Professional a cappella group, VERSA, was founded in January 2019 by award-winning arranger Sara Leanne. The group is formed of six experienced singers displaying a variety of timbres and vocal skills, yet continually praised for their ability to perfectly fuse together to form a rich, slick and professional sound. Whilst in high demand for their pop and jazz classics, the group’s aim is to push the boundaries of contemporary vocal music, regularly using innovative arrangements and vocal techniques inspired by popular music all over the world. VERSA is one of the few successful all-female a cappella groups to come out of the world’s growing a cappella scene.
VERSA have performed at prestigious events and festivals around the UK including: BBC News Awards 2020, ‘The A Cappella Series’ at Crazy Coqs, and ‘Live from London Christmas’, hosted by VOCES8.
MEET THE MEMBERS
Founder and Musical Director of VERSA, Sara sings soprano in the group. She also works as a professional arranger for internationally-acclaimed vocal company, Liquid 5th, as well as an agent in the classical music industry. Sara joined the a cappella community whilst studying Music at King's College London. Under her two-year directorship, the university's all-female group, ‘The Rolling Tones’, achieved national recognition and prominence unprecedented in the group’s history.
In 2018, Sara was awarded ‘Best Arrangement’ for her innovative reworking of Eivør’s "Trøllabundin" at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) UK Final, which subsequently received a CARA Award for ‘Best Female Collegiate Arrangement’ in 2019. Sara was also awarded prizes for ‘Best Arrangement’ and ‘Best Soloist’ at the ICCA 2017 for her original song "Sleepless Child", which also took her to the final of the 2015 UK Songwriting Contest, and her arrangement of "Teardrop" quickly became a UK favourite before receiving the runner-up prize at the CARA Awards 2018. ‘The Rolling Tones’ became the first all-female group to win the Voice Festival UK and the first all-female UK representatives at the ICCA Finals in New York City.
A trained pianist, singer and flautist, Sara harbours strong academic interest in ethnomusicology. She regularly draws on a wealth of musical education in her arrangements, always excited by the technical possibilities of the voice and the thrill of bringing fresh ideas from other genres into a cappella.
Emma has a wide range of musical experience and sings alto for VERSA. She works as PR and Social Media Coordinator for the group and alongside Tiffany manages all aspects of the group's branding and promotion.
Emma currently works as a songwriter and has had her work featured in both national and international television programmes and advertising campaigns, including Game of Thrones (HBO Brazil), Love Island (Australia), and Dateline NBC (US). A multi-instrumentalist, Emma regularly performs at gigs and festivals throughout the UK and Europe, and has received support from BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music.
Her first foray into contemporary a cappella came whilst pursuing a degree in politics at King’s College London, where she became a member of ‘The Rolling Tones’. In the three years in which she sung with the group, they achieved first place in the UK finals of the ICCAs, competed in the international finals in NYC, and produced and released a CARA award-winning EP. Whilst studying abroad at the University of California Santa Barbara, Emma sung tenor for the co-ed a cappella group ‘InterVals’, performing at events such as the Los Angeles a cappella festival and ‘Acquirefest’ in Santa Cruz.
Tiffany is VERSA's vocal percussionist and alto, and is responsible for the group's slick branding. Since joining the a cappella scene in 2014, Tiffany has performed internationally, singing on Broadway, New York City, as well as at the opening ceremony of the International Youth Festival in Bahrain.
Tiffany has been widely recognised for her vocal percussion skills, having received a special mention for her talent in an arrangement of Christina Aguilera's “Ain't No Other Man” at Voice Festival UK 2017. As President of King's College London's 'The Rolling Tones', she led the committee to organise, publicise, and produce the group’s debut Edinburgh Fringe Festival show ‘Bows and Braces’, for which they were awarded the official Edinburgh Fringe Sell-Out Laurel.
