EFR - Reviews of Rachael's Voices - Youth a capella choir

Rachael's Voices - Youth a capella choir

Sun 11th – Fri 16th August 2013

reviews

Flo Layer

at 09:40 on 12th Aug 2013

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In a quiet venue just outside the hustle and bustle of the central fringe, there is a gem of musical talent to be discovered. Rachel’s Voices is a youth a cappella choir, with members ranging from 14 to 20 years old, and a collective talent and enthusiasm which is admirable. As their first ever performance at the Fringe, you can tell that nerves may have slightly seeped through the otherwise impeccably professional performance, yet it is clear that this group is incredibly talented. I am sure that they will undoubtedly be performing at the Fringe for many years to come.

The set list was an eclectic mix of traditional church choir pieces, broken up with snappy jazz and musical extracts, and even the occasional African spiritual piece. It was incredibly refreshing and engaging to be taken from one style to the next. The beautifully controlled harmonies in ‘Ave Verum’ had goosebumps running up both of my arms, while the fast-paced captivating performance of ‘Mozart’ - a clever vocal performance of his best-known works - was rousing and very entertaining to watch.

Although the choreographed moves of some of the pieces were undeniably well-rehearsed and slickly performed, at times it distracted from the music, which, on the whole, is impressive enough on its own. There is difference between enthusiastic a cappella choral performance and full-on musical theatre, and I’m not sure if this group should misplace their attentions from their more-than-impressive group singing by focusing too much on clichéd and contrived acting. Nevertheless, the infectious enthusiasm of Rachael Howarth, the group’s musical director, is plainly obvious, and her sparkle is reproduced by each singer throughout the performance.

Within the group there is a lovely sense of equality, unlike other a cappella groups were a special performer constantly steals the limelight. There are many brilliant solos from a wide range of performers within the group, although I have to say that Eve Gray’s solo in ‘Do Re Mi’ from The Sound of Music marked her out as a singer of star-quality. As a group dominated by women, the only two men, Chris Wallace and Chris Roberts, sustained a much needed ballast in the bass and gave each song that extra depth.

This is an a capella group with sustained intensity, who can deliver slick and affecting performances one after another, leaving you charmed and delighted– a heart-warming and thoroughly enjoyable performance.

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Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 12:17 on 12th Aug 2013

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Walking into the venue for ‘Rachael’s Voices’, a large, empty-sounding hall with cheap chairs and whitewashed walls, felt a lot like walking into a school play. Which, to be honest, is to be expected from a show performed by a youth a cappella group that began life as a Manchester school choir. This came across in the set list, a conglomeration of hymns and songs from musicals, amongst others. We were taken through this group of people’s collective journey from the beginning of their preforming career, with slow, demure songs that would not be out of place in a church, through their exploration into the more theatrical.

This concert was undeniably cute, and I think it is safe to say that the a cappella bug is catching. With the recent surge in the popularity of a cappella, perhaps due to films like ‘Pitch Perfect’, we are very used to seeing overly polished shows full of dancing and contemporary tunes. This was not, however, the tone of ‘Rachael’s Voices’. A journey back to a more simple understanding of what an a cappella group should be, these singers were certainly more traditional. With a few modest dance routines, the quality of the cast’s voices was allowed to shine through. And what voices they had. This was where the choice of venue was revealed to be a stunning one, as the acoustics of the big, empty room allowed us to hear every last, perfectly sung note.

With a band of performers that included eleven girls and only two boys, it is easy to imagine that the many alto and soprano parts would drown out the bass notes. However, Chris Wallace and Chris Roberts amazingly held their own, singing strongly and rounding off all of the arrangements nicely. All of the performers were clearly having a blast, and their love for they are doing permeated the audience. There were some parts of this show that definitely needed to be tightened up: some of the participants sometimes looked slightly bored and reluctant, and would have benefitted from having slightly more confidence in their show and their performance abilities, but perhaps that is expecting a level of professionalism that is unrealistic in such a young and inexperienced group.

Saying that, there were many standout performances. Solo parts by Eve Gray were sensational, and songs such as ‘The Cat Came Back’, the lead performed by Bethany Southworth, showed her talent and how comfortable she was on stage. Overall, a wonderful piece that revealed the dedication of musical director, Rachael Howarth, and the fact that this group of young people absolutely love to sing.

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