VOCES8 started off their Goshen debut with Henry Purcell’s “I Was Glad” and ended with “I Don’t Mean a Thing” by Duke Ellington arr. Ben Parry, immediately following an enthusiastic standing ovation.VOCES8 [pronounced “voaches eight”] is a British music ensemble, formed in 2005. The group is made up of eight vocalists. They have recently welcomed into the group a tenor, Blake Morgan, who is the first American in VOCES8. Morgan is from Detroit, while the remaining seven members are from the United Kingdom.
The group tours annually through Europe, Asia and North America in well-known venues like Cite de la Musique in Paris and Tokyo Opera City. They are also frequently recorded and broadcasted live on television and radio.
The multi-award-winning group performs a wide variety of music, as was evident in Sauder. The first half of the concert was the classical portion. In this section, VOCES8 performed British folk songs and religious music, representing composers such as the famous Italian Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina.
The second half of the concert was a mix of jazz and popular numbers. VOCES8 put together special arrangements to spice up the pieces. One concert attendee, Karen Stoltzfus, said that she was especially impressed by their rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.”
Every few songs, one of the group members would step forward and share about the song, the composer, or their appreciation for Goshen College’s Sauder Hall. VOCES8 really made the effort to connect with the audience, which made for an even more enjoyable evening from an audience member’s perspective.
Another aspect unique to VOCES8 is their emphasis on education. They want to encourage people to pursue music. They are committed to more than just performing, and have worked with 20,000 people a year in music education workshops. The group’s main goal is to inspire creativity to young musicians around the world.
Galed Krisjayanta. a senior and music performance major, had never heard of VOCES8 before last week. Krisjayanta began to listen to their recordings the night before the concert. He said, “I always have big expectations for professional singing groups, but after the master class they led for both Goshen College and high school students on the afternoon of their concert, I knew I would enjoy them.”
He shares that the jazz improvisation, which VOCES8 used to introduce themselves in the master class, left him with a good first impression. The master class was a very interactive experience, where students were up on their feet learning how to beatbox and use their entire bodies to make music.
Krisjayanta said he quickly learned that they were special musicians who could easily switch from classical to jazz to pop seamlessly and with good technique.
“Speaking for myself, I love jazz, so I enjoyed the second half more,” he said. “The scat singer was very impressive.”
Krisjayanta commented on the beauty of their dissonant chords, and thinks their harmonies were very clear.
“It is such an inspiration for me to look at them,” Krisjayanta said, “and I hope to be a part of a group like that someday. They created such a beautiful sound, and I loved how they arranged everything. It was just perfect. It inspires me to keep pursuing and exploring music.”