Acclaimed vocal ensemble Voces8 has eight members with the standard voicing of soprano, alto, tenor and bass plus one — a countertenor, a man who sings a treble line.
The slightly different vocal balance gives the English octet, which performs Feb. 27 at Baylor University, a slightly different tonal feel than similar eight-person groups. Barnaby Smith, the group’s artistic director and countertenor, uses an instrumental analogy: a French horn and a viola play music in similar registers, but those pitches sound tonally different to the ear.
The award-winning ensemble will sing a wide-ranging program, “Choral Dances,” in its program at Baylor’s Jones Concert Hall and that’s intentional, Smith said. “One of the great things of this group is its versatility,” he said, noting that the group not only represents the deep English choral tradition, but spans centuries in its repertoire, complemented by new works from annual composers and arrangers in residence.
“Choral Dances” spans Renaissance music to contemporary jazz, with pieces from Palestrina, Rachmaninoff, Benjamin Britten, Irving Berlin, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Van Morrison and more.
Singing with Smith on Voces8’s current American tour are Andrea Haines (soprano), Eleonore Cockerham (soprano), Katie Jeffries-Harris (alto), Blake Morgan (tenor), Euan Williamson (tenor), Christopher Moore (baritone) and Jonathan Pacey (bass).
Over the years, the members have changed with new members auditioned not for a specific part to fill. “They have to have a voice remarkable in some way. We have to see whether we can make it fit — and it has to be somebody we can get along with for seven months on the road,” Smith said with a chuckle.