Showcase 30th Anniversary Album

October 5, 2020 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆   Lockdown Highs

CD Available from: https://www.showcase30.co.uk.
Review by Thom Dibdin

Showcase has pulled off something of a miracle in this 30th Anniversary Album, in which its band and huge chorus has recorded 80 minutes of material under strict social distancing guidelines.

The CD is a response to the cancellation of what should have been Showcase’s 30th annual concert series because of Covid-19 restrictions. The company raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support every year and the CD exists partly to continue help raise more funds for the charity which gives support and advice to those with cancer.

The CD cover.

It is also a chance for the Showcase crowd to have a go at recording a permanent memento of the vibrant autumn nights at the Church Hill Theatre under the musical direction of David McFarlane, of which the company is so justifiably proud.

To this effect, the CD begins to get there, at least in audio terms. Of course there are none of the stage presence, costumes or dance routines of a normal Showcase evening, but in terms of the vocals and band, it captures much of the company’s tastes and is a full reflection of its abilities.

Programming is very different for a CD rather than a concert, however. That said, the opener of Bohemian Rhapsody with Radio Gaga is pure Showcase – and an appropriate prelude to a CD that swings through torch songs, musical theatre, anthems and TV themes.

Swerve past

To get the tricky bit out the way first: There are obvious difficulties when performers and band are in the studio at different times. It is that difficulty that the programming does its best to swerve past, albeit with more success at some times than others.

Such separation does no favours to the opening solo from Arlene Tonner, for example. Her solid performance is low in the mix and it can sound as if she is the next room. Which technically she was. However, the number quickly picks up as the classic Showcase arrangement kicks in with its strong emphasis on bottom-end brass.

The CD interior in all its glory.

It’s all in the post-production, which has had to turn an eye-watering 1,429 different audio recordings into 18 tracks. While minor issues raise their heads at odd moments throughout the CD, the over-riding feeling is of that sitting in the Church Hill Theatre, closing your eyes and going with the flow.

So the happiness of Mr Blue Sky is marked by an outro that begins to tingle with delight; Gaynor Boe gives a delicate lilt to You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and Laura Cross works with the brass section in Doomsday to capture the portent of impending doom to one of Murray Gold’s saddest Dr Who themes.

The one missing element of the whole CD is a big James Bond theme. However, when Keith Kilgore wraps his vocal chords around an immense Cry Me A River, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one. It is certainly a very satisfying substitute, notably with the chorus providing a thrilling counterpoint to the tune.

midpoint climax

As the CD builds to a midpoint climax, you begin to realise that one of the ironies of the whole process is that while the biggest thrills of a Showcase night lie in the sheer scale of the vocals on stage, the distanced recording process really favours the most sparse (and often melancholy) offerings.

Jacqui Mills with k.d. lang’s Constant Craving and Andrew Edmonstone’s This Is The Moment are cases in point. The orchestrations give their voices the space to echo the sentiment of the words. And when the chorus comes in to fill out the sound, it is gentle swelling of emotion, rather than a huge burst of volume.

Showcase is blessed with some hugely talented soloists who can take big standards and deliver them with crisp precision. Craig MacBeth on The Green, Green Grass of Home and Cassie Dougal on Defying Gravity have great understanding of what is needed to bring a fresh understanding to well-known numbers.

contemplative

Once gravity has been defied, this settles into something a whole lot more contemplative, easing out with a trio of numbers (before an obligatory Hey Jude followed by a We Will Rock You playout) that provide pure balm for the soul.

First, Harry Dozier and Jude Edie duet on You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen and then Joanne Skilling is joined by Keith Kilgore on Don’t Worry About Me by Frances. But it is Arlene Tonner’s take on Love and Mercy by Brian Wilson in which the whole thing seems to just wrap you in a great big hug of support.

The CD doesn’t provide an impeccable replica of a Showcase night at the Church Hill, for that we will have to wait for social distancing to ease.

Instead it cleverly plays to the strengths of the company and its soloists while using the different SATB choruses to provide texture. And that, actually, is what Showcase is really about: giving everyone a go so they can be heard at their best.

Showcase 30th Anniversary Album
Running time: 79’40”
Available from: https://www.showcase30.co.uk.

Price: Donations over £10 (p&p £1).

Showcase on Facebook: @ShowcaseEdin.

ENDS

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