BarberSoc’s final showcase of the year, Vocal Eclipse of the Heart, was an imaginative interpretation of contemporary pop and traditional classics, demonstrating the capabilities of the human voice unshackled by the restraints of instrumentation. Three ensembles; the all-male quintet Duly Noted, the all-female hendectet Pitch Please, and the mixed group the Accidentals; appeared in flight-attendant scarves and coloured bow ties to sing cheesy but oddly charming love songs.
Owing to a wonderfully curated setlist, the show was a concise and diverse exploration of a capella. Nobody’s Side from Chess and Bastille’s Pompeii, performed by the Accidentals, were two standout acts of the night. With charismatic solos, artful arrangements and polished harmonies, the grandeur of these big choral numbers always kept me in anticipation for the next act.
The performers sounded best in numbers featuring the entire group—when over thirty voices, each with their own unique qualities, converged in near-perfect harmony.
However there were some moments, especially during climactic sections, where vocal precision was lost. Modulations led to dissonant flat notes, and pitch control was sacrificed for volume during crescendos. While these technical issues were disguised in big ensembles, they were obvious and somewhat distracting in smaller ensembles. This was the case for Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory performed by the Accidentals. With its inordinately complex arrangement, performers couldn’t quite hit the mark.
The choreography, or lack thereof, was also distracting. Although it was endearing to see performers dancing fearlessly on stage, not everyone was equally committed. Consequently, many performances felt visually incoherent. Small choreographed sequences in some acts, such as the comedic ending to Pitch Please’s cover of the Carpenters’ Close to You, brought a refreshing sense of unity to the show.
Where the performances lacked refinement, they made up for it in infectious enthusiasm. Vienna Teng’s The Hymn of Acxiom, performed by the Accidentals, was the most theatrical performance of the night, telling a menacing love story between humans and technology in true ghost story fashion. The dimmed lights and use of torches complemented the ominous melodies perfectly.
Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way performed by Duly Noted was another highlight, embodying what a barbershop quintet ought to be—playful, suave, and a little bit obnoxious. From the growls to the capricious falsetto notes, the performance was beaming with character. If everybody had this level of pizazz, there would have been stellar performances all round.
Across the board, I wanted to see more emotional conviction. Often, lyricism was lost in a cacophony of flashy vocal layers and constant high energy. One of the few performances that succeeded in emotional delivery, and my personal favourite, was the Accidentals’ haunting rendition of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love. Each singer lingered on every note, every lyric and every silence—and it was mesmerising.
Singing is about more than just sounding good; it’s about telling a story, in a way that makes the audience feel something, whether it be misguided hope or childish hysteria or some other emotion that rarely surfaces in day-to-day life. The best performances of the night were not necessarily the ones that were technically perfect, but the ones that spoke to the audience.
I thoroughly enjoyed the showcase, and look forward to seeing how these singers continue to evolve as musicians and performers. While BarberSoc has some work to do in vocal delivery, the heart is there. Perhaps the title of the showcase is more fitting than they thought.