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South West Acapella Showcase, Victoria Rooms Bristol, Feb 21

February 26, 2010

This was fun. An unexpectedly active corner of the musical world, and definitely not jazz – everything is rehearsed to the nth degree. But a good advertisement for the fun of music making in its ancestral form. Unaccompanied voices, lots of them.

Not quite ancestral form, true, as the focus is on harmony, a latecomer, but the pleasure still feels atavistic. There were three ensembles. The slightly unexpectedly flourishing TUBBS (The University of Bristol Barbershop Singers) – in which there is a family interest: you can hire their quartets you know, which is better than most ways students can make a few quid, and they’re all jolly good…. The Avon Belles (good singers, but the songs tend to be humourously inflected hymns to heterosexism, which can sound a little retro, even allowing for the fact that the style is retro in spades). And the (all male) Great Western Chorus, who are in the habit of winning national comps for this kind of thing. They are the most flamboyant, in a slightly hammy way, but have killer arrangements and generally succeed in persuading that, while once a year is probably enough, any kind of music-making will lift the spirits if it is done very, very well. They can do Bach fugues, too, which isn’t bad for a party piece.

And the last bit, where all combine, features perhaps 150 people on stage together, in well-drilled eight part harmony. Great stuff! Definitely in the diary for next year.

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