Classical Mouths making music

Mouths making music

“A cappella” translates literally from Italian to “in the manner of the church”. The style has traditionally been linked to historical church choirs and barbershop quartets, but recently has shifted into the glittery territory of pop culture.

To put it simply, a cappella singers rely on vocal percussion to create the same sounds made by a band using instruments. Using only their vocal chords and dextrous mouths, these singers imitate the toots of a trumpet, they beat-box and sing without any backup instruments.

Tweens and teens will recognise the style from musical TV shows like Glee, a prime example of how a cappella is becoming cool. Older audiences continue to receive American band Rockapella’s albums of classic pop covers with enthusiasm all over the world. But at Festival, audiences can see live renditions of popular hits and folk songs performed by local a cappella groups.

The Boulevard Harmonists, who have been at Festival for 16 years, sing classical and folk music in English, German, Spanish and Afrikaans. Simply Blue and D-Seven performed their own versions of pop ditties by acts as diverse as the Beatles, Maroon 5 and the Beach Boys earlier in the week.

While D-Seven and Simply Blue put a spin on pop and the golden oldies, The Boulevard Harmonists show how classical numbers can be entertaining. More Great Goosebump A Cappella! shows how ageless hymns like Ave Maria can be sung without the accompaniment of violin or piano.

André Oosthuizen, who sings bass for The Boulevard Harmonists, feels like a cappella is easily accessible. “There is a variety of repertoires, and you can invent and create new styles every time. It makes things much more interesting every performance,” he said.

Swapping from classical Afrikaans pieces such as Liewe Maan to Spanish love song Te Quiero (‘I adore you’), The Boulevard Harmonists also use a variety of sounds, such as pops and clicks, to imitate the elements and rhythm of folk songs. “If a song doesn’t have any lyrics, we try and interpret the meaning of the music itself,” said Oosthuizen, “our vocal music then relies on the musical notes. There are no words we can count on. Just sounds.”

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