Cambridge Vs Oxford A Cappella

CALLUM MULLINS: was forced to ‘take a warm, golden shower of camptastic close-harmony fun’ in the varsity a cappella-off.

ADC theatre Cadenza choir Glee The Oxford Gargoyles

The Oxford Gargoyles v. Cadenza
ADC Theatre, 8th March


Cambridge threw down the gauntlet in this varsity ‘a cappella-off to end all a cappella-offs’. The stage was set – who would be crowned queen of close-harmony? It is fair to say that I haven’t the faintest idea. However, I can confirm that I had a rollicking good time. From Cadenza’s robo-zombie thriller routine to The Gargoyles’ unlikely human rowing boat, there was ne’er a dull moment, accented by some wonderful individual performances.

Now recognised as one of the top vocal choirs in the country, Cadenza had a lot to prove, especially as The Gargoyles had missed out in their regional round for the same competition. Cadenza kicked-off the concert with Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys; perhaps a little retro but very warm and inviting all the same – think paisley dressing gowns.

Things really got going, however, with Thriller: great choreography and a good soloist (Dom Johnpillai) brought this song to life. The tuning and timing was a bit hectic at the end, and there was some very hammy modulation but it was fun and enjoyable all the same. After a couple more numbers, Cadenza stopped the show with an energetic and witty performance of I Need a Hero; a bass by the name of George captured the audience’s hearts playing the part of an unlikely hero. Again there were a few musical issues, but as Glee has taught us, perfectly autotuned show choirs are a chore; Cadenza’s charm lay in its vigorous performance and excellent programme.

The Gargoyles were playing to an away crowd, which is never easy; however, the Cantab audience were just as enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy their very different set. They seemed much more rehearsed and their intonation and ensemble was better; they also contributed some of the funniest moments to the night. Jack Cook’s crab impression in Kiss De Girl will stay with me for the rest of my life. His solo in Straighten Up was also excellent. A special mention must also go to Euan Campbell and his charming performance throughout solo.

It would be unfair to say that The Gargoyles were perfect; their performance of And So It Goes was far from it. Given that the acoustics of the ADC are difficult and a little reverb can go a long way to hiding errors, their performance was a little forced and in such a slow, melodic piece, tuning needs to be the focus. Even so, The Gargoyles may just have had the edge over their varsity rivals, as much as it pains me to say.

The a cappella-off was far too close to call but it was the most fun I have had at the ADC since Jeff Carpenter’s Dido, and that’s really is saying something. I was forced to take a warm, golden shower of camptastic close-harmony fun and I would certainly recommend seeing either group, if ever the opportunity presents itself.