SOUNDS LIKE KEEN SPIRIT
28/02/2015 - 28/02/2015
With repertoire from the Renaissance to right now, The Souls take you on an a capella trip inside the ticking heart of the University of Auckland’s architectural icon: the Clock Tower. Open your eyes, ears and hearts to the timeless wonder of sweet, sweet song in this singular acoustic.
7.30pm, 28 Feb 2015
Review by Marianne Schultz 01st Mar 2015
Entering the hallowed halls of the ivory Clock Tower at the University of Auckland is a welcome relief after making my way through the throngs gathered for the Lantern Festival in the surrounds of Albert Park. The informal atmosphere of chairs being set by the performers to accommodate audience members as they arrive, children lying on the floor, and confused Summer Shakespeare patrons wandering into the performance space, is offset by the vaulted setting for this vocal performance by Soul in the atrium of this Art Nouveau building.
In an introduction provided by one of the singers we learn that the thirteen members of this predominately acapella vocal ensemble meet regularly to sing and drink wine together. After 45 minutes in their company, it is obvious that their gatherings focus on producing beautiful music rather comparing the aftertaste on the palate. Lucky for us.
The eleven songs in this concert display an eclectic range; from Renaissance compositions, English folk ballads, Elvis Presley hits to twenty-first century pop songs. Opening with an arrangement by Claire Scholes of the iconic 1990s grunge band, Nirvana’s classic Smells Like Teen Spirit, the soprano voices (in the absence of a written programme it is not possible to credit individual singers) provides an ethereal quality to this anthem of teen angst, contrasting with the original intensity of the song.
The next two works, a classic Italian song and a 16th century composition from the English composer William Byrd highlight the beautifully crafted harmonies of the group, effortlessly braiding together parts, making a cohesive and satisfying whole. The natural acoustics and warm reverberations of the space conjure a cathedral setting with a choir of many rather than the dozen present.
Resembling a traditional Irish song, Sinead O’Connor’s In This Heart was beautifully realised. The harmonies ride the waves of the melody, with the repeating refrain, ‘my love’, a touchstone providing a comforting base. Another song from a twenty-first singer/songwriter, Imogene Heap’s dark and mysterious Hide and Seek allowed the singers to explore deeper tones and dexterity of enunciation. An arrangement of Robbie Burns’ Red, Red Rose, while interesting, felt somewhatdiscordant and unfamiliar.
The least successful element of this otherwise pleasing concert was the inclusion of two numbers requiring audience participation. The well-known Elvis Presley ballad Can’t Help Falling in Love with You and a brief attempt at singing-in –the- round of Ah Poor Bird were not wholly successful and ultimately unnecessary. Also not wholly effective was the addition of violin and guitar accompaniment in the original composition by a group member, The Road Not Taken, (lyrics taken from the Robert Frost poem). After the soothing quality of the unaccompanied voices, the added sounds and timbres of these instruments jarred.
The evening concluded with a local composition, Angels, by the collective Fly My Pretties. This arrangement for Soul highlighted the vocal strengths of its members and rounded off a whirlwind offering from multiple time periods and continents. An encore would have been most welcomed.
Soul’s presence in the Fringe Festival is welcome and illustrates the diverse nature of Auckland’s artistic community. Alongside challenging homemade drama, absurdist comedy, immersive storytelling and cutting edge dance works, Soul provided a respite for the eyes and ears. Sounds like keen spirit indeed.
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