by John Lau
In an Edinburgh Festival Fringe season with many débutantes, the current Voice Festival UK Champions joined the party as Vive arrived in Edinburgh with a week-long run at everyone’s favourite amateur arts Festival at the start of August. Following their visit to Lithuania, the home country of one of their members, Martynas Vilpisauskas, they had secured airtime on local television and this exposure had clearly kept the group’s fast-paced momentum moving in the right direction.
As I took my seat at the Space Cabaret on their first night, despite their award-winning and indeed title-winning performance at the Final of this year’s Voice Festival, I was still wondering about what to expect of the five students and one female graduate of the London Guildhall School of Music & Drama: what could they possibly add to or how could they possibly improve on a musically flawless VF-UK set? What would they sound like in a much smaller, intimate venue? Would the crowd ‘get’ their intricate, experimental jazz?
The answer to all of these questions was undoubtedly positive: any apprehension I may have had was put to one side with the professionalism that the group has: the group took their places on bar stools on the stage and launched straight into the phenomenal Your Motivation, with Martynas on the lead vocals, and the reception from the audience was that of uproar.
The group proceeded to demonstrate that they are capable of a diverse range of re-arrangements from pop through jazz and even spiritual pieces such as hymns, the experts of which are Baritone James Rose and Alto Sam Robson. It is the versatility and their willingness to experiment that is not only endearing, but means they are always pushing the boundaries of their abilities, something which other groups would do well to replicate, even if they do sometimes verge a little too far over the ‘showing-off’ line. This was well demonstrated by the smooth vocal performance of Emily Dankworth in her rendition of The Lighthouse Family’s High; this, the later performance of Ezekiel Saw De Wheel and the opener Your Motivation were the stand-out moments of an overall highly impressive show, all the more so given the innate polish and shine within that is often lacking on a first night.
So, Vive certainly came alive on the first weekend of the Fringe, justly living up to Vocal Blog’s Florian Staedtler’s recommendation as a ‘bright young hope’ for vocal music. I expect more of the same in the coming year.