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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Illuminations Presents: The 11th Hour


Genre: A Cappella

Venue: theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall


Low Down

Excellent harmonies with well-arranged songs in a fun a cappella presentation.


A good a cappella performance requires three things:  singing in tune, interesting and challenging arrangements, and engaging presentation.  The University of Exeter mixed ensemble 11th Hour has covered all of those bases.  The singing is strong.  The show is fun to watch. And the music effectively ranges from very dramatic to joyful.

The premise of the show is that this is the 11th year of the group, which was founded in 2021.  The band is in search of the perfect 11th song to include in their performance.  This will be decided by an audience vote at the end of the show.  The theme provides a thin through-story which isn’t necessary, as the music is strong, but the story gives a reason for audience interaction.

The concert opens with a dramatic rendition of “Feeling Good”, showing off the excellent dynamic control of the group.  Singers are introduced by name early in the program, which gives the audience an opportunity to better connect with the individuals on stage. There is some dancing in the show, but mostly it is effective blocking, appropriate to each song.   Each song is well arranged and some beautifully highlight the strongest of the solo singers.

There is a comedic bit where the female singers compete with the guys to see which section is the best and most popular. The women rock it out with “Queens and Kings” by Ava Max.  The guys sing “Treasure” with the addition of hip sunglasses.  In fact, both are terrific but the ladies win.

Songs are chosen from popular artists, including Florence + The Machine, Michael Bublé, Aurora, and more.  There is a very lovely ballad written by a band member. All of the arrangements, whether they are standalone songs or mash ups, are solid and well-suited to the voices.  Although many of the arrangements have very complex harmonies, the singers are able to deliver – in tune and with perfect dynamic control, even when moving across the stage. The unisons are absolutely accurate and very effective. This only happens with extensive rehearsing. Their preparation has clearly served them well.

One thing that sets this ensemble apart from other a cappella groups is the use of silences in the music. Rather than filling every moment in a song, the arrangements build in strategic pauses that heighten the drama.  This is a stunning technique.

The audience is engaged throughout the show.  At one point, people in the audience are challenged to identify the next song by just the bass line, and slowly adding other parts.  Someone guesses “Rich Girl”, and the group breaks into a super funky version of the Hall and Oates tune.  At the end, the audience votes on choosing the final song. Overall the program is full of wonderful vocal performances in a joyous presentation.

My one suggestion is in the area of costuming. The theme colours are orange and black. Some of the outfits look very sharp but others are a stretch to be considered within the theme.  More careful attention to coordinating the costumes would add another level of professionalism to the presentation.

The group has achieved five consecutive International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) appearances, including reaching the UK finals in 2022.  They have released EPs and music videos, and will continue to compete at the ICCAs.