Fan collaboration on an epic level
Vox Machina: An Exandrian Musical – Album Artwork by Pumpkin Queen and Angela McCain
Last year I was involved in a very ambitious project that combined two of my favourite things; singing and roleplaying. Critical Role has become an online phenomenon, with a ‘bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors’ playing Dungeons & Dragons. The cast of the show were known to be big fans of another recent phenomenon, the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical, Hamilton. Will Crosswait and Danita Gilbert were huge fans of both and conceived the idea of basing the plot and words of the Critical Role roleplay to the music of the Hamilton musical. Not only that, they had the talent and dedication to go through with it. They put a call out to the Critical Role online community, known affectionately as ‘critters’, to contribute additional voices, and art to the project. It turns out that the musical-roleplay crossover is pretty big, because many, many fans contributed this project; 67 singers and 42 artists from across the globe!
After an audition, I was given the role of backing singer (Ensemble). Because of my recent work as a voice over artist, I was able to get on with the recording. The task was made much easier by Will, who organised the ensemble into teams and allocated songs to them. Each group was given the lyrics, backing tracks, and most importantly, a scratch track. I fondly remember making notes whilst stop-starting Hamilton tracks on You Tube and combining their harmonies with Will’s rhymes and timings. It was a pleasure to sing Hamilton tracks and building up the Cantata Pansophical soundtrack.
That was back in the Summer of 2017. As naturally happens when real life gets in the way, not everyone is able to commit or make the deadlines. Because of this, some of us were asked if we would do more takes. I’m sure I speak for others involved when I say it was a pleasure to be involved in such an inspiration project, so yes, I wanted to do more! More lyrics and tracks followed. When I was given the new alternative versions to ‘The Schuyler Sisters’ and ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ I was thrilled, as these are such great songs to sing along to.
I wrapped up in November, but there must have been so much more to be done by the Cantata Pansophical that we just don’t see. Those members of the cast who checked into the chat forums online will have known more. Many have continued to network and even form roleplay groups together, which is awesome! In the meantime, I had managed to get tickets to the hottest ticket in the West End – Hamilton had arrived in London, and it was fantastic!
On the 23rd February, Cantata Pansophical released their epic musical project to the rest of the world. Not only that, they made it absolutely free! – 47 tracks, fan art for every track and an accompanying digital booklet!!! I was staggered by the generosity and sheer ‘fan’tastic gesture by Will Crosswait, Angela McCain, Danita Gilbert and the rest of the Cantata Pansophical. They only requested donations to worthy charities that some of the cast are supporting.
The reactions so far have been incredible. Fans from the ‘critters’ community have shared their love for the tracks and artwork. The Critical Role cast has also been astounded by the efforts of their community, and they even responded:
Laura Bailey: You guys are unbelievable!!! This is so epic!!!
Marisha Ray: Matt and I are currently listening to this in our living room just holding each other as we laugh-ugly-cry through the whole thing. Ugh… it’s like reliving 5 years in a musical.
Critical Role cast – photo by Pamela Joy Photography
On that note, time to wrap up this blog post, but I will simply say that it’s great to be involved in something that is bigger than you and that you believe in. Well done Cantata Pansophical and thank you for involving me in your inspirational project!