Swingle Singers, Holt

MICHAEL DRAKE When Ward Swingle created the first group of his singers he started a lineage which, nearly 40 years later, retains that original, singular style born out of swinging Bach.

MICHAEL DRAKE

When Ward Swingle created the first group of his singers he started a lineage which, nearly 40 years later, retains that original, singular style born out of swinging Bach.

That style was demonstrated in quite outstanding fashion, now with potent sound engineering, at Gresham's School on Saturday.

And the Swingle Singers don't just sound good – they look good, move good, and by golly, they do you good. Clever choreography adds another depth to “songs without words”; in fact, such is their animation that their “do-be-does” seem like conversations.

From their 1960s roots of Bach and Handel, it was fascinating to watch the fugues actually move while Henry VIII's Pastime With Good Company was a brilliant example of vocal dexterity needing little imagination to believe they were playing the medieval instruments as well as singing. Rhythm and modulation was often complex – in the Drunken Sailor for example – and there were occasions when an arrangement was a little too intricate and the melody became lost. But set that against the trio of American musical songs of close harmony and real words or the atmospheric Clair De Lune. Add some Duke Ellington and sophisticated Beatles arrangements, and this was entertainment par excellence.

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