Holiday Voices at the Independent

Holiday Voices at the Independent was a stellar showcase of award winning a Capella and Barbershop chorales. Through the course of the night, four choirs presented pieces that were entertaining and light-hearted, as well as sombre and moving. Booming vocals from the men’s Sydney Harmony were balanced with sweet melodies from the all-female Circular Keys Chorus. Alouette, a quartet of Sydney ladies, performed festive favourites, as did Blindside, a Barbershop quartet of young Queensland men. I was blown away with the character of each choir; their personal touches of humour, their beautiful precision and haunting harmonies. With the exception of Blindside, the choirs came under the talented direction of Vicki Dwyer, who led the performers with control and feeling.


Sydney Harmony is a sensational men’s chorus, welcoming choristers from all ages. They sang four-part songs by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and festive songs to mark the occasion, all with very powerful bass vocals and smooth tenors. They were clearly a performance troupe, with polished actions and perfectly timed movements that rippled through the singers, just as the sound did. Their tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. was particularly outstanding, as it was eerie, soft and showed restraint. Breathtaking.

Alouette Quartet was beautiful. The combined vocals in this quartet were like velvet, covering baritone to soprano and working together in a sweet, streamlined unit, not unlike the Andrews sisters. Their performance was competition-worthy, singing and moving in unison and balance.


The Circular Keys showcased their versatility by singing some festive favourites, counterbalanced with some modern medleys and remixes. They performed Adele with great gusto, as well as a Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Black Eyed Peas mash-up, which was very clever and sung with such enthusiasm that the audience began to sing along. The festive cheer was marked by, “All I Want For Christmas”, however they revealed images of Hugh Jackman in time with the lyrics, which made the performance very funny and very punny. The Circular Keys have a very powerful bass and baritone section, which is really to their credit and provided a complete sound.

For me, Blindside was a highlight. They performed as a single body, one unit of sound that split and converged into the four-part harmonies and back into the melody, the same way that cars duck, weave and merge through traffic. Their complete eloquence was astounding and their stage prescence really captured the audience, who cheered them on as they performed popular songs from Randy Newman, and West Side Story, to Louis Armstrong. This barbershop quartet was recently successful on the world stage, earning a Bronze at the Barbershop Harmony Society International Collegiate overseas this year, so it was a great pleasure to witness this young Brisbane quartet redefine what we understand of the traditional barbershop genre. They were so crisp, clean and tight, and their energy was infectious.



Finally, the performers gathered together for a combined chorus. From the men there was such a depth of sound, and the women provided a unique lightness. There was overwhelming power from all of these individually talented men and women, and yet together, they showed so much restraint and control (which is credit to Vicki Dwyer as director). As one body harmonising eight separate parts, they breathed haunting melodies that slide into each other and rippled through the eighty (or so) strong group on stage.

All the performers brought their experience and talent to the stage and were streamlined, mesmerising and perfect as one body of sound. I recommend seeing a performance of Barbershop and a Capella. To witness what these vibrant women and men do with only their voices is simply astounding.


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Short and Sweet Voices


This year was the first time Short and Sweet ran Short and Sweet Voices, an a Capella competition for vocal groups ranging from quartets to full choirs. As this year was a great success,  the competition will look further afield next year to running the a cappella section in the Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Auckland competitions of Short and Sweet.

I attended the grand final of Short and Sweet Voices at the Concourse, Chatswood. What an excellent venue!  The acoustics in the concert hall made for a very majestic performance from all involved.

Each entrant (except one,) performed three songs in an effort to impress the judges and the audience, who select the People’s Choice Award.

ISINGONTHECAKE– this choir opened the night and set the standard high performing original arrangements of Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ and Wuthering Heights. With torches, they put on a dynamic light show, which was visually effective. They had great energy and clever harmonies to lift their playful song choices.

SISTA!- this barber shop quartet graced the stage in bathrobes and hair curlers, entertaining the crowd with a couple of novelty tunes. They brought a lightness and sense of humour to the stage, then changed tact by taking on a sombre Doris Day song, which displayed beautiful four-part harmonies.

JOUBERT SINGERS– this choir were well deserving of their two awards; Most Original Performance and Best Original Vocal Arrangement. This group created a rainforest soundscape on stage, and they really captured the atmosphere of a rainforest, water, frogs, birds and all. Through the dim blue glow, I was transported on threads of poetry and I was delighted by their creativity and imagination.

TREBLE MAKERS QUARTET– these four women in glittering evening gowns performed sweet harmonies in seamless medleys, singing in perfect unison and working together to show restraint and control. Their sounds flowed in effortless beauty and they held the audience in the palm of their hands.

SOULFOOD A CAPPELLA– this band took out two awards for the evening, Most Innovative Staging and People’s Choice. Short and Sweet runs a People’s Choice Award in each competition, helping promote involvement and audience engagement. This choir was definitely a crowd pleaser as they were fun to watch, visually dynamic and brought great energy to the stage. With Gospel roots, this group pitched perfect layered harmonies, which really textured their sound.

UNACCOMPANIED BAGGAGE- with renditions of ‘On My Way’, this choir was very entertaining. Their creativity and innovation were a great start to the second part of the show after interval. As a group, they gave a solid performance, working as one.

JUBILETTES– took the first ever Short and Sweet Second Prize, and deservedly so. This gospel choir not only split into layered harmonies, but also showcased everyone’s talent, giving all the choristers a chance to sing solo. When in unison, however, their sound was powerful and they engaged the audience with call and response.

ALCHEMY A CAPPELLA– this gospel choir showed excellent restraint and control as a unified group, with elements of novelty and times of passion. One chorister in particular stood out the front as raw power in her solo work and vocal runs.

COASTAL A CAPPELLA– finishing the night on a high note, Coastal A Cappella took competition by storm. This all-woman choir has both a variety of harmony and a depth of sound that they flawlessly carried their arrangements. The brought energy and passion to the stage, working as a tight team both visually and soundwise. Through synchronization, they showed control and restraint, then let loose flaunting their strength in numbers. They sparkled on stage and won Best Interpretation, as well as being crowned Short and Sweet Voices’ first Winner.

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