Tiffany also has experience arranging a wide array of vocal music, spanning from upbeat and comedic numbers such as “Stop Wondering” by April Smith and the Great Picture Show to moody and layered pieces like “I Found” by Amber Run. Classically trained in piano, Tiffany occasionally revisits her instrumental background, a highlight of which was an arrangement of 'Downton Abbey - The Suite' for piano quintet. She hails from Singapore and when she is not singing, she is working on a PhD in political science at the LSE.
Sarah sings soprano in the group, whilst working in the PR and marketing industry by day. VERSA is her second a cappella project, following all-female group ‘Sweet Nothings’ at the University of Exeter. Since 2016, she has taken part in three ICCA quarterfinals, one Voice Festival UK final, and three Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs with Sweet Nothings, as well as appearing in two music videos and arranging, soloing, and beatboxing on their EP 'Amplify'.
As Musical Director of ‘Sweet Nothings’ for two years, Sarah’s arrangements moved the group's sound in a more varied and daring direction, infusing the group’s signature pop with R&B, classical, and soul influences. Her arranging specialism is in creative a cappella mashups, including “Loca”, a mix of six Latin pop songs, and “Can’t Hold Us”, a Macklemore hit set over soundtracks from numerous famous movies. Classically trained in piano, flute and singing, Sarah’s technical knowledge and desire to experiment musically with new voices inspired her to continue with a cappella following graduation.
With VERSA, she revels in performing new vocal styles and exploring uncharted genres for a cappella, and looks forward to continuing to write radical arrangements for the all-female category.
Mallika is currently studying at King’s College London to get her PhD in musicology, with a focus on female playback singers in Hindi cinema. She was a part of the university’s a cappella group The Rolling Tones for four years, as Musical Director of the group for the final three. With VERSA, she is a soprano and occasional vocal percussionist.
She comes from a lineage of hereditary Hindustani musicians: her mother and grandmother are Hindustani singers, and she grew up in a house full of music. Her formal training was, however, originally within the Western tradition. She passed her grade 8 exam with distinction singing mainly Italian and Russian romantic opera, and received training from a tutor from the Royal Academy of music for these genres throughout her undergraduate degree.
In recent years, Mallika has refocused her training to the Hindustani vocal tradition. Her tutelage is with an esteemed Ustad of the Agra Gharana, for vocal genres such as Ghazal and Bhavgeet. She has picked these genres up quickly, thanks largely to her close and active relationship with Hindustani music through her family. Her experience with this diverse palette of vocal music has been of great benefit to her, particularly in navigating solos such as the Faroese folk song Trollabundin, for which she won the CARA award for best ‘female collegiate soloist’ in her first year and progressed with her group, The Rolling Tones, to the ICCA finals in New York.
JIA JIA WU
Prior to attending King’s College London to study Music, Jia Jia had little to no experience in singing in contemporary vocal ensembles. Having been classically trained in piano, violin, and voice, much of her musical experience was limited to being in classical orchestras and chamber choirs. Her journey into contemporary a cappella began when she joined 'The Rolling Tones', where she was fortunate enough to be a member of the group as they reaped much success in the Voice Festival UK 2017 and ICCAs 2018. Although she was trained as a mezzo-soprano, singing as a (lady) bass in the acclaimed collegiate group allowed her to explore, and further enhance, her lower range – in which she had previously dabbled in when she sung as a tenor in a school performance of Mozart’s Requiem.
In her three years of being in 'The Rolling Tones', Jia Jia has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on adapting her voice to bring out bass resonances to the best of her abilities, by making her timbre more accommodating to pitch lower notes. Jia Jia also had the rewarding opportunity of being a soloist in the group’s 2018 ICCA set. Her dramatic solo in “I Put A Spell On You” was awarded with ‘Best Soloist’ in the London round of the ICCA UK Quarterfinals, and the song became a staple in the group’s repertoire when they toured the West Coast of America in 2019. Additionally, she has also showcased her ability to throat-bass in the Tones’ CARA award-winning arrangement of “Trøllabundin.”
With VERSA, Jia Jia is anticipating to use this vocal technique more, as well as attaining higher success and recognition as part of this group, where she will continue her role as 'bass'.