Do you identify as a die hard fan of acapella? If you grew up alongside Glee in high school and Pitch Perfect in college, it’s time to step up your game. Pentatonix and The Idea of North are notable rivals, but the emerging force, known as VOCES8, has taken the definition of the Latin word for ‘voices’ to a whole new level. They conquer the stage when it comes to raw, quality vocals.
Hold my wine glass.
Eight silhouettes against the mesmerising backdrop of Sydney harbour. No sound beyond a breath was heard; the crack of knuckles and turn of a page were voluminous in the Utzon room. Their violin-voices broke the stillness like an instrumental version of the ocean, evoking undulating waves of emotion.
Their repertoire created a gorgeous imagery that ranged from the early Renaissance to modern jazz. The performance evoked intimate moments, such as that of the angels and Elijah from Psalms 91, in their rendition of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen’ (For He shall give His angels charge).
The purity of sounds was therapeutic and served as palate cleanser to the myriad of electronic heavy songs that wash over our minds these days. Returning to the roots of how our voices are our best instruments, VOCES8 certainly raised the bar for live performances.
Who needs reverb when you’ve seven other talented members to harmonise with?
Below are the highlights of the evening that in my opinion, captured the best of each member in an ascending vocal range:
Jonathan, as the bass, unearthed the deepest notes in the classic ‘The Sound of Silence’.
Chris, the youngest (and debatably most charming) member had most ladies swooning to ‘Sway’ with his unassuming baritone.
Barnaby, who is a countertenor and the ingenious co-founder of the group, had us all snapping fingers to ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’.
Sam’s spine-tingling tenor in ‘The Luckiest’ evoked an alluring, Evan Hansen-like vibe.
Blake enraptured the audience in ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’ with his sexy, smooth tenor and slick back hair.
Katie slayed with her high ponytail and alto in the melancholic ‘Homeward Bound’.
Andrea hit all the right notes with her hair-raising soprano in ‘Sing Joyfully’.
Eleonore, a soprano from Yorkshire, added authenticity to the rendition of her hometown’s ‘Underneath The Stars’.
Before their success and performances at the likes of the Sydney Opera House, Bridgewater Hall and Vienna Konzerthaus, to name a few, the octet came from humble beginnings. Their artistic careers were originally unplanned until they won a competition in Italy. Their accidental success kickstarted their tenure and they have inspired others through music ever since.
As the flagship ensemble of the Music charity VCM Foundation, they are passionate about music education as well. I was honoured to have attended the Masterclass that followed the performance, in which they shared behind-the-scenes insights as well as transformed the invited choir groups before our eyes. It is an insanely effective method given the short space of time. By the end of the evening, the Utzon room held more meaning than its mere physique. Sure, it was reminiscent of an Italian wine cellar that oozed with the sweet scent of a fireplace during winter, but to me, this was the place that VOCES8 had planted the seed of true acapella in each of us that left the room.
Catch VOCES8 on their tour! Click here for the tickets and check out their Youtube video below. Don't forget to drop by their website where you can find their latest album that features an eclectic range from Radiohead to music from 'Game of Thrones', Enchanted Isle!