London A Cappella Festival – sonictruths.net
King’s Place, 12th January 2012
The first concert was the Vasari Singers – a choir I’d heard of but never heard. Before they took to the stage though, we were treated to a mini performance by Albert Hera, who apparently has been called the Italian Bobby McFerrin – not a bad description! He has an incredibly versatile voice and evokative facial expressions, and as he bopped and hooted his way through announcing the “L-O-N-D-O-N a capp-ell-a twen-ty twelve” he repeatedly cracked the audience up with his playful expressions, gestures, and sounds. Wonderful to start the festival with laughter and such a show of vocal capability!
Then the Vasari Singers began the festival in earnest, with a remarkably varied repertoire which really showed off just what a versatile group they are. The highlights for me were Gabriel Jackson’s “I am the voice of the wind”, where the ladies provided a wonderful lilting sound texture to match the piece’s title, the strange (but expertly performed) “Gloria” from Poulenc’s “Mass in G”, and the beautiful gentle “Angel Song II” by Will Todd, whose vowel-only “Hosannahs” made for a very soothing sound.
The performance of Pierre Villete’s “Attende Domine” was soured somewhat by the reverb effect which was inexplicably applied. Presumably the PA system was on for sound reinforcement, but whoever decided a reverb time of literally a couple of seconds would be appropriate was very much mistaken… Although the choir were able to expertly stop on a dime, many of the powerful abrupt silences were spoiled by the artificial reverb tail.
The performance was rounded off with several pieces arranged by Ward Swingle, one of the group’s patrons, and the founder of The Swingle Singers. This brought a lighter flavour to the music, and the choir were joined by a few of the Swingles to sing solo parts and all the Swingles for “It was a love and his lass”. The final Vasari piece was “All The Things You Are”, the bouncy second half of which allowed them to really enjoy themselves, which was great to see. This energy was kept up as the Swingles joined them on stage again for the classic Swingle medley “Country Dances”, bringing the performance to a fun and upbeat close.