The hit comedy-drama, now in its third season, follows characters Otis, Eric, Maeve and their group of friends and family as they navigate the topics of sex and identity.

Filmed almost entirely in Wales, the series has been a global hit, marrying drama with important and timely resources on the issues of sex, identity and sexuality.

While creating hilarious, cringey and deeply moving moments of television, the series also showcases some of Wales’ epic filming locations, mostly based around the Wye Valley, Penarth and Caerleon.

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For Vox, the series presented a once in a lifetime opportunity, and by the time season two landed, Vox were Moordale Music Club.

“One of the assistant directors dropped a message in our Facebook group asking if we wanted to audition, we did, and then we were on Netflix,” James Taylor, the group’s musical director, told The National.

“The exposure is amazing, it is the dream A capella gig.”

Appearing first in season two, Vox played a central role in a storyline about sexually transmitted infection, Chlamydia.

Clad in crazy outfits and performing Fleetwood Mac covers, the group quickly made a name for themselves on screen.

However, for James, being part of the show means more than just creating good drama.

“The whole thing with that show is all the crazy outrageous stuff, but the message is really important,” he continued.

“It does ask important questions and being involved in that kind of thing, you can feel the energy and belief that we are creating something really important that will last a long time.

“Sex Ed is important, the whole environment feels like you’re part of something that matters.”

If season two was not outrageous enough, season three has taken it up a level, especially for the group.

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Released on Netflix last week, one particular scene has already gained Vox global exposure.

In a rendition of Canadian artist Peaches’ **** The Pain Away, Vox shot to overnight global fame, with the scene being shared on social media hundreds of thousands of times, including by Peaches herself.

The scene is Vox’s biggest moment yet, but James said it is difficult maintaining the link between their on screen persona and their other content.

“That is certainly not a song we are going to sing for our grandparents," James chuckled.

“The biggest challenge is making the link between being 'the Netflix group' and telling people what we actually do.

“Having the Netflix image is very different to the stuff we sing at a competition or a show. It is tough trying to navigate that image with what we do when we are singing really emotional ballads.”

So what does a group of university students and graduates do now they have appeared on a global platform?

The group are available for event bookings, while this university year will see them return to more normal rehearsals and performances after 18 months dominated by Covid and Zoom.

There’s also an EP in the pipeline, currently in the hands of specialist producers in the US.

“We are making an EP that we recorded over lockdown. It was tough, recording each singer individually one at a time, and I must have spent 48 studio hours working on it.

“It is a very specialist area. We have sent it over to America as only a handful of people specialise in mixing an A capella group and it costs up to £3,000 for a three song EP.”

James hopes their growth in exposure will help them to realise their ambitions and help cover the financial costs.

However, everything Vox and the wider Cardiff University Acapella Society do is based on members volunteering their time, growing the medium of acapella and promoting participation.

In a final message for anybody who may be interested in getting involved in Wales’ creative scene, James had a word of advice.

“There is so much being done around here. There are huge dramas that HBO and Netflix are producing here in Wales.

“Get stuck in to as much as you can. If you see somebody filming, take your CV along and say you’re available. I’ve done that loads of times.”

To learn more about CU Vox, head to their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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