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Joanna Burns, Nikhil Harsiani, and Gustaf Haynes from The Accidentals and The Alleycats

Name: Joanna Burns

Year:  3rd Year

Degree: History

A Capella Group: The Accidentals

Star Sign: Pisces


Name: Nikhil Harsiani

Year: 3rd year

Degree: Medicine

A Capella Group: The Alleycats

Star Sign: Gemini


Name: Gustaf (Gus) Haynes



Year: 2nd year

Degree: History

A Capella Group: The Alleycats

Star Sign: Aries


The Scottish A Cappella Championships

This week’s campus cuties are the lovely Joanna Burns from the ‘fun, feisty and fierce’ Accidentals and the entertaining Nikhil Harsiani and Gustaf Haynes from the ‘diverse, eclectic, and energetic’ Alleycats. Both a Cappella groups – along with all of your other St Andrews favourites – are competing against each other this Friday in the annual Scottish a Cappella Championships. The Scottish a Capella Championships, (or SAC for short, as they colloquially inform me) will also feature groups from other universities: Choral Stimulation, representing the University of Glasgow, and Aberpella and Killer Quines from the University of Aberdeen.

Members of the Accidentals

Joanna, Nikhil and Gustaf are all very secretive about their upcoming sets – perhaps the competition is getting to them – but nonetheless stress that the performances will be special. Indeed, the Alleycats promise that their set will ‘transcend genres’ and can be considered a ‘musical extravaganza’ with ‘innovative changes within the songs’; Joannna promises that the Accidentals performance will contain bucket-loads of their iconic ‘Sass’. However, the Accidentals do hint that one of their performances has a ‘funky’ vibe, and that another song has featured in a recent controversial film…

Despite the veil of mystery surround their sets, all three exude enthusiasm about the prospect of the competition, downplaying any nerves, and eagerly awaiting the energy of competition. They are also excited about performing in such a large venue – Younger Hall seats around 1000 people – and the fact that they will be performing to friends. Gus is particularly anticipating the revelation to friends of what he does when he ‘disappears for four hours.’ Moreover, the Accidentals are excited about debuting three new songs – and the audience should be as well. Scotland, and in particular St. Andrews, has such a vibrent a Capella scene; the groups insist that they are looking forward to watching performances from the other groups – something they do not always have the opportunity to do.

Members of the Alleycats

This is a competition after all, not only for the coveted prestige as the winner of the Scottish a Capella concert, but also for a £1000 cash prize. The Alleycats and The Accidentals both cite Coral Stimulation as their biggest threats to victory, not only because of their iconic tartan outfits, but because they are a mixed group – a phenomenon that the Alleycats do not normally have to worry about, being the only mixed a Capella group in St Andrews.

Despite the potential for competitiveness – a genuine friendship is evident between the two groups, with Joanna, Nikhil and Gus in agreement about answers to my many questions. This comradery extents to comparing dance moves in the Library Café, or ‘Coreo’ as I am informed the correct term is. This relaxed atmosphere was also evident in their comfort in revealing their most embarrassing stage incidences: Joanna reveals that she once dribbled on stage, Nikhel accidently became a soloist, while singing a group song, and Gus once performed a dramatic dance move completely out of time to the rest of the Alleycats.

Quick Questions

What is your favourite song?

Joanna: Best of You by Foo Fighters

Gus: Cats in the Cradle by Cat Stevens, and Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen 

Nikhel: Shut Up by The Black Eyed Peas – it was the first song that I learnt all the lyrics to


Who is your favourite member of One Direction?

Joanna: Harry Styles – because he is the hottest

Gus:  Niall Horan – because he plays the guitar

Nikhel: Louis Tomlinson – because he can’t sing


What song do you sing in the shower?

Joanna: Real by Years and Years

Gus:  Warriors by Imagine Dragons

Nikhel: Say You Love Me by Jessie Ware


What instruments to you play?

Joanna: Piano, but I wish I could play the cello and the harmonica; I used to play the oboe

Gus: I used to play the cornet, the trumpet and the trombone

Nikhel: I play the piano, but I wish I could play the guitar


Do you have an a Capella group that you admire?

Joanna: The Sons of Pitches

Gus: The Sons of Pitches

Nikhel: The Yale Spizzwinks


Which celebrity singer to you aspire to be?

Joanna: Jessie J – as vocally she is incredible

Gus: Cat Stevens

Nikhel: Ariana Grande – because she has a large vocal range


What was the first album that you bought?

Joanna: Popstars by Hear’Say

Gus: American Idiot by Green Day

Nikhel: Elephunk by The Black Eyed Peas


Best of luck to both groups! Don’t forget to come along on Friday for a fantastic array a Cappella performances. Check out the Accidentals and the Alleycat’s Facebook pages for upcoming events and more information about the groups.

3rd Year History student at St Andrews
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