Thank you to all the singers of Eclectic Voices, and the Highbury Young Singers, for an inspiring musical evening. These two choirs, directed by Scott Stroman, were joined by a starry band on June 18: on saxes Bobby Wellins, Pete Hurt and Cennet Jönssson; Henry Lowther on trumpet; Jeremy Price on trombone; Phil Lee on guitar; Pete Saberton on piano; Ronan Guilfoyle on bass and Brian Abrahams on drums.
The concert celebrated the choir’s 20th anniversary, a major achievement by any standards, but even more admirable given the choir’s high standard in performing this idiosyncratic and sometimes difficult music.
Two works were performed, both composed by the choir’s founder and conductor Scott Stroman. In the first half we heard the suite Songs of the Spirit, a piece that has long been in repertoire, and this showed in the confidence and expertise of execution. There were moments of improvisation by the choir, a beautiful, mellifluous sound. In the second half, Jazz Psalms, a piece which was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival and premiered in Gloucester Cathedral. Amid the informal presentation comments, we learned that the festival is one of the longest established music festivals of all times, and that Scott Stroman was actually thinking of this ensemble, Eclectic Voices while he was composing, even though the first performance was given by other choirs.
I loved this music: the wealth of sonorities available was vast, mainly because of the amazingly high technical quality of the performers, and also because of the forces available: the experienced, mature adult choir, the small group of children’s voices, moments for female and male solo singers, and the instrumental ensemble. The musical language is jazz in its broadest and most original sense, including soul, gospel and spiritual.
There was something really tantalizing about this concert: it was such a special treat to hear this combination of voices and band. Then there were a few moments of a capella singing and we hear that lovely, balanced and perfectly even sound of the choir, making me wish for more. I suppose I just have to make another trip to the UK to track down Eclectic Voices http://www.eclecticvoices.org.uk/
I loved the whole evening because the spiritual content of the verse/lyrics was true to the soul and mind of its composer: joyous and sincere, completely free of any hint of cynicism or pretention: a celebration of spiritual joy through musical inspiration.