Durham Dynamics gave their first concert last Thursday in the Music Department’s Concert Room on Palace Green. Twenty five a cappella singers took the stage for the opening item, Broadway Here I Come from ‘Smash’, arranged by musical director Issie Osborne. The B flat major harmonies were well-assigned, sensitive to the size of each vocal section. However, the singers could have projected more to articulate a clearer balance between the voice parts. Nonetheless, issues with balance and projection naturally resolved as the concert progressed. The singers cleanly delivered Broadway Here I Come with the classic tap-clap-click accompaniment.
The second item was Issie’s arrangement of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know. This featured a bass solo by James Everitt, whose portrayal of a desperate, yearning lover was convincing. The next item was a showcase of The Man Who Can’t Be Named by The Script and James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go. Matty Francois, alto, transitioned with ease between both songs, with solid chordal strumming by Tom Katon, which remained sensitive to Matty’s dynamic contours.
The next item was a peppy showcase of Emeli Sandé’s Next To Me and Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life by soprano, Maddie Graham and alto, Sophie Starke. Both singers displayed great competence, which was partly evident through their ability to enjoy themselves, interact with each other and engage with the audience. The pair’s annunciation was commendable, notably the plosive sounds of ‘a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn’, in the chorus. Issie’s piano accompaniment was stable and encouraging.
Issie and Zoe Wardell’s arrangement of She’s Always A Woman by Billy Joel closed the first half. All twenty five singers returned for this piece, featuring a tenor solo by Sam Baumal. The chorus phrases ‘Oh, she takes care of herself…Oh, she never gives out’, were presented powerfully with open, emphatic expressions of ‘Oh’. Sam’s solo was equally bold. His voice culture and good projection kept the audience gripped.
Following a fifteen minute interval, the second half commenced with Issie’s arrangement of Stitches by Shawn Mendes, including solos by Sophie and soprano, Katie Vause. This was an energised yet balanced rendition. The gradual dropping out of voices affected a crisp finish to the piece. Closing with only the resonances of the altos and basses was an interesting arrangement choice.
The next item was a showcase of Boogie Woogie arranged by Issie, featuring thirteen voices. The singers really sold themselves as performers with the aid of Felicity Juckes’ choreography. A swing style hands-on-hip routine was apt for the boogie-woogie blues bass pattern maintained by Sam. A Taylor Swift mashup followed, including Blank Space and Style. This was delivered as a duet between sopranos, Carys Roberts and Alice Wilson. Perhaps following from pieces using larger vocal forces, this item appeared more mild in contrast. Nevertheless, it was in keeping with the soft, mellow mood of the mashup, which was conveyed well in the guitar.
The penultimate piece was an arrangement of Cold Play’s Fix You. Maddie gave a confident solo upon warm, sustained ‘ooh’s in the choir. Maddie was well-supported but not overpowered. The fine manipulation of dynamics in unison was impressive. The bridge section ‘Tears stream…’ prior to the final chorus was especially strong, with the use of all voices.
The final piece of the evening was Issie and Zoe’s arrangment of Want To Want Me by Jason Derulo and Whitney Houston’s Dance With Somebody. Brief solo phrases by sopranos, Claire Hudson, Diya Shaikh, Alice and alto, Sophie, began the item. Meanwhile, the choir were stood behind, detached and facing down. Hence, the choir’s interjections during the chorus appeared more lively and impactful. Modulations in Dance With Somebody were met with an increase in energy and volume. The vocalists’ interactions with each other and the audience did not go unnoticed. Choreography reflective of taking shots and the multiple declarations of ‘shot’ amongst the vocal parts was definitely amusing.
Overall, Durham Dynamics presented a well rehearsed and a very promising first concert. I am sure we can all expect many more successful concerts to come