Tucked away in a corner of Manchester University, the Martin Harris Centre hosts a regular lunchtime treat, performed by the talented students of the MU Music Society. The society itself is huge, and boasts a wide range of musicians and ensembles, performing over 50 concerts a year! These performing opportunities are invaluable for upcoming musicians, and the afternoon was fairly well attended by a mixture of fellow students and music lovers alike.
First up was The Fresher's Choir, looking very smart all in black. They performed an acapella version of 'Sleep', by Eric Whitacre which was absolutely stunning. They achieved a great volume for a choir of 20, but what I was really impressed with was the quieter, soft sections, which were absolutely beautiful. The wonderfully rich bass section were particularly delightful. I would have quite happily listened to more than one piece from this group!
Next up was Cillian Donaghy, accompanied by Andy Davies, who were both effortlessly professional and confident in their performance. His first piece, Serenade Italienne by Chausson was beautifully sung, his wonderful use of dynamics really taking us on a journey. He demonstrated fantastic control through his second piece, Andenken by Beethoven, and finally showed us his power and emotional range through The Last Rose of Summer, by Benjamin Britten and based on the poem by Thomas Moore. I particularly liked how Donaghy took the time to address the audience, and tell us about his pieces. It was also lovely to hear his Irish speaking voice, after hearing him sing in three different languages! I perhaps would have liked to have understood more of the words in his final piece, seeing as it was sung in English, but I guess that's not always the point of music!
Finally we had four piece acapella group, Voci Dolci, comprising of Lizzy Humphries, Claire Shercliff, Rory Johnston and Seb Marshall. They performed a whopping six pieces to close the show. As there are only four singers they are left very exposed; there is no room for mistakes! And I'm glad to say if there were any errors, I didn't notice them. They worked well together as an ensemble, you could tell that they have a great relationship with each other, and they make a lovely sound. As often happens with groups like this, the alto part was getting lost, which is a real shame because in the few moments
Where she was allowed to shine, she had a really beautiful voice. I don't pretend to be an expert in this style of music by any means, but quite a few of the pieces started to sound the same, and could have done with a bit more variety. John Farmer's 'Fair Phyllis' was a good example of this; a really fun arrangement which lifted the whole performance.
The lunchtime showcase is a great idea, and I would recommend anyone to pop by if they have a spare hour. Details of all their upcoming performances can be found on their website at
Reviewed: 26th February 2016
Reviewer: Poppy Stewart