Bohemian Rhapsody: Choral Pop

ABC 481 0120

Fifteen of the world’s favourite pop songs are assembled here in choral settings that retain all the excitement, verve and vivacity of the original songs. Of course, pop songs set for choir often do not succeed, but these arrangements (by Dan Walker, Sally Whitwell, Daryl Runswick, Ward Swingle and Roderick Williams) are quite exceptional. Sung by the glorious Cantillation, Australia’s leading chamber choir, this recording is a real winner!

481 0120 Bohemian RhapsodyAll great selections, this recording covers many legendary pop artists or bands, such as Queen, Lennon and McCartney, David Bowie, Powderfinger, The Beach Boys, ABBA, Chicago, Toto, Sting, and Radiohead.

Resplendant vocal resources of the 21 singers of Cantillation are clearly evidenced in the title track, Bohemian Rhapsody, along with other tracks, such as If You Leave Me Now, Blackbird, Summertime, and Les Feuilles Mortes (Autumn Leaves), These select singers produce an appealingly blended warm tone throughout, and the close harmony work is quite exceptional.

Vocal harmonies in Toto’s Africa are complemented by the inclusion of drums and percussion to retain authenticity in this song.

The solo voices of Dan Walker and Philip Chu are tantalisingly beautiful in Moon Over Bourbon Street, and How Can I Let You Go? respectively.

Mack the Knife brings to life the flavor of the Swingle Singers, with a rhythmically dynamic arrangement by the great Ward Swingle. No choral pop album could be complete without an ABBA song, and this disc ends with Mamma Mia, in a less predictable, but equally enjoyable version by Sally Whitwell.

Audio available on Soundcloud:

The Beatles Unplugged

Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers & Band
Created by Sally Whitwell and Daniel Walker
Featuring Rob Mills and Bobby Fox

City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Saturday, 25 August 2012

The timelessness of John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s songs was evident in the Sydney Philharmonia Chambers Singers’ foray into the realm of popular music. This select choral group, which was conducted by Dan Walker, communicated the 60’s and 70’s with its convincing combination of song, dance and costumes (colourful outfits ala Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band).

As Sally Whitwell (who created most of the amazing choral settings and instrumental arrangements) said in her notes, it was “genre defying”. The success of this programme was due to the Whitwell Walker duo’s extraordinary skill in choral arranging and their thorough preparation of the singers. It was an imaginative classical and pop fusion in this theatrical choral experience. Other arrangements were by Keith Abbs, Daryl Runswick and John Black.

The Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers are a world-class ensemble. In the many highlights, such as Penny Lane, Yesterday, All My Loving, Let It Be and A Day in the Life (with its Bach-inspired introduction and use of harpsichord accompaniment and even French Overture rhythms later), Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Blackbird and Back in the USSR (with its quirky but effective entrance of the Russian National Anthem), the audience was treated to beautifully blended voices and soothing tones as well as, at other times, robust and powerful moments. Finishing the concert with a stirring Hey Jude brought a return of both soloists, who were impressive in their solos and duos, interacting well with both choir and audience.

The psychedelic projections, gobo lighting, small instrumental ensemble and engaging singing will live in one’s memory showing this organisation is as comfortable singing pop and rock, as it does high-end classical works.