A Cappella Christmas Concert: Reviewed

At the earlier time of 3:30pm (whether this is to avoid collision with Christmas Ball pres is up for debate), the Acapella Society committee scheduled a holiday bonanza this year. All six St Andrews groups performed alongside worldwide hit, Trinity College Dublin’s The Trinitones, following their successful US-tour and having gained 23 million views on their viral video of a George Ezra medley. This event, supporting Music in Hospitals & Care Scotland (MiHC), helped not only to boost the town’s morale in the longer, darker nights, but also to raise much-needed funds for a charity whose “live musical sessions are designed to humanise clinical settings, to reach and connect people, to encourage communication and meaningful interactions and to elicit emotions and memories when it matters most.”

With Blind Mirth introducing each act with improvisation, the concert began with The Vocal Bandits. Growing out of the timidity that can often accompany the first performance of a concert, their covers of ‘King of Anything’ by Sara Bareilles and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ proved a wonderful range. Between the fourteen members, their choreography faltered at points, due to the largest group size amongst the local performers. Their clapping, adopted by the crowd, set the tone for a varied afternoon of a cappella.

The Hummingbirds’ beatboxing in ‘Blue Lights’ by Jorja Smith exemplified this: with perfectly-synced stomps and snaps, this modern arrangement showcased the group’s scope of talent. Followed by more traditional semicircle renditions of ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, the vocal accompaniments soared in Christmas classics. This group contained many of the strongest singers (to my untrained ear), and all combined beautifully in their adaption of one of 2018’s biggest songs.

Fresh from their performance on South Street on Saturday for the Saint Andrews’s Day celebrations, The Other Guys sang, among others, their single for this year: ‘Fairytale of New York’. With guest soloist, Amelia Poole, the effortless choreography that comes with frequent performance shined through. A particular highlight, beyond the obvious brightness of the multicoloured array of chinos, was the play-fighting on stage during the “you’re a scumbag” part, though the beatboxing often overshadowed Amelia’s solo. However, her talent was once again brought to the fore in the end note of the song.

Up next was The Trinitones, of Trinity College Dublin, who were introduced by Blind Mirth as “Politics these days is depressing: Trump; Brexit… Yet it’s okay. With no hard border yet, here’s The Trinitones.” Their medleyed original song ‘Christmas Gets Better Every Verse’ blended ‘Beautiful Girls’ by Sean Kingston with the ever-popular ‘Stand By Me’. Reunited with a former member, they then performed ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Cupid’s Chokehold’ by Gym Class Heroes before a final, epic arrangement of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. The soloist, co-coordinator and designated “Major Tom” for the evening strolled through the attendees before being called back by Ground Control on the stage. It is plain to see just why they are watched worldwide to such acclaim, and their rich and choral arrangements justify their booking, and then some.

Following the intermission, BELLS came on stage, a mixed group of twelve who used the opportunity to blend several differing styles and eras of music in their medleys. First, their beatboxing of Ariana Grande’s ‘God is a Woman’ bled through into ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, and the flowing ‘I Know All What I Do’ by Jack Garratt lent itself to this group’s strong choreography and chemistry. Their production of Sufjan Stevens’s ‘Mystery of Love’ mixed with ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ was my favourite: a mesh of two very different songs which worked, due of course to the extraordinary vocal talent of the group.

Penultimately, The Accidentals, who switched from their signature pink jackets into Christmas jumpers, excelled with the best choreography of the night. Their rendition of ‘Woman’ by Ke$ha maintained strong timing with their use of beatboxing as a backdrop beat as well as a metronome, also reflected in their rendition of ‘Fallin’ by Alicia Keys. Their final song, at first thought to be a Christmas classic, soon erupted into ‘Santa Claus Tell ‘Em’, a riff on the Soulja Boy classic, with high-energy rapping and the soon-to-be infamous line of “Yule crank that Santa boy” proving a fan favourite. It was definitely personal favourite performance of the afternoon.

Finally, The Alleycats, a mixed group who utilised their a cappella skills more to layer sounds and interweave lyrics rather than as a mere backdrop, performed ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ by Alicia Keys, ‘Silent Night’, and a Madonna mashup. They ended the show on a high, with a flurry of thrown snow, and the male soloist for ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ excelled under the pressure of being the first singer of the last act, greeted to cheers around Younger Hall.

The A Cappella Christmas Concert was, once again, a resounding success & great work was done raising money for MiHC Scotland, which will hopefully lead to happier holidays for many.