The Idea of North Concert Review

The human voice is the most perfect instrument of all – Arvo Part

On Thursday 4th April, Armidale was privileged to host The Idea of North as part of the Musica Viva Armidale 2019 Series. This was a much-anticipated event, with the group last visiting Armidale in 2015 to a similarly rapturous audience. Tickets sold out in record time and there was a long list of disappointed patrons on a waitlist, demonstrating the enormous popularity and appeal of the group.

The Idea of North comprise 5 singers and the line-up has changed since the group last visited Armidale. Soprano Emma Rule brings a distinctive brightness to the upper register of the group, whilst alto and musical director, Naomi Crellin’s vocal warmth and range provide a rich harmonic foundation. Tenor Nick Begbie brings his personality to the table in his singing which is a gift to the audience and bass Luke Thompson adds the resonant foundation on which all harmonies are built. Newest recruit is the other-worldly cultural gift from Japan, Kai Kitamura who provides vocal percussion as well as baritone. Kai’s perfectly crafted “vocussion” adds a rhythmic dimension to the acoustic harmonies which ranges from subtle to thumping and just plain awe-inspiring. Five mouths, five microphones and universe of harmonic and percussive techniques.

The group performed pieces from their back catalogue as well as new repertoire from their current album. Pieces ranged from original works to covers from artists as diverse as Cold Chisel, John Mayer, Joni Mitchell, Tim Minchin, and the Beatles. The Idea of North was joined by members of New England Singers for the first two pieces, Fragile (Sting) and Since You Went Away (Mortensen). Many of the pieces performed by The Idea of North feel so intimate as to be almost autobiographical as the connection between the performers and the audience seems like a familiar embrace.

The beauty of Acappella music is found in both its simplicity – using only unaccompanied human voices, as well as the complexity which can be achieved through carefully crafted harmonies and the perfect blending of the tonal quality of each voice. The Idea of North is truly the sum of all their parts, with each individual singer bringing their own vocal timbre and personality to their part with a warmth and uninhibited pleasure. The beautifully adapted “Not Perfect” by Tim Minchin was a glorious ending to the concert which seemed … well, quite perfect.

Dr Inga Brasche

Choral Teacher