Opera + Classical Music Reviews

FourTune / Ferris / Ellis @ St John’s Smith Square, London

15 June 2015



It is always a delight to know that a new generation is sufficiently excited by the great tunes of the twentieth century to perform them with its own brand of exuberance. FourTune, a quartet of young singers fresh from Trinity Laban Conservatoire approached some of the classics of the show-tunes repertoire with verve and bravery, if not always quite the easy confidence of longer-established vocal groups. Their first a cappella numbers (I dreamed a dream, a mash-up of In the mood and Blue Suede Shoes, and Can’t help fallin’ in love) were a little hesitant, and the group was not always well-served by the arrangements (working with jazz chords when there are only four voices to play with requires a certain dexterity), but they hit their stride with a performance of Nella Fantasia.

At this point, FourTune were joined by their first guest, the equally young pianist Dominic Ferris, who owned the stage as soon as he walked on to play Stickles’ arrangement of Bernstein’s Somewhere. He has mastered perfectly the grande geste of the entertainment pianist – his hands alternately jabbing at chords or languorously placing them, the while shrugging and grimacing at his captivated audience. His subsequent rendition of his own arrangement of Autumn Leaves confirmed this innate musicality, and if this weren’t enough, in the second half of the evening he accompanied himself singing (in a pleasing Billy-Joel-esque light baritone) a breathlessly upbeat version of Loesser’s Luck be a lady.

After the piano interlude, FourTune slipped into a higher gear still, and presented some accomplished performances of Come fly with me, Somewhere over the rainbow, an Andrews-sisters-style Goodnight Sweetheart, and a 1960s-up-tempo I have often walked on this street before. A medley from The Sound of Music came next: the rarely-heard trio of nuns’ opening choruses, then Edelweiss – an odd follow-up, as the almost immediate segue (in the musical) into How do you solve a problem like Maria? creates a welcome moment of comic bathos.

The first-half finale was given over to the group’s second guest, the current ‘First Lady of West-End Musicals’, who, with her performance of Lloyd Webber’s Memory, proved to the audience that Streisand is not the only one who can belt a reedy top note.

In the second part of the evening we were treated to a couple of pieces with the group and the piano (Some say love, There’s a place for us), and it became clear that FourTune relax much more into the idiom with their pianist – not only because there are more notes available, but because Ferris’ complete immersion in the style is infectious – their ensemble work became more knitted, their smiles became less forced, and their vowels (in the American numbers) became less British. Notwithstanding this, they also sang a charming unaccompanied medley of Carole King numbers arranged by one the group, and proved they could tackle songs from a different genre by presenting us with slick arrangements of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars and Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, as well as a hauntingly simple guitar-accompanied performance of an arrangement of Cohen’s Hallelujah.

A further appearance from Kerry Ellis – who gave us a full-voiced performance of No-one but you, the song that brought her fame – was followed by an ensemble finale of We will rock you and Bring him home. Alas, the temptation became too great, and as the audience rose in appreciation, all five performers let rip with Let it go, proving Noël Coward’s equally over-exposed line about the potency of cheap music.

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FourTune / Ferris / Ellis @ St John’s Smith Square, London