There was certainly a buzz to the room as the audience sat down eagerly anticipating the start of joint concert of Full Score and Durham Dynamics. Both groups clearly are well supported as the whole church was completely full up. This was the debut concert for new group Full Score led by Alex Mackinder and Sophie Atkinson. There can often be a concern for new groups being added to the umbrella of Music Durham with the echoing phrase ‘Oh, not another one!’, but Full Score have managed to shatter this stigma delivering with something quite different, exciting and musically very slick. It went off to a great start with a great arrangement of Isn’t She Lovely, heralding the upper voices of the choir. There were occasions where the balance was slightly off and the group could perhaps benefit with a stronger back row but I had no doubt at this point that the lower voices would prove themselves in pieces to come. Their second piece Java Jive created a great atmosphere bringing many smiles and the odd tapping foot. When the group perfectly aligned the 6th chords used in this piece, an occurring harmonic chordal use in barbershop repertoire, the voices excelled. It is important to note that the choreography could be improved but naturally with more practise and rehearsal this will be well within their abilities after showing what they can do vocally. Their arrangement of Moondance was a particular highlight of this first half which a big shout out to Ralph Skan for his upbeat and engaging solo. The male quartet proved to be very effective albeit a couple technical problems vocally which could be altered by aiming for the exact same vowel.
An arrangement of the classic folk song O Danny Boy followed showing off the group’s very strong alto section during suspensions. Miranda Harding led the next arrangement of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer as soloist. Unfortunately, only certain points of her solo were heard as the backing vocals were not especially sensitive to the soloist in her lower range, but nonetheless Miranda portrayed a gorgeous rich full voice and I hope is used again in future.
Overall, the Full Score set was very well programmed, a particular strength of Mackinder, as commented in previous DUOS concerts. Within one term they have conquered some rather impressive repertoire and a strong sense of group rapport and therefore I truly believe Full Score have positioned themselves as a very high competitor for Northern Lights this year, the University’s current leading acapella group. Full Score have great potential this year and going to be a hot ticket for future concerts. Hats go off to Sophia and Alex.
Following the Full Score set, Durham Dynamics led the second half of this concert. The singers entered the stage from different sides but in a musical round which was a strong and effective start to second half which helped Dynamics as they had a very hard act to follow. The First Nowell showed off the power of the tenors and basses of the group but there were moments where the sense of line in the singing across the choir was less apparent. Nonetheless, Carol of Bells followed which put Dynamics in their full light as it was well balanced (when the beatboxer was in time despite a hesitant start), and the passion was truly evident. Carrys Robert then took to the stage as the night’s soloist. Despite noticeable nerves, Roberts had the most beautiful and natural lightness and purity to her voice full of moving emotional intent bringing the room to standstill. Katie and Vause and Charlotte followed with The Rose whom voices were well matched, with well-tuned harmonies and strong communication.
Vause was joined by Alice Beaumout, Tom Katon, Jonny Pollard and Curtis Irvine singing Hallelujah. Apart from the slightly shaking start and occasional tuning problems, the group created a nice and sensitive atmosphere, well conveying the meaning of the song. That’s Christmas to Me, used very simple yet incredibly effect choreography and layout which was not just satisfactory visually but actually made an effective way of blending all the voices together. In this particular piece, the majority of the singers were also smiling which lifted all the spirits of the audience after the well-known Hallelujah.
The concert finished with a joint piece reintroducing Full Score with a quite complicated but excellent arrangement of Santa Baby by Zoe Wardell. This was a really nice touch to the concert having both groups come together, the soloists from both groups were very strong – a real testament to the two groups and their musical directors.