Simply Blue

There is a real physicality in music. The act of singing itself is a physical endeavour, managing breath, working vocal chords, projecting the noise.

Hit the stage and party. Then we could all have a good time.

Singing also carries a rhythmicality to it - swaying hips and clicking fingers. That’s why sporty boys often love to sing. They certainly do at the Diocesan College (aka Bishops), an independent boys school in Cape Town, which prides itself both on a galaxy of South African sporting internationals and a strong musical tradition, based in its John Peake Music School. The school holds an annual Eisteddfod to show off its musical prowess, with a range of singing and instrumental performances that the whole school clearly buys into and enjoys. It is wonderful to see a school make this level of commitment to music. This Simply Blue choir is a product of the school’s passion, with a collection of 16 to 18 year olds presenting their songbook in harmony, with the occasional backing track and some light choreography.

What a charming bunch of crooners these guys are. Fifteen of them, just like a rugby team - very Bishops. An elegant, modern rainbow boys choir. The singers all worked together well in providing sharp harmonies and the two-way waistcoats were a thing of wonder in themselves. Congrats to Costume. Within the group, Nimba Mahlati was undoubtedly the talisman, opening and closing the show with a stunning voice. Koame Kota’s passion for the Khoisan language clearly engaged the audience. And Thando Kualo can definitely move. The group particularly came to life presenting African heritage songs as their centrepiece, starting with Shosholoza and progressing into Zulu prayer songs and music inspired by the townships. This was certainly the centrepiece of the show and sung with real passion and feeling – and much better suited to the group than the Eric Clapton and John Denver songs that sandwiched this section. The group are good choral singers, smartly dressed and above all, they were very nicely behaved.

And that was the problem. I didn’t want them to be nicely behaved. I wanted them to be characterful and daredevilish and fun and a bit cheekier than I’d like, the way that teenage boys are supposed to be. I wanted them to own the stage, to put on a show, to come out slugging. I wanted to see friendships within the wider group, some flamboyancy and showmanship, singers full of the joy of their music. Where was it? When the group brought a pretty girl on stage for a love song, they posed as if they were being photographed with the Headmaster’s wife on Speech Day. I wanted them to vie for her attention, so that their strategy for catching her eye might reveal to us something of their individual personality.

Come on, lads! You are not at school now, you’re on tour! You’ve got great voices so hit the stage and party. Then we could all have a good time.

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The Blurb

Simply Blue, a four-part a cappella group of singers from Bishops Diocesan College, was started in June 2000. The aim is to create an opportunity for senior boys in the college to be able to express their enjoyment of singing contemporary songs and other light-hearted classics while sharing their love of music with others. The group is made up of 15 member and includes a vocal percussionist. They have toured both nationally and internationally in the past 21 years and look forward to being part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the second time.

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