Last night I went to a fabulous concert which was part of the Newbury Spring Festival. West Berkshire’s answer to the Proms and to be honest the quality of the concerts are every bit as good. The English vocal group Voces8 were performing in East Woodhay village church, a venue which over the years has often been used to make many recordings. As such the accoustics are excellent which is important for an acapella (unaccompanied) vocal group as you get a wonderful, evenly balanced sound.
This is the first time in the history of the Newbury Spring Festival, some 37 years, that the same group has been asked back two years in a row and I can see why. The glorious setting and the beautiful weather helped, but more than that, Voces8 are clearly an immensely talented group of singers. For me the most remarkable voice was the bass who has a very rich, deep voice which is also versatile, so one minute he is singing the bass line to a piece by the Renaissance composer William Byrd and the next he is immitating a double bass in I’ve got Rhythm. But that isn’t to say the others aren’t good, they most certainly are and as a group clearly take a lot of trouble to find the right voices for the mix.
The concert started off on a more serious note with pieces by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Felix Mendlessohn and the much loved Mozart Ave Verum, all beautifully delivered, the singers so in tune with each other at every level, intonation, timing and dynamics yet very relaxed. The second half of the concert included a beautiful, spine tingling rendition of the negro Spiritual Were you There and the equally enjoyable Underneath the Stars by Kate Rusby.. The concert culminated with a selection of jazz and swing including pieces such as Lady Madonna and I’ve got Rhythm. The encore was completely brilliant with a montage of well known opera songs sung and performed with humour which got everybody going and a standing ovation at the end. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Do ask them back a third time.
Voces8 perform all over the world in venues to huge critical acclaim. Their debut album Eventide went straight to the top of the Classical Charts on its release. Most of the pieces they performed at last night’s concert were from their second album Lux which I thoroughly recommend.