The Idea of North, an amazing multi-award winning cappella group, performed at North Sydney’s Independent Theatre last week in a Sunday afternoon of fun and games. I can only describe the performance as a joy to listen to, and, for me, as a first timer to a The Idea of North gig, an absolute privilege to witness such gob-smacking talent.
Incredibly, this vocal ensemble has been going since 1993, when it was founded in Canberra by Nick Begbie, who remains the only original founding member of the group to still be a part of the current quintet today. For a group to be still going so strong after some 26 years can only mean one thing…these guys are bloody good!
Nick, the group’s tenor, has nurtured The Idea of North since inception and today is assisted by bassist Luke Thompson, Naomi Creilin as alto (and Musical Director), soprano Emma Rule, and guest vocal percussionist from Tokyo, Kai Kitamura, who is quickly establishing himself as an (almost) full time acoustic drum set for the group. And the sounds that Kai can produce by simply inhaling and exhaling air is not only mesmerising, it’s also quite extraordinary.
For those not familiar with cappella music, this is a group of singers that perform without instrumental accompaniment. “Cappella” actually stems from the Italian language, and means “of the chapel”, and thus this kind of music actually has it’s roots in worship. Now though, and far from minimalistic church music that one might perceive of cappella music, The Idea of North brings an incredible level of sophistication and a repertoire of human only sounds that will see you toe tapping, singing along, and with jaw dropping wide-eyed amazement. In fact, introducing any instruments to this performance would only dilute the sanctity of the sounds the group produces, and detract from the experience.
The performance delivered at The Independent Theatre brought not only some great and recognisable tunes such as Tim Minchin’s “Not Perfect”, Ella Fitzgerald’s “A Tisket A Tasket” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” but also weaves in some fun and good old aussie humour that, at first, seemed not be part of the program. When the group’s sound engineer, strategically seated in the audience from where he was navigating the performance, quickly arose to rectify a microphone “problem”, it slowly emerged that he too would be part of the act as he burst in to song with the suddenly “repaired” microphone in hand. Later, Kai Kitamura amazed with his mimicry of a jet plane taking off, a vacuum cleaner, and, a fully loaded drum kit and an apparent skill with the sticks, which could stand beside those of Dave Grohl or Ringo Starr. Hear it to believe it! Further fun was had when an audience member was asked to conduct the quintet. This conducting however involved turning on and off their array of harmonies at will, increasing and decreasing their volumes, speeding them up and slowing them down. And the group missed not a step. Wow!
The current quintet do the founding and following members of The Idea of North absolute justice, maintaining an exceptionally high musical standard. But, and perhaps most importantly, it’s immediately obvious that this is a group of singers that quite simply love what they do, and they totally want you, the audience, to love it too, and go home with a unique and memorable experience. And for me it was that, and more, and I don’t hesitate to recommend this show.
With many upcoming shows sold out you must book early to avoid disappointment. The Idea Of North are a class act, and their shows are not to be missed.