Review: Quench, The Dowsing Sound Collective

My thirst for quality singing was well and truly quenched on Saturday night (26 July), when the 100-strong Dowsing Sound Collective filled St John's College Chapel. 

In the second of two shows that day, called simply Quench, The Dowsing Sound Collective singers took to ‘the stage’ complete with violins, viola, cello and double bass, trumpet, guitars, organ, percussion, harp, piano and hurdy-gurdy no less. With their usual friendly, approachable style, there were cheers and waves exchanged between the performers and audience, before they launched into their first song, a beautiful rendition of Coldplay’s Us Against The World.

It was a gentle start for the Collective known for their rousing performances, but they soon took the tempo up with Funkadelic’s Can You Get To That. It was all the audience could do to stay in their seats.

Quench didn’t disappoint anyone familiar with the Collective’s eclectic approach to collaboration and set lists – from the uplifting Pompeii by Bastille through the delicate Lippy Kids by Elbow (one of my favourite songs performed brilliantly) to the frenzy of Worship You by Vampire Weekend. And Worship You deserves special mention for the hurdy-gurdy solo – yes, you read that right. Inspired is all I can say, but then this is a bunch of performers that thinks nothing of using the chapel’s organ and a harp alongside a guitar line-up more familiar from pop bands.

All the instruments were used brilliantly, adding something to each track, but special mentions have to go to Paul Richards on drums – so much fun to watch, Kat Arney on harp – the most animated harpist I’ve yet to see, and James Stygall on trumpet – whose toes I could see tapping all the way through, and he only got to play on the last few tracks.

The instrumentalists got one track off, as Breaking was voices only. Beautifully sung, this song demonstrated that The Dowsing Sound Collective really can sing – if anyone still needed convincing. And not only can they sing, but they can sing in Icelandic too, giving a wonderful rendition of Sigur Rós’s Glósóli.

A real surprise for me was Undertow. By Ane Brun, it’s a song I didn’t know at all, but now love. Beautifully arranged, it showed off the range of voices wonderfully.

All too soon it was over, but artistic director Andrea Cockerton knows her audience, so she had one more corker up her sleeve: Mumford & Son’s Awake My Soul. It sent the audience out, definitely awake and ready for anything.

As we were leaving one of the performers said she always wondered if they had more fun than the audience. No, I reassured her, the audience has at least as much fun. Find out for yourself at their next gig; keep your eye on Cambridge Edition to find out when and where. And if you fancy singing yourself, join the waiting list at www.thedowsingsoundcollective.

Through The Dosoco Foundation, the Collective supports projects using music to change lives. On Saturday, they announced four more grants for Cambridge Community Arts, D’Musica at Reach, Vision for Growth and Homerton’s Children’s Centre. Find out more at