Live music review: The Swingles, Cork City Hall

The 63rd Cork International Choral Festival is now in full swing, with, as well as the hotly-contested choral competitions for both national and international groups, a range of gala concerts, workshops, masterclasses, free recitals and fringe events all over the city and county. 

Live music review: The Swingles, Cork City Hall

Last Wednesday’s opening night saw a stunning presentation of Verdi’s Requiem at the City Hall; while on Thursday night the world-renowned Swingles made a welcome return to the city.

How a group that has been going since the early 1960s can continue to create the same wonderfully pure and inspiring sounds that first made it famous is a mystery. The membership inevitably changes over the years, and yet that magical beauty is still perfectly rendered in the harmony of seven voices ranging across the scale from highest to lowest. Shut your eyes, and you are listening to the Swingles at any stage of their long-lasting career.

On Thursday night, as well as honouring the classics, they showcased numbers from their new album, Folklore, which takes and adapts music that the group has heard during its worldwide travels.

These were excitingly different numbers, introducing the ear to unfamiliar cadences and rhythms that are yet given familiarity by the confident and harmonious handling of the group which always appears to think as one.

The Swingles are anything but formal, though: they stroll relaxedly from one grouping to another, turn to each other while singing, show pleasure in the sounds they are creating. A spectacular highlight was Sara Brimer’s rendering of The Diva Song: one doesn’t quite believe that the human voice can achieve such acrobatic tricks while still remaining melodious.

Another was the glorious jazz duet between double bass and drums, both instruments entirely created by two male voices, with the audience invited to repeat particular riffs – if they could! But it was the old Swingle classics that hushed the audience to complete rapt silence. Bach’s Air on a G String never sounded so utterly beautiful.

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