Sunday 20 March 2011

'Come Sunday' with Chantage and the Swingle Singers @ Union Chapel 18/3/11

Rocking up to the Union Chapel, I didn't really know what to expect from this concert.  But what a joy it turned out to be. 

Despite the scaffolding on the exterior, the Union Chapel proved to be an impressive venue, beautifully candlelit and with great acoustics.  The first piece sung by Chantage, The Old Church (Stephen Paulus, 2001) was a fitting start to the evening.

Formed in 1999, Chantage are a leading amateur choir already with accolades to their name - including the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year 2006.  Combined with the stunning vocals of the Swingle Singers, the room was brimming with vocal talent.  The second  piece, Tippett's Five Negro Spirituals, showed this off to the full.  The songs were accompanied by new Spiritual Interludes composed by Ken Burton, conductor of the London Adventist Chorale and Croydon SDA Gospel Choir.  These interludes undoubtedly contained some juicy jazz chords, but overall lacked variety and distracted from Tippett's music.

Next, three a capella pieces by the Swingle Singers - Gershwin's Fascinatin' Rhythm, a cover of Eleanor Rigby and It's Sand, Man.  For me, these stole the show - eight individually incredible voices blending together with stunning effect, self-accompanied with beatboxing.  Their latest album 'Ferris Wheels' is available now and definitely worth checking out.  Total Praise, a gospel classic by Richard Smallwood, rounded out the first half, showing the versatility of Chantage.

The second half consisted solely of Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert.  Originally premiered in 1965, it fuses Christian liturgy with jazz - a unique combination.  This manifested as the Chantage classical choir accompanied by the Urban Big Band with solos by the Swingle Singers - all well controlled by conductor James Davey.  With such an odd fusion, it's easy to see why the piece first received mixed reviews, but here it suited well the ambience of the evening and matched the rest of the programme.  The only disappointment was a lack of encore at the end.

Overall a highly enjoyable evening, filled with inspirational singing.


Below is a taster from a previous concert of the Swingle Singers' work.  Their latest album 'Ferris Wheels' is available to buy and on Spotify.