Review: Jazzmanix Winter Concert 2014

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One might wonder at the quality of sound produced by a choir made up of people who had never auditioned for their parts, but Jazzmanix has a sparkling reputation for being informal and infectiously fun without lacking at all in skill. That was certainly the case at their packed performance last weekend at the Turner Sims for the annual Jazzmanix Winter Concert.

Jazzmanix is the University’s largest Pop and Gospel choir, consisting of a huge main choir and smaller acapella groups. They have maintained a loyal audience of proud families and University students over the years, perhaps unsurprisingly as the choir itself consists of over 100 members. (That’s a lot of friends and families.) But the choir also performs at other events, and have somewhat reached heights of international fame as they performed at Disneyland Paris just last summer.

The performance was split into two halves, beginning with performances by the smaller a capella groups and finishing with the main choir. The night began with a capella small group ‘Quintessential’ led by Greg White, who sang a melodious Irish blessing and a Disney-themed medley – a testament to the choir’s summer tour in Disneyland. They were unfortunately missing an ‘essential’ member on Sunday night resulting in evident gaps in the arrangements. Nevertheless, the group performed well enough with a notably talented Soprano voice in their group. The next performance was by a capella group ‘Nove’ led by Ore Williams and Grace Shutti. ‘Sass’ was obviously the theme for this all-girl group who appropriately began with a Destiny’s Child – Beyonce medley. Although their first number lacked strength in the low notes, the group positively shone in their second song ‘O Holy Night’ as they showcased powerful belting techniques for a carol that seemed much better suited to their range. The third performance was by a capella group ‘The Alternotives’ led by Jon Sandman. They sang a delightfully varied repertoire with a lot of finger-snapping, beginning with the Soulchild remix of ‘19-2000’ by Gorillaz and ending with ‘Pompeii’ by Bastille, which I thought had already been covered to death until I saw them perform their skilful version of it. Their pieces were executed with notable expertise, as their songs were particularly bold in rhythm and arrangements. The last group to perform was ‘Entr’acapella’ led by Becky Griffin. They ended the first half with a medley from the musical ‘Rent’ showing off some fantastic soloists, and a spirited rendition of ‘Seize the Day’ from the musical ‘Newsies’.

The second half was the ‘full Jazzmanix choir in all its glory’ according to the program, and truly it was. The first thought that struck me as the choir filed in was the sheer size of the ensemble, followed closely by a sense of awe at the considerable amount of effort it must have taken the Musical Director, Joe Nurse, to prepare and train a group of such numbers. The second half of the performance was a rousing collection of eight pop and gospel songs, featuring luscious vocals by soloist Zainab Ottun and Valerie Arofin on that classic tune from Sister Act 2 ‘Joyful Joyful’. Jon Sandman made another appearance with an arrangement of ‘One Day Like This’ that had the choir sounding like the uplifting backing soundtrack to a heart-warming John Lewis television advert.

Overall, it was once again another brilliant performance by the Jazzmanix choir. If you missed this one, I would recommend catching them at their Spring concert in March where they will be performing against a backdrop of stars at the Winchester Planetarium.

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