It seemed very fitting that the theme of Wednesday night’s concert by Voices should be ‘Perfect Days’ given the beautiful sunny weather we were lucky enough to have in Durham that day. Performing in aid of the Rainbow Trust, Voices had put together a varied programme featuring music based on the theme of days. Describing themselves as both friendly and welcoming, the choir is non-auditioned and perform a range of music, including both popular and traditional choral music in their repertoire. We were treated to the force of the full choir tonight, directed by Melody Bishop and accompanied by Fergus Carver, along with performances from Voice’s new chamber choir, whose pieces broke up the programme nicely.
Getting the concert off to an exciting start, the colourfully dressed singers gave an equally colourful and high energy performance of ‘Mr. Blue Sky’. Originally released by the Electric Light Orchestra in 1977, this arrangement for choir was written by Roger Emerson and highlighted immediately the strength of the voices within the ensemble. From the very first note of this song, it became obvious that there was a good chemistry between singers in the choir, this helping to achieve the group’s good balance and effective blend of voices.
The next piece on the programme was an intriguing selection of pieces from ‘Five Days that Changed the World’, arranged by Bob Chilcott. The first of these chosen songs was sung by the ensemble’s chamber choir and depicted the invention of the printing press. The choir used a full range of well executed articulations throughout the piece. At times, there were a few minute inaccuracies in terms of tuning, but this failed to distract from the rhythmic accuracy and the high energy that the singers communicated to the audience. Following this, the full choir performed song two, ‘The Abolition of Slavery’. The group achieved a sensitive tone throughout the piece, as well as managing to convey the emotional depth and sentiment of the music. The collection of pieces was concluded with a song that detailed the discovery of Penicillin. This song highlighted the capability of the full choir to sing with clear and accurate articulation and was overall a very pleasing end to a well performed and unique collection of pieces.
This song highlighted the capability of the full choir to sing with clear and accurate articulation and was overall a very pleasing end to a well performed and unique collection of pieces.
Rounding off the first half of the concert was Melody Bishop’s Arrangement of ‘Perfect Day’, written originally by Lou Reed in 1972. This was the choir’s first unaccompanied piece of the night and, with a good foundation provided by the bass voices, the group did a very good job of keeping in tune as well as in tempo. Smiles from the singers showed this was obviously a favourite piece for several members of the choir, and this was certainly conveyed through the enthusiasm they brought to the performance.
The second half began with a much more paired down duet arrangement of the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from Melody Bishop and Hannah Dickson. Their two voices blended effectively and overall they gave a very sensitive performance. Despite this very exposed two voice texture, the singers maintained confidence and vocal control throughout, making only a few minor mistakes. It was lovely to hear two of the choir’s voices specially featured in this way and it provided a nice contrast to the programme.
Smiles from the singers showed this was obviously a favourite piece for several members of the choir, and this was certainly conveyed through the enthusiasm they brought to the performance.
The following piece, ‘Day by Day’, was initially quite a surprise as the singers, who had split into three groups, began to sing as they walked towards the stage from opposite ends of the church. Eventually they came together in the middle, bringing the three parts together in a round. Also unaccompanied, this piece was kept together well by the singers, who effectively managed to keep in time with their individual groups. Following this was another performance by the chamber choir, who sang ‘You Are The New Day’, arranged by Peter Knight. This unaccompanied piece was delivered by the group with accurate tuning and intonation.
The full choir then returned to the stage for the performance of a more traditional choral piece, ‘Sweet Day’, from Three Elizabethan Part Songs. This unaccompanied and mostly homophonic piece demonstrated the choir’s ability to sing and breathe together, and this certainly added an air of professionalism to their performance. Following this was another traditional choral piece called ‘Abendlied Op. 69 No.3’. This piece, featuring singers from the chamber choir as well as the society’s exec, was performed with the group gathered around the piano, making for a more intimate performance. The song included some extremely high notes, which were accurately executed by the soprano voices, and complemented by the acoustics of the church.
Before the final performance of the evening, the choir simultaneously put their music on the floor and stood in anticipation of their next song, ‘One Day Like This’, again arranged by their Musical Director, Melody Bishop. Rounding off the programme, this song was met with much enthusiasm from the singers, who accompanied themselves with foot-stomps and handclaps towards the end. The arrangement of this song nicely showcased the different sections of the choir as they passed around the melody line over a steady ostinato from the other singers, each of the sections proving their strength in turn. The group maintained their high energy in this performance, despite it being the final song in what I can imagine was a tiring programme.
This wonderfully vibrant and theatrical piece was the perfect end to what had been a wonderful concert from this equally vibrant and fun group, and I look forward to hearing more of their performances in the future.