Fola Philip, the choir director, leapt across to the floor to the front of the stage, the MC Amen Noir introduced their first song, ‘Enjoy Yourself’, and we were off on a journey of secular joy.
There is something wonderful about untrained voices; unlike the Brit School croon, they have not had the enthusiasm steamrollered out of them. That is not to say this choir sound like amateurs; they are extremely well-rehearsed and their harmonies are tight and very tuneful. These singers know how to blend like the best of them.
There were some great songs here, some that I was familiar with (and we were encouraged to sing along so I did, and so did everyone else), and some not so familiar.
Most enjoyable? ‘I'm In The Mood For Ska’, and also the almost-rude one, ‘Shaving Foam’.
Lovers of The Specials repertoire will love this lot; they sang ‘A Message to You Rudy’ (which was originally a Dandy Livingstone song) and ‘Too Much Too Young’ (a Lloyd Chalmers song re-worked by Jerry Dammers). They sang Horace Andy, they sang Bob Marley; they sang their hearts out with energy and authenticity. Finishing on an original song, Ska Fantasy, they bounced off the stage and left us all with huge grins on our faces.
I would really like to hear these songs recorded. There are some gorgeous voices in there, and the very variety of texture is what makes their sound so special; they know how to call-and-response, they now how to take it down, and I reckon they could melt a few hearts by going acoustic from time to time too.
I needed to smile, and I did. Thank you, flowers of East London, for brightening up a miserable rainy day!