REVIEW: The Swingle Singers at the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral

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The Swingle Singers are known historically for their tight-knit and skilful arrangements of Bach.

This heritage was ably demonstrated here (eg Bach’s ‘Badinerie’), but expanded to include workings of Elbow, Simon & Garfunkel, Appalachian folk song, and Corelli among others.

The immediately notable feature of the Swingles is their use of microphones: while not to everyone’s taste initially, their management of the hand-held mics was impeccable. Combine this with varied vocal timbres, whistling, percussive sound effects and beat-boxing, and you have an impressive display.

Throughout, the Swingles demonstrated considerable dynamic control, constant interaction with each other and the audience, musical comedy, and well-crafted and judged stage presence.

With one or two minor exceptions, tuning was as good as one would expect from an ensemble of this ilk, with Piazzolla’s Libertango a prime example. Soprano Sarah Brimer showcased her remarkable range and the bass singers deserve special notice. Attention was drawn to the technique of live looping, frequently used to good effect.

The concert showed that the present incarnation of the Swingles retains intimate ensemble singing and impeccable solo work, with epic symphonic effects and exquisite harmonies. Absolutely glorious singing.