By Derek Lennon EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – It’s not very often that a Grammy-winning vocal project visits Big Sky, so when it happens, it’s bound to attract a music-loving crowd. On Jan. 7, when Roomful of Teeth took the stage at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, it was a packed house.
As the audience trickled in before the show there was a buzz of excitement floating in the air. Everyone knew they were in for an experience, but few in attendance knew what a unique evening this was going to be.
At promptly 7:30 p.m. John Zirkle, the artistic director for WMPAC, took the stage to introduce Roomful of Teeth—a highly talented and seasoned a cappella ensemble consisting of four men and four women. As he left the stage, he told the audience that the sounds we were about to hear “will transport you to places you’ve never been before.”
The talented octet kickstarted the vocal performance with “Partita For 8 Voices,” an intriguing mix of spoken word with beautiful harmonies that captivated a motionless audience. After the opener, composer Ted Hearne jumped on stage to speak about the next four songs that Roomful of Teeth would perform from his masterpiece “Coloring Book.” This piece utilizes the voices of Roomful of Teeth to express the written words of black American poets like Zora Neale Hurston and Claudia Rankine.
The expressive sounds of “Coloring Book” highlighted the true synergy that exists amongst the vocalists. Otherworldly sounds and stunning harmonies created a truly unique vibe that left the attendees clenching their teeth in anticipation. As the audience listened, they soon grew to expect the unexpected.
At intermission, the consensus was that this was truly an eye-opening musical experience. Act two rolled out with “Beneath” by Caleb Burhans followed by “A Promise In The Stillness” by Ambrose Akinmusire.
Angelic tones and stunning resolutions filled the hall, complementing the WMPAC’s amazing acoustics. Roomful of Teeth then tapped into their inner passion for music to combine the sounds of the world for one final energetic song, titled “Otherwise” by Brad Wells. A standing ovation brought a close to the memorable night.
Roomful of Teeth is far from your typical music experience. By combining vocal studies from around the world, including Tuvan and Inuit throat singing, belting, Korean P’ansori, yodeling, and more, this uniquely talented vocal ensemble truly pushes the boundaries of what is possible with the human voice.
Their beautifully chaotic music has a strong energy that’s unlike anything you will ever hear—and that’s something a true music enthusiast can appreciate.