The Singers Tale. The Shout Days.

January 20, 2009

The Shout

The Times (London):

Ten years old this month, but still flush with the sheer cheek of what they do, Orlando Gough’s ragbag choir have been blowing out the candles with gusto. They took on a whole week of programming at Kings Place, capping it with this winningly indulgent night of personal celebration. The greatest hits tour, you might have called it, were it not impossible for this group to perform anything with a sense of reverence: they’re far too in the moment.

Perhaps ragbag choir isn’t the best way of describing the Shout, but it does sum up two things they represent: choral singing without the stuffiness. In place of most choirs’ obsession with tweezering the blend, their members come from multiple places in the musical map, ranging from pop to soul, music theatre to opera. What they all share is a brilliant sense of musicianship, combining staggering discipline (everything is a cappella, everything is memorised, everything is in tune) with an exhilarating willingness to dart off in unexpected directions.

This showcase gave us the best of their versatility. One moment the group were absorbed in the febrile heat of Mike Henry’s percussive Song for a Dark Girl, the next they gathered in a Gaelic threnody, Grioghal Cridhe, with Rebecca Askew the pure-voiced soloist. Theatre infuses but never smothers their vocalism: in Galeas, a Greek-Ladino lament for the enslaved, the group spread out disconsolately, breathing out the strains of a slave’s labour before two singers gave full cry to the melody. But, just when you think it’s all gone a bit worthy, the Shout gamely bring on a duet sung with the text entirely back to front: loopy, but oddly compelling.

It’s touches such as this that remind you that the Shout isn’t just about sound: when they sing, they do it with an immediacy that almost lets you touch a song as well hear it. Here’s to ten more years.

Posted by acapnews at January 20, 2009 10:28 PM

Hotel is multidisciplinary performance piece with a libretto by Caryl Churchill, music composed by Orlando Gough and choreography by Ian Spink. It was first staged in a production by Second Stride at the Schauspielhaus Hannover, Germany, on 15 April 1997. Churchill had previously collaborated with Second Stride on Lives of the Great Poisoners in 1991.

Hotel is in two parts. In the first, Eight Rooms, fourteen people – tourists, couples, business people – spend an ordinary night in a hotel. But they all occupy the same space, and their stories overlap and interweave creating a collage of words, voices, music and movement. In the second part, Two Nights, a dance piece, we see two nights happening at the same time. Two people find different ways to disappear, while a diary found in the hotel room tells of another extraordinary disappearance.

In an introduction to the published text, Churchill writes ‘In Eight Rooms each of the thirteen singers is a different character; in Two Nights they all sing a diary that has been left in a hotel room. The silent performers in Eight Rooms now play two people who spend different nights in the same room.’

The Second Stride production was directed by Ian Spink and designed by Lucy Bevan. It was performed by a company of thirteen singers, two dancers and three instrumentalists.

The First production, that then became The Shout.


The Guardian 

….. The show gives many of the group a chance to shine as composers and arrangers. Song of Work by Carol Grimes has a vigour and improvised complexity that recalls The Shouting Fence. Yet the musical heart of the Shout remains in Gough’s substantial compositions and arrangements, including Saltwater Laments, Personent Hodie and an intense, raw treatment of I Saw Three Ships.

The Shout an Archive.


Premier of new work Orlando Gough The Shout With The Crouch End Festival Chorus Royal Festival Hall London.

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we have come from far away a great journey made in silence

In the early years of the 20th century emigrants flooded to New York from Europe, from China, from the Deep South. They dreamt of a land of opportunity, & for some of them it was; for most of them it was more a matter of substituting one kind of hardship for another. They learnt English by listening to the radio, & by mimicking actors on stage. When the matinee idol Wayne Burnett dropped dead on stage, a Sicilian butcher took over, knowing his lines and his blocking meticulously, and money did not have to be refunded. Many took jobs building skyscrapers & excavating subway tunnels, creating the infra-structure, in fact, of modern New York – dangerous, debilitating work but not without a certain kind of exhilaration.

Suddenly the jib line moves & he is swinging in the air, in nothingness. He adores this feeling. Alone, on steel, above the city. Nothing on his mind but this swing through the air.

Tall Stories is a series of songs, each of which tells a story of these immigrants. The songs are extremely diverse in mood & texture, some involving the whole choir, some just a few singers, some extremely serious & emotional, some very light & humorous. The centrepiece is the wonderful song Tall Stories by Richard Chew, the first song he ever wrote for the choir. The mysterious Underworld, and the beautiful In The Palm Of His Hand, about Fay Wray in King Kong, are also by him. The show closes with the monolithic lament Silence, followed by a strange coda, He Walks Unseen, a setting of a Taoist poem.

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The Shout

****Purcell Room

John L Walters
Wednesday January 5, 2005
The Guardian

Originally brought together as a vehicle for the compositions of Orlando Gough and Richard Chew, the Shout’s 15 singers make a virtue of their divergent backgrounds. The resulting a cappella sound – broad, rich, thrilling – has meant that the ensemble has remained unclassifiable: too awkwardly multicultural for a bench at the high table of classical music; too unpredictable to become teatime TV favourites; too tuneful to be cool. They’re so good it’s possible to take them for granted.

In their latest touring show, A Day in the Life, populist seasonal songs rub shoulders with gritty originals and readings (perhaps a few too many), which include an account of Christmas in a London labour ward, an Auschwitz diary extract, and a nine-year-old’s present wish list, cueing a jokily alternative Twelve Days of Christmas.

Pace and sound vary constantly, from a harmonically adventurous In the Bleak Midwinter (featuring ethereal ex-Doctor and the Medics soprano Louise Sofield), to Melanie Pappenheim’s backwards version of See Amid the Winter Snow (sung while Gough chalks “40 words for snow” on a blackboard), to a spine-tingling all-female version of Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby.

