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Esplanade’s Voices Series 2019: Opus Jam (Review)

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French a capella group shows off their range.

Known for their genial attitudes and fun approach to their concerts, Opus Jam members Emmanuel Cappalaere (founder and tenor 2), Julien Guilloton (bass), David-Alexandre Aquiba (beatboxer and baritone), Rémy Arenas (tenor 1 alto and the newest member), Nicolas Gabet (soprano) and Mathieu Becquerelle (tenor 2) recently arrived in town as part of the Esplanade’s Voice Series and the Voilah! Festival 2019.

Set to perform a 90-minute set that showed off the sextet’s vocal range and versatility, the performance started stylishly, as we already heard the group’s voices wafting from backstage before they came out singing one by one. One couldn’t help but imagine one’s self at a cafe in France with the tone the group set. Undeniably French, the members even dressed in white shirts with either red or blue stripes (complete with matching Converse sneakers) to represent the colours of the French flag.

Opus Jam’s set felt something like a performance-lecture, not only aiming to charm and entertain but also to educate, as they explained and taught us all about a capella music before each song, in an effort to bring us into and understand their world. Taking on a live ‘talk show’ format, the members kicked off conversation between themselves by posing questions towards each other, segueing into an introduction to each song from the classics of yesteryear to hits of today.

Beginning with songs from the early Renaissance period, the group shifted to modern classics such as Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, showing off the flexibility of the group and their extensive repertoire. While the term a capella simply means voice unaccompanied by instruments, the genre has grown over the years to develop its own blend of styles and elements, with the only rule being that voice remains the sole ‘instrument’ used. With Opus Jam’s brand of a capella, layering features heavily across their songs as they bring the different tones and octaves together into a single song – sultry and soulful.

To show off this range, Opus Jam continued with songs from Claude François, along with Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’, elevated to even greater emotion than the originals with instrumentation. Crossing over the genres such as soul, the blues and Motown, such as the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’, or even songs by Offenbach, a capella, when applied to any genre, transforms it into a completely different animal altogether. Plus, with Opus Jam’s cheeky attitude towards their performance, with audience involvement such as singing love songs directed towards female audience members, the entire evening maintained a consistent, fun energy throughout. Mesmerising, lyrical and pushing the human voice to new heights, a capella is form that’s here to stay.

Opus Jam played at the Esplanade Recital Studio on 28th and 29th October 2019. 

Voilah! 2019 runs from 3rd October to 17th November 2019 around Singapore. For more information on the festival and the full programme, visit their website at www.voilah.sg.

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