The Shout was formed in 1998 by the composers Orlando Gough and Richard Chew. The singers come from very varied backgrounds – gospel, jazz, blues, contemporary classical, opera, early music – and include several accomplished improvisers. It has been called a ‘vocal big band’, a ‘club choir’, a ‘vocal Stomp’, a ‘dangerous choir’, a ‘choir of Babel’ and a ‘choral phenomenon’. It is, we hope, all of these things.
The Shout performs a mixture of concerts, music theatre and site-specific pieces; our first performance was an outdoor oratorio The Shouting Fence (South Bank, July 1998) involving a large group of amateurs and children, the second a concert at the jazz club The Spitz, London (January 1999), the third a music-theatre piece Mouth at the Drill Hall, London (May 1999). Most of the singers are not actors; but the choir is interested in pursuing the theatrical implications of singing.
The choir aims to be a group whose personalities are revealed by the music and who are given freedom to sing solos and to improvise, and yet a group capable of homogeneous effort; it aims to explore the possibilities of sixteen individuals and of a single voice with sixteen components. It aims at achieving a high degree of choral sophistication while preserving a raw natural energy. It is interested in pursuing a kind of collective choral improvisation as well as using the individual improvising talents of the singers.
In short, the choir likes to do things that choirs normally don’t do, and tries to push at the boundaries of what a choir might be.