The Oxford Belles: Women of Note

Sat 11th – Sat 18th August 2018


Emilia Andrews

at 09:31 on 14th Aug 2018



An audience plunged into darkness. This is how the Oxford Belles begin their 50 minute a cappella performance, 'Women of Note'. Immediately met by strong voices singing the words of strong women, I was impressed and excited to see what was to come. 'The Oxford Belles: Women of Note' marks 100 years since women got the right to vote by presenting to audience a series of covers from female artists ranging from The Andrews Sisters to Beyoncé.

The Belles’ desire to leave their own quirky mark on the ongoing discussion about gender equality, inspired by Oxford’s very own Malala Yousafzai, gives their performance an ambitious energy. This is mostly executed well, barring the occasional mistimed dance move and misspoken word.

Individually each of the women had amazing voices and, most of the time, these work well together. However, there were moments when the overlaps were rather hectic and their voices failed to work cohesively. This was not helped by the technical difficulties which the Belles experienced, as their microphones only worked intermittently. This said, they coped well with these interruptions with one of them even joking that, like the patriarchal system they were speaking about, the venue's technology system was also faulty.

While most of the songs are loud female anthems, the Belles' rendition of Fleetwood Mac's 'Songbird' is different from the rest and is particularly beautiful. In fact, it even left me close to tears. The Belles display an impressive range of voices and talents, enabling them jump from the slow and serene ‘Songbird’ to the Belles’ very own 'Magic Mix', a remix involving songs such as ‘Survivor’, ‘No Scrubs’, and ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’.

While it could do with being slightly more polished, 'Women of Note' is a great celebration of the power women can have when they come together. The Oxford Belles put on a good show with a positive message for the future of gender equality, ending on a call to "take us to a time where no one ever has to use 'me too' again."


India Greenland

at 09:35 on 14th Aug 2018



A cappella and girl power – what could be better? In ‘The Oxford Belles: Women of Note’ the award-winning all female group celebrates one hundred years since the Representation of the People Act, when some women gained the vote in Britain. With all the music featured being written and performed by women, this show not only has incredible a cappella, but also has a pertinent message.

As someone who doesn’t know a lot about music but goes to a lot of a cappella shows, I know that when it’s done well it never ceases to amaze me – and with voices like these, there are definitely no instruments needed. It wasn’t particularly impressive at the start, but from about a third of the way through, it was clear that this group deserve their accolades. There were excellent and very well rehearsed arrangements with great harmonies (and some cool beatboxing). The singing really was the focus of this show, and it was refreshing that the cleverly done choreography complimented, rather than took over, the a cappella.

The individual voices of the group were sensational; the real highlights of the 'Women of Note' for me were when one person took the lead, cutting through the other singers to assert their voice. In particular, individuals doing big solo bits that you could hear really clearly during the covers of ‘Independent Women’ and ‘You Don’t Own Me’ left the audience open mouthed. ‘Songbird’ was also an absolute delight to listen to.

While time was limited, it would have been good to have heard more of individuals in the group doing parts on their own. Sometimes there seemed a little too much going on at the same time with two people (or more) almost ‘competing’ to be heard, meaning neither could be fully appreciated. It was no fault of the group, but there were also quite a few technical issues in the performance, which was a shame and took away from the professionalism and slickness of the show.

In breaks between songs members of the group would discuss feminist issues. While a nice touch, and important for doing justice to the theme of the show, this did impinge on the amount of music that could be performed – especially considering it’s a fifty minute show which started nearly ten minutes late. Also, sometimes the short speeches about feminism were a bit cringe-worthy in how earnest they were, and would come across as a bit patronising. That being said, it was nice to have an a cappella show united by a theme like feminism, especially considering the history of the group.

It was fun and empowering and came with a great atmosphere. I think I was expecting a little bit more, but there were some amazing moments, and this show is definitely worth going to.


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