Spacing is used intelligently throughout most of the showHolly Holt

Branding itself “Cambridge’s premier a cappella group”, Cadenza first formed in 2002 and has since performed prolifically both in Cambridge and at venues across the country. The group has gone from strength to strength since its inception, winning the Voice Festival UK University Championships in 2011, though many readers will know this ensemble best by its music videos on YouTube. 'Thrill of the Uptown Freak' was released in late 2016 and has since been viewed by nearly 7,000 people.

Those who have seen that video will know what to expect for Cadenza’s debut run at Edinburgh this year. It coincides with the release of the group's first fully-fledged EP, Under the Lights, and is the logical next-step for an ensemble which has consistently ranked as one of the best among UK university 'aca' groups. Given the album release, social-media hype and glossy music videos, Cadenza’s live performance has a lot to live up to.

The repertoire makes an admirable effort to balance the solemn and the celebratory

Fortunately, their 50-minute Edinburgh performance showcases some of their best-known medleys, accommodating an impressive range of moods and styles. What struck me immediately was the confidence with which each member held their parts, particularly during moments of dissonance in the score. This is testament to the musical complexity with which Cadenza operates, employing bold rhythms and harmonies which bloom and dissolve in a way that is both technically impressive and organically beautiful. In this respect the group’s musical director, Harry Castle, deserves praise for writing a score which blends together well-known melodies without falling into that sugary sameness best described as Glee-ful. The group’s rendition of “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane is a particularly good example of how popular melodies are deconstructed and re-worked to evoke very different atmospheres.

The repertoire makes an admirable effort to balance the solemn and the celebratory. In one section, introduced as a rebellious 'for the men that used to be in my life' episode, the cheeky pop-anthems of Little Mix make way for the familiar and spine-tingling bassline of Adele’s 'When We Were Young'. The change in tone is skilfully executed, and the following segment is performed with heart-wrenching delicacy.

All in all, Cadenza’s Fringe debut will showcase them as one of the most professional university a cappella groups currently in Edinburgh

It is also clear that serious thought has gone into the group’s choreography. Spacing is used intelligently throughout most of the show, and there are times, as in 'Uptown Freak', where choreography is employed playfully and humorously. In less scripted areas of the performance the dancing is rather questionable, but for the most part it is pulled off with enough confidence to warrant only a slight raise of the eyebrow. It is clear to see that this is an experienced and confident group of performers. Despite their physical and acoustic exposure, they maintain a captivating stage presence throughout the show. This is particularly clear in some of the more relaxed sections, in which performers of both genders participated in a series of flirtatious musical exchanges which enhanced the performance and allowed individual personalities to shine forth.

Cadenza’s Fringe debut will showcase them as one of the most professional university a cappella groups currently in Edinburgh

The ensemble voices are finely adjusted, though at times the lead vocalists came across as feeble in comparison. This is a shame, because the soloists perform on the whole with elegance, despite some voices being stronger than others. Perhaps tuning and stage positioning are factors in this, and there is no doubt that this is a vocally gifted group. But there is certainly potential, in this writer’s estimation, to push the soloists further so as not to be drowned out by the backing vocals. This being said, an impressive level of discipline and command of technique is evident among the backing vocalists for each piece. The voice-percussion and basslines are executed creatively and sensitively, especially in the quieter sections, when supporting the lower register can become a challenge. Likewise, the soprano notes soar gracefully above the rest without becoming piercing.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Varsity's guide to Cambridge at the Fringe

All in all, Cadenza’s Fringe debut will showcase them as one of the most professional university a cappella groups currently in Edinburgh. From the costumes and lighting right through to the vocals and score, there is a precision to this group which is eminently refreshing. The vocals are generally very well-balanced and the score is layered with some wonderful harmonies. More importantly, Cadenza offers a live performance which is dynamic and even at times theatrical, an element which often lacks in similar groups. For a cappella aficionados, Cadenza will not disappoint.

Sponsored links