Rich, emotive acapella interspersed with melodious sounds from the Plaisir Ensemble

By Izhara Huzair Zubair

As I waited for the 3rd bell, I wondered how this concert, performed solely in acapella, would turn out...
The curtains opened to a smoky stage, and the Revelations clad in black suits, silhouetted in blue light, broke out with Henry Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther’ theme. It was an impressive opening.

The entire concert saw minimalistic use of lights. It played with colour to complement the tone of the songs, with clean, soft spots to highlight individual and group performances. As a result, it was just the right tempo of visual effect, nothing over the top, allowing the audience to focus on the performers.

With a grand piano on the side and steps on stage to help with choreography, the Revelations used the stage well. Singing individually and in groups of two, three or four, choreography (a new dimension to their performance) with some - safe - moves, ensured that each song was presented in a unique way. Props like stools, a walking stick (for ‘When I Am 64’) and a wig (‘Just a Gigolo’), were nice touches.
The Revelations took on a spectrum of songs, from artistes like The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bee Gees, Ben Harper and Sri Lankan artistes (the irrepressible Mango Medley!), in addition to musicals. The range of songs, showcased the group’s repertoire while criss-crossing different musical eras.

Listening to acapella, the voices reverberated in rich timbre and expression. ‘What I Did For Love’ and ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love’ were distinctly more emotive. The singers cleverly simulated instruments at times, like the bass guitar and box guitar. And the beat boxing was, literally, jaw-breaking! Yet singing in this style is challenging and demanding on a singer. Save for the few notes played on the piano to pitch – you’re on your own. It is that much more tougher without accompaniment, having to listen to yourself and the others, to sound like, basically, one soul singing. There was one false start but that actually reflected the level of difficulty singing acapella. It was commendable of Sanjeev (the Choral Director) to stop and restart before the audience. But if you are off key, the only route out is to restart, and this is permissible in acapella singing.

The Plaisir Ensemble from Hong Kong, comprising an all-female group, sang in the middle of the concert. In a way, hearing these young women sing, changed the tempo of the concert as well as provided a rejuvenating break – listening to acapella singing, can be quite intense for an audience. Singing to tracks and piano accompaniment, the ensemble chose an entertaining selection of songs in English, French, Chinese, Cantonese and Sinhala. Having explained to the audience the story behind the Oriental folk songs – one which happens in the marketplace and the other involving children playing, sung in Chinese and Cantonese, respectively – they chose to dramatise the songs, to good effect. The Plaisir Ensemble gave the audience an insight into a genre of music that we rarely hear, in Sri Lanka. Both songs were melodious and unique with their sharp, scooping crescendos and easy tempo. Their singing re-asserted their belief in reaching out to people, transcending cultural barriers, though music – as a universal language. At times, the diction was unclear, but otherwise their vocal performances were notable and the audience certainly enjoyed their versions of: ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘Olu Pipila’.

The second part of the Revelations performance seemed to exude greater energy and flair. More upbeat songs like ‘Steal My Kisses’ and the Baila song, really roped in the audience.

The theme of love was explored through a selection of songs that almost everyone who came that night, would have been able to relate to. The concert, even though it lasted for two and a half hours, was interestingly balanced by the Revelations and the Plaisir Ensemble with their performances. Acapella singing certainly would have established some new followers after this concert. The Revelations experimented and experimented well.

The Revelations next perform in Kandy, on August 20, at Trinity College.

Concert review

Revelations ‘Love Uninhibited’ Concert feat. Plaisir Ensemble (Hong Kong) at the
Lionel Wendt on July 30.

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