Iconic A Cappella at the House

Melissa Kenny and some of the Soulfood team
Melissa Kenny and some of her Soulfood team

Brainchild of Melissa Kenny, ( B.Mus. in composition at the University of Sydney, Diploma of Jazz Studies in trombone at the Sydney Conservatorium), we’re told: Soulfood is the finest a cappella group in Sydney and possibly Australia with an impressive list of awards and noted performances to date.” So, with high expectations last night, we went along to the Opera House Studio to see them celebrate their 10th birthday with their performance of ICONIC A CAPPELLA.

We were not disappointed; try transported, delighted, entertained from start to finish!

We were treated to selections from their song list of over 80 fabulous popular hits including songs from genres like Motown, Soul, and 80s classics, and artists from Stevie Wonder and Abba, Burt Bacharach and Otis Redding, to Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy and Sting, Pharrell Williams and Nick Cave.          

When describing this talented group, words like adventurous and creative, quirky and funny come to mind but just don’t cover it. The arrangements come from many members of Soulfood including Melissa Kenny, Ann Boyle, Elisha Keen, Nadia McCarthy and Joelle Khalife, Building an ever increasing intimacy with the audience, they used the device of having various and diverse singers, sometimes from as far afield as Germany and the U.S.A., recount their introduction to songs and the group. One couple joined the group together and the song “This Will Be An Everlasting Love” was performed at their wedding. (“ Aaaarh.” from the audience!)

The Soloists: Natalie Macken,(“Have a Good Time”), Nadia McCarthy, (“Heard It Through the Grapevine”), Mark Lawrenson and Natasha Cupitt, (“80’s Medley”), Rob Penaflor, (“Happy”), Natalie Macken and Elisha Keen, (“Ain’t Nobody”), Elisha Keen, Peter Whitson and Kate O’Connell, (“The Ship Song”), and Sheila Kumar, (“Signed Sealed Delivered”) were wonderful singers in their own right.

Every performer in every song seemed to be having a good time. And they were not adverse to a little acting that went further than just presentation! When they vowed they were,“..never gonna dance again; guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm” you saw guilt and remorse. And every tidbit they “heard through the grapevine” seemed juicier than the last! In ”Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” each little trio or couple gathered round a mike assured each other that this was true.

Standout songs for this reviewer were a haunting rendition of “The Ship Song” for Ms Keen’s sensitive and emotive tone, “The Dock of the Bay” for sheer power, “Money, Money, Money” for clever arrangement, (finger clicking good), and “Ain’t Nobody” was breathtakingly beautiful. Indeed, as is ideal, the second act just kept getting better, right through to the encore!

The BeatBoxer – Otmar Messner was fantastic, and added another layer to the performance.

Choreography was by Associate Director, Christopher Horsey and kept us visually stimulated and guessing all night.

If pressed for any weaknesses, I could say that solo parts in a group are sometimes difficult to ‘let rip’ with, and that someone turned the wrong way in the choreography in “Money”. But why be that picky?

When performance artists are at their best it usually looks very relaxed and easy, as it should. But spend a little time at rehearsals and you start to appreciate just how much work goes into soaring pitch, clean rhythms, and pleasing harmonies. Then add vocal instrumentation and ‘beat box’ percussion and you approach the exhilaration that marked our experience last night.

I saw the concert last night. There is one further concert tonight at the Studio Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Start time 8pm. Try and catch it. Simply unmissable.

For more information on this wonderful group visit their official website – http://www.soulfood.org.au/