Review: Jazzmanix Winter Concert

Jazzmanix is Southampton’s gospel and pop music Choir, which contains in itself a number of spinoff a cappella groups. The Winter concert is the society’s big showcase of new talent early […]

choir jazzmanix performance show singing Southampton SUSU winter

3 half stars

Jazzmanix is Southampton’s gospel and pop music Choir, which contains in itself a number of spinoff a cappella groups. The Winter concert is the society’s big showcase of new talent early in the academic year, and works as a sort of preface to further events in the Spring and Summer.

Jazzmanix Winter Concert - choir on stage

The Jazzmanix choir. Photo courtesy of SUPS events team.

Part of your opinion of these guys relies heavily on how much or little you like the music. Pop covers a generously wide swathe of songs and styles, in which most people will find at least something to their tastes.

Gospel strikes me as a little more divisive because of its subject matter, so I’ll mention this first to avoid the discussion later: If you’re not an avid Christian, you may find the content annoying and/or repetitive, by virtue of the constant references to its religious roots.

On the other hand, you may not mind at all and either tune the lyrics out or actively enjoy them. It’s a very personal response and, for what it’s worth, I found the repetitive structure of some of the songs far more off-putting than the content itself. But more on that towards the end.

The first half consisted of several a cappella acts showing off their talents, with two memorable pieces being Nove’s Destiny’s Child–Beyonce mix and Entr’acapella’s rendition of Seize the Day.

The harmonies were broadly well balanced, but (speaking broadly about all four acts) some songs lacked enthusiasm and on at least two occasions singers cracked during high-noted crescendos. In an age where YouTube is home to countless extremely impressive a cappella acts (the likes of Pentatonix), I found myself underwhelmed in places. It wasn’t unenjoyable, but it certainly left room for improvement.

Jazzmanix

The Jazzmanix choir. Photo courtesy of SUPS events team.

The latter half of the evening was devoted to whole-choir work accompanied by a live band and under the conductorship of Joe Nurse. This is where personal preference on Gospel became more of a factor, but ignoring the points raised above, the singing was performed ably throughout and most criticisms I have are directed more at arrangements than singing.

Moments where there was minimal harmonising sounded somewhat flat, and some of the lower pitches seemed a struggle for the altos to meet. The liberal use of plagal cadences (sorry for the snobby musical term) became a bit stale by the end as well. It seemed odd to even notice them so often.

Nonetheless there were highlights in an extremely lively rendition of Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’, and the show peaked with the Elbow song “One Day”– notable for being arranged and conducted by Jon Sandman, someone with less experience than Nurse.

To meander towards something resembling a conclusion, the performances as a whole choir were, at best, magnificently entertaining. I just wish there had been a higher proportion of those wonderfully tuneful crowd-pleasers and less mediocre (and largely forgettable) songs as filler.

If Jazzmanix look like they’re packing more punch into their next show you’d be a fool to miss out.

Have you seen Jazzmanix perform? Do you agree? Comment below.