« Another movie about a choral director nominated for Oscar | Main | New Way To Get Girls: Sing Emo Tunes A Cappella »

January 28, 2005

Linda Tillery’s Cultural Heritage Choir at Glasgow Cathedral

The Scotsman (UK):

As their slightly stuffy name suggests, Linda Tillery’s Cultural Heritage Choir are more than a gospel choir. This five-strong a cappella ensemble of Melanie de More, Lamont van Hook, Rhonda Benin, Elouise Burrell and their leader Linda Tillery, plus percussionist Simon Monserrat, adopt a scholarly approach to traditional black music, with a repertoire of spirituals, field songs, blues, jazz and work songs from all over the United States, the Caribbean and Africa, all of which were instructively introduced by Tillery at this candle-lit Celtic Connections debut.

Fortunately there was nothing stuffy about their delivery and, despite the formal ecclesiastical setting, the audience were quick to get into the choir’s groove as they ricocheted fluently from gospel lament to earthy blues to funky soul. The transition from, say, the naked soul of an archetypal gospel tune such as Roll Jordan Roll to a demonstrative singalong was never jarring.

They made their mark immediately with the haunting Good News, the Chariot’s Coming, showcasing van Hook’s formidable falsetto and Tillery’s reverberating scatting, but it was not long before they managed to coax the crowd out of their reverie and on to their feet to shake their booty to the strains of The Old Lady Come From Booster . After learning that the "ranky-tanky" dance style was present in all of us (but particularly in a hirsute gentleman in the audience called Keith), we were instructed in the appropriate ebonic response to their intuitive harmonies, enchanting contrasting vocal tones and overall emotional impact. And that response was: "Say yo’ bid’ness!"

In their vocal arrangements, the choir effortlessly drew connections between their traditional material and the soul, funk and R&B styles which sprouted from these roots. James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone are as much a part of this group’s cultural heritage as Louis Armstrong and slave songs.

But their musical kinship stretched further than even they probably realised. During one stately, dolorous work song, Tillery’s rich resonant voice was not leagues away from the ululating female choirs of Bulgaria. As for the Celtic Connection, the desire to strut one’s funky stuff and holler spontaneous approval knows no cultural boundary. Sho’ ’nuff!

Posted by acapnews at January 28, 2005 12:02 AM