Chacapella: Vocal Point

It’s a cheering sight when a long queue forms outside a venue for a group’s first performance and the cheer from the audience that greeted Chacapella showed that they clearly have a following. They launched enthusiastically into the first few songs of their set – an ingenious coupling of Fly Me to the Moon and Isn’t She Lovely – with buoyed enthusiasm. As the name suggests, this is an a capella ensemble, but with a twist. They meet in their spare time and rehearse, arrange and choreograph – with flair and complexity – all of their own work. Made up of sixth-formers from London, this all-girl group wore striking, deep pink tee-shirts that bore an important message.

Alison Mansfield, (who organised the trip and arranged most of the music) and all of the performers have done their friend and the Charity set up in her memory proud.

Bringing this show up to Edinburgh under their own steam, they are doing this for an extraordinary altruistic reason. When one of their friends, Allie, died aged only 17, the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation was set up in her memory. All proceeds of the concerts staged by Chacapella during the Fringe will go to that charity. At the midpoint of the show, Allie’s mother gave a moving speech about the work of the foundation which aims to give less-fortunate young people opportunities, in memory of her daughter.

On that basis, who could not be moved? The strength of the concert, though, was in the positive choice of music which the girls felt reflected the spirit of their friend. With a range of styles from pop songs and show tunes – with a little nod towards Handel at one point – this was an energetic and ambitious selection, including an energetic arrangement of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, and a tribute to Aretha Franklin in I Say a Little Prayer. Where young – especially female – voices can suffer is in the limits of range. These sorts of ensembles can often sound like a school recorder group, where the low sounds get lost, and the upper registers don’t quite focus. While the altos sang mainly off the chest, and the higher voices were flutey, it was the mid-range where the tone was most lacking.

That said, the dry acoustic of Space Cabaret was very unforgiving, but there was no loss in diction. Adding to the musical variety was the variation of soloists and chatty introductions. Some soloists fell foul to tuning issues, especially during the more complex harmonies of Burt Bacharach arrangements, but any slips were covered with smiles and humour. The tightest musical performance, however, was by the subsection of the group; a quartet who called themselves 'The Wandeeboos.' Connie Lewis, Laura Ali, Mia Gourlay and Suzie McDermott performed Santa Fe, from Rent, with a focus of blend and tight rhythmic ensemble that would benefit the full group.

Certainly, by the end of this 45-minute recital the voices had warmed up and the well-hidden nerves had abated. Despite their vocal discrepancies, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and heart-warming concert. Alison Mansfield, (who organised the trip and arranged most of the music) and all of the performers have done their friend and the Charity set up in her memory proud. 

Reviews by J. A. Sutherland

Underbelly, Cowgate

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★★★
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★★★
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★★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

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★★★
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★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Top performing all-girls a cappella group from London sing contemporary, quality close-harmony music covering everything from chart hits to jazz. Come and enjoy an exciting evening whilst supporting a great cause. Aged 15-18 from Channing School, we are one of the youngest groups at the Fringe; taking a fun, fresh approach we create 'sheer, unfettered joyous music' (BroadwayBaby.com) all arranged by our own members. Returning to the Fringe with plenty of new material, we are raising money for the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation, a charity close to our hearts working to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.