I heard Take 6 and the London Adventist Chorale on 12/24/20 (it was live on 12/13/20), part of the VOCES8 Live From London Christmas concert series. Take 6 I knew mostly by reputation. I’d never heard of the London Adventist Chorale before. The concert opened with the Chorale, conducted by Ken Burton, and I wasn’t impressed with them. They were good enough but their intonation was spotty and their sound was thin and pale. They sang mostly arrangements of African-American spirituals, and one of the treats of African-American spirituals being sung by a chorus is hearing solos, and they had some lovely soloists in the group.
VOCES8 programmed a pseudo intermission feature, a short performance by Versa, a group of six women. They sang a tasty a cappella arrangement of “White Christmas,” done by Sara Leanne, a member of the group. They were marvelous! They totally knew what they were doing, they had a distinctive sound and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
And then Take 6! They were delightful, rock solid musicianship and a little razzle dazzle to make it feel like a performance. Their program notes said that Quincy Jones described them as “the baddest vocal cats on the planet.” High praise from the Q!
I looked them up on Wikipedia - - they were founded in 1980 at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. One of the previous concerts in the VOCES8 Christmas concert series featured The Aeolians, a choir from Oakwood, so what a treat to have more talented Alabamans on this super English concert series.
Every song they did was special, but one highlight was “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” a spiritual I first heard sung a cappella by Leontyne Price on her Christmas CD with Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic. The Take 6 performance was gorgeous and deeply meaningful. Here’s the track from their 1991 Christmas album:
Another highlight was “The Sugarplum Dance,” a jazzy take on “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” from *The Nutcracker.* It was low down and funky, I loved it.
They closed with a lovely performance of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” which got me a little teary because so many of us will NOT be home for Christmas this year…
London Adventist Chorale
“True Religion,” spiritual, arr Eugene Simpson
“Deep River,” spiritual, arr Norman Luboff
“A Song In The Air,” Karl Harrington, arr Ken Burton
“What A Wonderful Child,” trad Gospel arr Loris Holland, Walter Assiensief, Mariah Carey
“Rest,” Ken Burton
“Journeys (A Song For Windrush 70),” Ken Burton
“Swing Low,” spiritual, arr Ken Burton
“Going Home (based on New World Symphony),” Dvorak, words by Arms Fisher, arr Ken Burton
“In The Lord,” spiritual, arr Moses Hogan
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas“
“Sweet Little Jesus Boy“ “
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
“The Sugarplum Dance”
"I'll Be Home For Christmas"