Fringe Box



Review: Harlequin Chamber Choir Delights At Electric Theatre

Published on: 3 Oct, 2014
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2014

By Ruchi Srivastava
Describing themselves as a ‘versatile vocal ensemble’, the Harlequin Chamber Choir, based in Cranleigh, is in no ways a traditional choir that one would normally associate with religious music.

As I discovered when I watched them perform at Guildford’s Electric Theatre on September 27, they are attempting to do something very different through the often underestimated but powerful tool that we possess, our voices.

The Harlequin Chamber Choir.

The Harlequin Chamber Choir.

They are an extremely talented bunch of vocalists who came together in September 2013. Now celebrating their first anniversary, the choir has attracted choral singers from all over Surrey with its musical director, Catherine Beddison.

The idea of ‘Harlequin’ is to acknowledge the fact that the choir is made up of a number of different, distinctive individuals, with each person adding something important to the overall vocal strength. By hoping to remain relatively small, this group aims to do justice to each person’s talent, while balancing the collective harmonies of the entire choral group.

I had no idea about what to expect from them. Being a relative novice to the world of music, I have to admit that the vocal range of this choir really surprised me.

The choir took its audience on what its members referred to as ‘Love’s Journey’, where they presented a series of folk songs and madrigals as choral classics seamlessly blended with ballads of the 1980s.

The songs described the various stages associated with love – from longing to fulfilment mixed with angst, which finally blooms into happiness as the songs moved towards a resolution.

If you like me, are a novice in this world, then I dare say that it does take you some time to settle yourself in this wonderfully fast-paced journey of love. However, as the music gradually transitioned from songs of longing to the frivolity and sheer joy of love, I found myself tapping my feet in time to the rhythm of the songs.

Some of my personal favourite performances from the first half of the show included the light-hearted folk song, Dashing Away With A Smoothing Iron, arranged by John Rutter, along with the lively, Let’s Do It, by Cole Porter and arranged by David Blackwell.

Both these songs, more especially the latter, had a very energetic feel and even elicited a few laughs from the audience, leaving everyone in good spirits.

After the interval, the choir did not lose its drive or focus and had a few pleasant surprises in store. These included the rendition of the very moving and classic, The Turtle Dove by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which was sung beautifully by the soloist, David Wilson.

Another song that succeeded in touching me emotionally was Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma, arranged by Andrew Carter. I thought that the harmonies of the choir in this song were breathtaking and took one to another place and time.

The real surprise package was when the choir performed the popular American song Frankie and Johnnie. This song is said to have been inspired by murders that took place in 1899, and has since spurned several films.

Without revealing too much of the surprise elements, all I can say is that the choir’s interpretation of this song was thoroughly entertaining and something for which they also probably received the maximum amount of applause.

I had a very interesting and entertaining evening. I would definitely recommend the choir to those who either enjoy choral music very much or the more adventurous souls who are willing to experience the unique world of the Harlequin Chamber Choir.

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