Sweet Music – review

THE IDEA OF NORTH with The Choir of St James'


 ... rehearsing before the concert.

Earlier this month, The Choir of St James’ had the privilege of joining the awe-inspiring The Idea of North in concert, who were performing as part of the St James’ Metamorphosis Concert Series for 2013. TION sing mostly a capella (soprano Sally Cameron, alto Naomi Crellin, tenor Nick Begbie, and bass Andrew Piper) with a bit of vocal percussion thrown in. They have a beautifully distinct sound and style, crossing many musical genres: jazz, folk, gospel, pop, comedy.

When we arrived at St James’, the pews were buzzing with eagerness and expectation. Tony, TION’s sound man, impressed us all with his technical set-up, controlling the different levels, effects and panning all directly from his iPad. This leading-edge technology allowed TION to take full advantage of the luxurious acoustics of St James’, experimenting with the reverberations and delays of the venue. It reminded us how lucky we are to sing in such a lovely venue twice a week.

During the afternoon of rehearsal, we were introduced to a spectrum of TION’s repertoire and shared selections from our own repertoire to rehearse for the concert. In the performance we joined The Idea of North for a couple of numbers as well as performing our own repertoire. The Choir of St James’ began the second half of the concert with Bob Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass and the spiritual Steal Away arranged by David Blackwell. To top and tail the night, we joined TION for two more items: Sinead O’Connor’s In This Heart and Sting’s Fragile. Alto, Naomi, was delighted at the sound and professionalism of The Choir of St James’, or a ‘real’ choir as she called us, who took up her challenging arrangements with ease, unlike many school groups that TION works with on occasion.

The concert journeyed from Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder to African work songs and traditional hymns. The audience was mesmerized not only by the beautiful music, but also by The Idea Of North’s unique charisma, choreography and comedy. Smattering their set with the anecdotes and inspiration behind many of their arrangements, the concert offered something to all who attended.

Personally, the highlight of the evening was our pre-concert rehearsal down in the church crypt. While down there, we were treated to a sublime rendition from TION of In This Heart. Members of the Choir are lobbying to have our next concert down in the crypt, simply because the acoustics are so divine, although I have a feeling the logistics will prove all too hard to negotiate!

At the next concert in the Metamorphosis series, Immortality, in an all-German affair, The Choir of St James’ will showcase some of the most impressive music inspired by reverence for God in the face of human mortality. The programme will include: Schütz’s Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (Psalm 84) and Selig sind die Toten; J.S. Bach’s Komm, Jesu, Komm; and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. We look forward to seeing you there.

 Alex Siegers is a member of The Choir of St James’.

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