Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending Durham Jazz Orchestra and Full Score’s ‘Singing With A Swing’, in support of the Angel Trust. As evenings are getting colder and formatives (or summatives) are stacking up – an evening of jazz, barbershop and Christmas classics proved to be the remedy to brighten up the last few dark autumn evenings of Michaelmas.
At 7 pm a rosy-cheeked audience of all ages bundled into the warm embrace of St. Oswald’s Church, the amber glow of the chapel set the scene as Full Score – Durham University’s only barbershop style a cappella group – waltzed in, adorned in traditional suspenders and straw hats. With a cheerful introduction, they burst into John Michael Montgomery’s Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident) with dynamism and vivacity. The tight-knit four-part harmonies seamlessly blended, creating a dulcet tone that maintained the classic barbershop swing, emphasised by synchronous clicks of the finger and brilliant choreography.
Transitioning into the classic Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the rich baritones and basses formed a resonant anchor, allowing the airy notes of the tenor to penetrate through, infusing the number with a vibrancy that had heads nodding and feet tapping. This was followed by a personal highlight, where the stage was left to a quartet to perform an excellent rendition of Donald O’Connor’s Make Em Laugh; the theatrical delivery was a pleasure to watch – juggling changes in tempo, volume and vocal articulation.
Full Score then shifted gears, mellowing out and taking us on a journey of tempo by performing Losing My Mind from the musical Follies. The soft concoction of sweet tones created a hazy, fervent ballad – a perfect ode to winter. This was followed by childhood classics such as Into the Unknown and Somewhere Over the Rainbow, expertly merging nostalgic classics with traditional barbershop , creating a genre-bending, captivating performance. To conclude their set, Full Score delivered a prodigious rendition of Proud Mary, the ensemble erupted into full swing, demonstrating their vocal prowess and was met with passionate applause from the audience.
Following Full Score, Durham University’s Jazz Orchestra took the stage, warmly welcoming the Christmas spirit with an eclectic rendition of Jingle Bells. The punchy brass burst through the rhythmic alchemy, breathing life into the concert whilst the wail of the trumpets and velvety timbre of the saxophone added a bluesy edge. The set then took the audience on a tour around New York City, beginning with Horace Silver’s Senor Blues. The piece, arranged and conducted by Durham’s remarkably talented Tom Hardy, perfectly communicated the bustling and hectic energy of New York. The vivacious drum beat captured the fast-paced heartbeat of the vibrant city whilst the soulful saxophone anchored the piece, taking us to Manhattan’s iconic Café Bohemia.
Winding down, the orchestra played the impossibly romantic Walking By Flashlight, arguably the highlight of their set.
The elegance of the clarinet nurtured the airy notes of the keys, a lullaby that hushed and stilled the audience. The passion within the orchestra gave the number its raw and intimate feel, the players’ focused and soulful performance was truly enrapturing to watch.
The orchestra picked the tempo once again, introducing classic vocals singing Lullaby of Broadway and I’ll Be Home For Christmas. The singer’s rich, honey-like voice weaved through the lyrics, painting a picture of the city that never sleeps whilst the strident trumpets pierced through the melody, capturing the excitement of Broadway. In Latin Dance – the orchestra’s acclaimed ‘showpiece’ – the audience is taken on a sonic jazz odyssey, observing a true kaleidoscope of talent and marvellous display of musicianship. The tightly knit ensemble chugged along energetically as one, occasionally jumping out with a fiery solo; each instrument gets their opportunity to shine. The piece reaches a crescendo and the energy is buzzing with cheers and rounds of applause bursting from the crowd.
To conclude the night, the Jazz Orchestra played a stunning jazz rendition of the classic carol O Little Town Of Bethlehem, sending the audience back into the bitterly cold night with a newfound festive warmth. In all, Full Score and Durham University’s Jazz Orchestra put on a brilliant performance for a great cause!
Image Credit: Thomas Rainford