The Oxford Gargoyles (C : 5-15 August : 13.00 : 50 mins)

“A flawless vocal performance”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars: Outstanding

It seems somewhat incredulous that I last saw the Oxford Gargoyles at the Fringe nine years ago. And I guess what’s most pleasing is the evolution in style since then – from what was previously a supremely talented but somewhat serious choir, to a much more risky and fun-loving bunch, with the same level of musical talent.

After a slightly bizarre introduction, the show opened with gospel number from Disney’s Hercules: That’s the Gospel Truth, which although impressive, perhaps had a slightly too complex arrangement that to the average punter would probably have sounded quite chaotic. Indeed, this was a theme that, being harsh, was true throughout their 50-minute set: amazing vocal talent that was sometimes lost behind some very complex arrangements.

What I imagine the group would hail as their “money song” was the most bizarre mash-up that I have ever heard including (among others): Stanford’s Evening Canticles in C, G and B flat; Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed Delivered; Bach’s Magnificat; and even some 90s rock thrown in for good measure. Again, vocally very impressive, and I’m sure music geeks will go nuts for it, but for the layman it is quite difficult to enjoy properly with so much going on.

In saying that, this is a vocal group that absolutely knows is niche in the a capella market, and their songs were in the most part performed in their very individual style. A beautiful, soulful rendition of Let It Be, and a much simpler mash-up of jazz classics including Beyond the Sea were very distinctive to the Gargoyle’s sound. The haunting and simple Blame it on my Youth was perhaps my favourite of the evening though, going to show that they’ve still got all their old tricks, as well as having learnt some new.

The show closed with a song that I never thought I would hear from an acapella, especially a jazz acapella: Shania Twain’s Man, I feel Like a Woman. This number perhaps most evidently summed up the gutsiness this group now has, incorporating humour, original arrangement and a flawless vocal performance. It was delivered with real panache and was a great way to close the show.

For me it’s great to see so much freshness and originality alive and well in university a capella groups, and I hope the Oxford Gargoyles keep up their good work.



Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 9 August)