Vocal Evolution

Royal Schools Music Club

Sir Thomas More College Chapel

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Vocal Evolution 2009 competition

In many decades of attending – and writing about – concerts, I had never experienced a program presented by a male vocal harmony chorus ie until the weekend when I heard a performance by Vocal Evolution at Sir Thomas More College Chapel on the campus of the University of Western Australia.

Only brief moments into the curtainraiser –  an altogether beguiling account of Blue Skies –  it became unambiguously apparent that Vocal Evolution is a male voice ensemble of high order. From first note to last, its singing was an essay in ultra-professionalism with nary a wrong note, let alone a discord or a lapse in intonation.

Corporate tone could hardly have been bettered – and chording was everything one could have hoped for. With a unanimity of attack that most critics dream about but seldom encounter in reality, there was abundant evidence as well of care lavished on diction. Every word was as clearly enunciated as one could possibly expect it to be. It was an object lesson in how to do this sort of thing very well.

Vocal Evolution’s performance suggests it is an ensemble that rehearses regularly and intensively. Certainly, there were no passengers in this vocal group which harmonises with the ease that comes only from rehearsal that is totally focussed.

It is hardly surprising to learn that Vocal Evolution has won a swag of awards for its singing. At the Australian Association of Men’s Barbershop Singing National Convention in Hobart last September, Vocal Evolution won gold medals in every category it entered which, on the evidence of Saturday’s performance, is hardly surprising.

This is no stand-and-deliver group. On the contrary, the ensemble has a repertoire of discreetly choreographed movement that adds a pleasing visual dimension to the performance, enhancing the overall quality of excellence that informs everything Vocal Evolution presents. It is, moreover, clear that the singers relish performing – and this adds a further dimension to the overwhelmingly positive impact of the singing.

In so uniformly excellent a presentation, it is perhaps invidious to single out this item or that but it would be ungracious not to particularly mention Nexus’ account of You are my Sunshine (a near-faultless essay in pianissimo singing) and a memorable account by 3 Men and Adrian of Come Fly With Me.

Africa (by Toto) provided untrammelled listening pleasure; it deservedly brought the house down.

Are there any commercial recordings of Vocal Evolution? If this performance is anything to go by, there ought to be.

Although intended for performance at Callaway Auditorium, a last minute hitch prevented this happening which placed committee members under huge pressure to find another, suitable venue – very quickly. And this they did: St Thomas More College Chapel fitted the bill admirably, not least for its fine acoustic.

Immediately prior to the concert, the Royal Schools Music Club’s AGM took place.

Every committee member of every arts association in Australia should attend the RSMC’s Annual General Meetings to learn how to do this sort of thing in the most efficient way. Instead of the often meaningless time wasting on trivial matters that can make such meetings a seemingly endless, mind numbing experience, the RSMC committee gets through the agenda in minutes. Not a moment is wasted and the main business of the evening – the music – gets under way.

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