Voices of Lions

Mon 5th – Thu 8th August 2013

reviews

Shirley Halse

at 08:49 on 8th Aug 2013

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The St. Cuthbert’s parish church seems very different from the regular Fringe show venue. Instead of dark, dingy cellars there are high arched ceilings, sculptures and frescos of Jesus. This is the perfect setting to host 'The Voices of Lions', a male voice choir hailing from Hampton School in southwest London. It is both visually appealing and acoustically top-notch.

With such picturesque surroundings I was praying that it would be good. By God, it was. The first two songs: ‘Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho’ and ‘Deep River’, were incredibly beautiful, fitting and very moving. Even if you don’t believe in the religious side of these things, the cultural power and history is still something to appreciate in the songs. Not to mention the singing. Aidan Collett’s solo at the beginning of the second song was particularly strong – although to elevate any singer individually is somewhat unfair as the whole group were fantastic.

Although their unaccompanied, spiritual songs were easily the most powerful, the group showed an incredible versatility of genres. From a traditional Scottish song, Loch Lomond to a modern medley of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and Aloe Blacc’s ‘I Need a Dollar’, the young men demonstrated their impressive range. There was even a Barbershop Quartet who performed ‘Coney Island Baby’ – a four piece must-have. It was better than when they did it on the Simpsons that one time.

Their performance was also visually engaging, with some unified movement and action when the song required it. They seemed to really enjoy giving the performance and their enthusiasm for the music was clearly conveyed by their singing.

At the end of the show, there was an encore, and then the audience kept clapping and there was an impromptu second encore. I can’t imagine any group has the audacious confidence in themselves to plan for this, so, after a brief audience vote, we heard the first song again. Evidently, this is a hugely talented group and you will leave the church utterly charmed.

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Florence Strickland

at 09:05 on 8th Aug 2013

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I had turned up to ‘The Voices of Lions’ without any knowledge of what the performance would entail. I thought it was perhaps associated with the football song ‘Three Lions’ – perhaps as I had just seen David Baddiel the night before. So I was quite surprised to be confronted with a group of a cappella male singers. What I had come across was an emotionally charged and polished performance, that was often no different from a professional one.

A cappella is a notoriously difficult style of singing, from staying in tune to controlling tempo and harmony. A lot of rehearsal, or experience is needed to pull it off effectively. The students from Hampton School certainly did this and more. They were even comfortable enough to work humorous actions into their performance, to enliven what they were singing further. The tonal changes and achievement of dynamics are difficult with a large group. I was glad that I was sitting at the back, because a few tears escaped at one point. I felt like someone’s soppy mum, but I couldn’t help it. Now I know why my own mother enjoyed watching me singing at school.

The range of songs chosen best showed off the many assets of this style of singing. From Mozart to Gershwin, to a mash up of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and Aloe Blacc’s ‘I Need A Dollar’. Varied formations of the group kept the way the songs were presented fresh. Their performances reminded me how exciting it is to sing. ‘What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor’ was the performance that made this piece five stars. Its arrangement reminded me of Britten’s ‘This Little Babe’ with a terrifying tempo at points, and many different parts.

There seemed no end to the talents of these boys, who evidently loved what they were doing. The influence of Iain Donald, Musical Director, was demonstrated in the fact the boys were so well trained they were able to sing without a conductor in true a cappella style. He has chosen a selection of popular songs, and ensured they are performed musically and with style.

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