I know from running my community choir, that one should never prejudge what people may like in terms of music. This evening it was wonderful seeing a sea of white hair (the expensive seats in the front stalls definitely had an over 65 air to it…) letting go, dancing and joining in with Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk , and clearly thoroughly adoring Laura Mvula’s Sing to the Moon, Alicia Key’s Try sleeping with a broken heart to Eric Whitacre’s gorgeous Seal Lullaby (written for Disney and never used as the planned film was canned- Disney’s loss, our gain!) and James McMillan’s O Radiant Dawn.
Voices is a very young ensemble- most of the the singers have only recently completed their studies at music college or university, but this doesn’t mean they don’t know their stuff. The versatility of their voices, being able to beat box, sing pop and hip hop as well as various shades of classical and standard choral singing and their clear love of performance and acting, not just standing and singing, and above all their professionalism, is very impressive.
The sixteen members remind me of the eponymous “The Sixteen”, well known for their renditions of renaissance and contemporary classical music. 16 is a good number for a choral group- but not the only number, so I wonder if the choice is a little dig at the conventions of choral grouping. “the Sixteen”, I suspect, would not dream of performing in the style of Voices, Tonight we had a medley of snatches of Christmas songs, being gently mocked, with added costume changes and reindeer and sledges being chased round the stage, and, in a change of pace, Gareth Malone and Harriet Syndercombe Court sitting drinking tea and crooning Beetles numbers.
Of course, the highlight of the show is Gareth Malone himself. He reminded the audience a number of times of his great age (40- I wish!) but behaves on stage like a hyperactive teenager pretending to be an old fogey. It is appealing to see a conductor/choral director who really doesn’t want to stand still- his body dances to the music even as he looks as if he is desperately trying to keep two feet on the ground. He leaps and bounds round the stage- his body language conveys his love, enthusiasm and passion for what he does- and it is infectious.
There were some of the older members of the audience who either had a train to catch or really weren’t big Mark Ronson fans- who snuck out early from the show, but they missed a treat. The fans would not go without an encore, although the clapping and calling had to continue some time before dragging the performers out again. Nobody does it better, from the spy who loved me, with stunning lighting effects brought the house down.
I’m looking forward to the next tour- I’ll be booking a ticket. And it’s got me thinking about challenging my community choir to do more, and do different.