Spotlight on the Arts
11:27 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Direct From London: Mesmerizing A Cappella

Juice Vocal Ensemble: Kerrie Andrew, Anna Snow, Sarah Dacey
Credit Dannie Price

There’s a hypnotic vocal harmony that is both soothing and mysterious in "Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby," sung a cappella by the Juice Vocal Ensemble on their album Songspin. It’s as if I’m standing over a child’s crib and hear warm breathing and shushing and sighing. It’s sense-o-round that wraps around me. Then, suddenly, I wonder: who are these voices? Where’s the baby? Everything, okay?! The music has moved me. And Juice has done its job.

"We like to sing a bit of everything."
Kerry Andrew

It’s just one example of the many intimate and surprising moments that this wonderful London-based female a cappella trio deliver, with bravery and imagination throughout their entire album, in songs both original and by other artists. Their playful and serious musical variations are drawn from a variety of sources. According to alto Kerry Andrew, “We like to really sing a bit of everything. So we can sing very difficult virtuosic new music, or we can sing folky stuff, or have a go of beat-boxing, or to do an opera or improvise with electronics. We like to think that’s fairly individual for our group. We’re pretty diverse.”

Launching their U.S. tour this Saturday night at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, their performance is part of the Crowell Concert Series presented by the Wesleyan Music Department and Center for the Arts. The trio will also conduct workshops for students. Preceding Saturday’s concert, there’s a talk about their work and collaborative style by Neely Bruce, Wesleyan University John Spencer Camp Professor of Music.

Juice’s masterful vocal interpretations and a diverse song selection go beyond the act of exploring and deconstructing for the sake of exploring and deconstructing. These talented female vocalists -- Sarah Dacey (soprano), Kerry Andrew (alto) and Anna Snow (soprano) -- are charismatic and sophisticated musical storytellers, creating situations, characters, and environments by interweaving solos and flawless harmonies. With other percussive and verbal interplay, they make you feel like you are part of the work, and sometimes, breathing right along with them.

At Saturday night’s concert, Juice will premiere several new pieces, including the world premiere of "Ferrar Redux" by New York-based Toby Twining, a 2006 Wesleyan University alumnus. That collaboration grew out of a discovery of Twining’s music when suggested by American lecturer Bill Brooks at York University, where members of Juice are affiliated.

Sarah Dacey recalled the visit with Twining in New York during their first trip to the states in 2011: “We knew we were coming to New York…got in contact [with Toby] and said, can we come and see you? And we did a little gig with him in New York, and found his music made a lot of sense with us. Then he said he’d like to write us a piece.”

Here's Juice Vocal Ensemble performing "The Triadic Riddles of Water and Ice," by Paul Robinson:

Celebrating their tenth year of performing together as Juice, the three vocalists, who each also have exceptional solo singing careers in the U.K., won an Independent Music Award for Best Contemporary Classical Album for Songspin in 2012. Juice has also had their music choreographed to by Maurice Causey from the Nederlands Dans Theatre, and recently created a live vocal score for the 1916 film "The Danger Girl" for London’s Bird’s Eye View Film Festival. They regularly commission new works.

In addition to performing, Sarah, Kerry and Anna are experienced and passionate music educators. They have been Ensemble-In-Residence at the universities of York and Ulster, and run youth projects for Aldeburgh Young Musicians, Wigmore Hall, Live Music Now, and Sound and Music.

The Juice Vocal Ensemble concert will be held at 8:00 pm at Crowell Concert Hall, 50 Wyllys Avenue on the Wesleyan University campus. For Juice, Wesleyan is a little like home, something that Anna Snow is excited about. "It reminds us of York University," she said, "which is where we’re all from, which is probably where we formed because it’s a university that is very interested in bringing out exciting new ideas. They are very good at encouraging students there to think for themselves and to think of new ideas. And to me that relates with Wesleyan University.”

Tickets are available online or in person at the Wesleyan box office, located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown, or by phone at (860) 685-3355.