The second set builds to novelty items such as Christmas Pudding, in which the males intone the contents list of a shop-bought pud; Chuck Berry’s classic Run Run Rudolph; and a campy version of the Pet Shop Boys’ perennially dreadful Shopping. Giles Perring, introduced by Gough as “the high priest of improbable percussion”, adds minimal but highly effective details: bass drums and oxybells.

The show gives many of the group a chance to shine as composers and arrangers. Song of Work by Carol Grimes has a vigour and improvised complexity that recalls The Shouting Fence. Yet the musical heart of the Shout remains in Gough’s substantial compositions and arrangements, including Saltwater Laments, Personent Hodie and an intense, raw treatment of I Saw Three Ships.

January 05, 2005

The Shout
Geoff Brown at Purcell Room
 THE traditional Advent service of nine lessons and carols is not for the Shout. This a cappella singing group — choir seems far too stuffy a word — gave us 13 lessons and 25 carols last week, wrapped in a show called A Day in the Life.Well, carols of a kind. Is Rodgers and Hart’s Blue Moon a carol? Or the Pet Shop Boys’ S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G? The lessons derived from the Christmas thoughts of Jean Cocteau, an Auschwitz diarist, or Francis Kilvert are not the orthodox religious ones, either. A journalist asks Cocteau what he would hang on his Christmas tree. “Journalists,” replies Cocteau.Yet with society’s make-up the way it is, hijacking the Advent service format for a thoughtful but largely secular knees-up makes a good deal of sense. Experienced across music’s wide range, from rock and jazz to the singing of Congolese pygmies, the 15 core voices of the Shout sailed through the show with delicious exuberance, precision of attack (look, no conductor!), and a richly varied tapestry of vocal effects.The group did most of their own arrangements, led by their director, Orlando Gough. Not every traditional carol suited the cross-cultural approach: the plainsong-derived flow of O Come, O Come Emmanuel cannot be bent with impunity. But the bulk of the repertoire chosen delivered the goods handsomely. Gough’s reharmonised edition of In the Bleak Midwinter made winter impressively bleaker, while the minaret calls sculpted into the dynamic version of The Three Ships created a sound picture far more vivid than anything painted in King’s College Chapel.The show’s best moments, though, occurred when traditional repertoire was either abandoned or subverted close to death. Melanie Pappenheim took See Amid the Winter Snow and sang it backwards, words and all, once in solo, once in duet: brilliant music theatre, this.Louise Sofield’s arrangement of the wordless Conference of the Birds skilfully built into a blazing dawn chorus from the gentlest murmurs. Gough’s Christmas Pudding — an ingredients list set to music, emulsifier, E numbers and all — proved a good brief joke, unlike the mundane, updated, sing-along Twelve Days of Christmas. Eleven mini-fridges, six furry parkas? Give me a partridge in a pear tree any day.But this was such a friendly show that even banalities didn’t much matter. Garnished occasionally by Giles Perring’s off-beat percussion, the Shout always sang out with humanity and joy. Just what 2005 needs.

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The Shout, Purcell Room, London 

By Robert Maycock

03 January 2005

Radical by reputation, Orlando Gough’s hand-picked choral group have come out in their Christmas show as a king-size King’s Singers. The show’s third run has the settled air of an annual fixture, complete with a serious-minded, not too disturbing first half and a crescendo of camp for the second. It’s brilliantly sung and packed with specially composed work, but from its irrelevant allusive title (A Day In The Life) to its unfortunate choice of clothing, it comes packaged in the colours of Middle England. Even the buzz in the hall had a Home Counties accent.

The format was carols and readings. While there were only a few traditional numbers, and those in fresh arrangements, the Nine Lessons template remained in the background. Instead of explicitly religious celebration the initial focus was on songs of suffering and hope, and in the readings – the majority of them short, unfamiliar texts written between 1850 and 1950 – an emerging vein of wonder. A couple of visions from concentration camps added to the sense of looking towards the roots of Judaeo-Christian experience. Then there was a birth story, a wry north-London one vintage 1984, and the light was switched firmly on for the rest of the evening.

Music regularly showed the hand of Gough, with the usual rhythmic vigour and occasional over-egged harmonies. The dominant feature was that most of the singers put in a piece of their own. They made for a constant current of surprise, from Melanie Pappenheim’s aphoristic “Forty Words for Snow” to Carol Grimes’s “Song of Work” with metal percussion, insistent chant and long stylised howls – a revealing insight into the all-round musicianship of London’s professional choral and session singers.

Once the evening lightened up, results grew erratic. Some of the attempts at Oxbridge-meets-barber-shop style lab-oured hard. It wasn’t easy to get the original King’s Singers repertoire right, and it took Jeremy Birchall in “Blue Moon” to show how it ought to go. On we went through a setting of the ingredients list for a commercial Christmas pudding, complete with E numbers to a hymn of praise for a bird’s anus. The audience joined in an updated “Twelve Days of Christmas” and staggered off home looking pleased with themselves.

Cosy it may have been, but the singing was relaxed and precise, an object lesson in putting some advanced techniques to entertaining use. Considering that The Shout trades on its supposed diversity, it was a concern that the essentially European sound could swallow up voices as individual as Mike Henry and Yogeswaran. At least Henry’s personal classical-meets-R&B delivery had several solo spots – they made him more or less the star of the evening. For Yogeswaran’s flight of imagination there was only his own piece, a south-Indian Ave Maria using the chorus for drone. It was a high point, but completely isolated in style.

Who would you like to see hanging on your Christmas tree???

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