The London based ex-York University graduates that make up the Blossom Street choir form a refreshingly different type of a cappella group that takes the genre back to its roots and perform a marvellous set of classical and jazz-based music within the unbeatable acoustics of the Canongate Kirk.
Musical Director Hilary Campbell leads the group through pieces by notable classical composers like John Rutter, Gustav Holst and Percy Grainger, which are interspersed with jazzier numbers that were more frequent in the group’s very early university repertoire. These show off a more fun and youthful side of the group, which otherwise impresses with very tight blend and impeccable musicality.
The standout quality of this group is its collective vocal tone, which is frankly phenomenal. There were several occasions when the tenor line would linger for a couple of bars longer than the rest, and these elongated notes were deliciously soft and at times almost sounded recorded or manipulated in some way. The dynamics were also incredibly good, clearly aided by Campbell’s conducting, and on two occasions one of the group members played the trumpet, which introduced a refreshing new mood despite not technically remaining in the realms of a cappella.
The group was at its strongest during the classical numbers, and while their jazz repertoire was good, the singers were never fully able to stray too far away from their inherently choral sound. This may have partly been to do with never allowing themselves to sing without the black folders of music in their hands, which also limited their movement. It became a little uncomfortable when they tried to introduce a beat-boxing element, as inexperience and nerves led to an uncomfortable rhythm. But generally speaking the quality of sound more than made up for the fact that the group wasn’t so visually interesting, and the male alto in particular was intriguing to try and pick out within the chords, a nigh on impossible task due to the precise blend of the group. This group is definitely worth catching, but don’t expect fireworks.