Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Songmen @ Kings Place, London


The Songmen have a hugely varied repertoire.  Having met singing in cathedral choirs across the country, all six men have a strong background in church music.  Yet they take their audiences on a journey through the ages, from French madrigals, to Scottish folk, negro spirituals and swing numbers like Mr Bojangles and I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby, all sung a capella.  This range of styles has manifested in two albums: the pop and jazz 'Midnight' and the renaissance 'A Sacred Place'.

Whether singing intricate fugues or juicy jazz harmonies, The Songmen consistently impressed in this intimate performance at Kings Place.  Including two counter-tenors, they have an unusual sound with a vocal range as wide as their repertoire.  Jon Beasley's bass singing kept the singers rhythmically tight, whilst the others shared melodic and harmonic duties.  The sweet falsetto singing of both Guy Lewis and Ben Sawyer floated effortlessly above the others with surprising power, though as a whole the sound was warm, hushed and well-balanced.

As some of the songs lent themselves towards a more dramatic performance, there was some especially characterful singing.  Best of all, though, were the simple songs that allowed the audience to luxuriate in their pure voices and harmonies.  An original arrangement of Heartbeats (originally by The Knife but famously covered by José González) was simply stunning.

A capella singing is becoming increasingly popular, but where some groups focus solely on pop covers, The Songmen have a solid foundation in classical music that sets them apart from the pack.  Their singing simply cannot fail to put a smile on your face.

4/5

Listen: Both 'Midnight' and 'A Sacred Place' are available now.

Watch: The Songmen will be performing across the UK in the coming months (details on their website).