Pure Vocal Harmony: The Bovril Sisters
The number of ensembles still performing the music of the Boswell Sisters may be most notable for the unique attributes that each one of them has chosen to give focus. For the Bovril Sisters, that focus is on recreating the harmonic blend that Martha, Connee and Vet achieved vocally. Performing a capella, the Bovril Sisters achieve a fidelity in their harmonies that gives their audience chills of wonder.
Bozzies.com contacted the Bovril Sisters, Cathy Evans, Rachel Foster and Trina Furre to get the story behind these beefy harmonies (pun intended).
I have loved vocal harmony since singing hymns around the piano with my welsh family. This passion stayed with me throughout my career in music and ranged from simple folk bands through to more sophisticated alternative comedy cabaret acts. It was in the 80’s that I first began working alongside two other woman (known as Proper Little Madams) and we began performing a couple of the Andrews Sisters songs. Not long afterwards I heard the sweet, soulful harmonies of the Boswell Sisters…there was no looking back from there!
My next quest was to find two singers who could tackle this project. It would need to be two women who had a very high standard of musicality and I knew just who! I approached both Rachel and Trina thinking I may have to use some pretty heavy-duty persuasion techniques… oh no… they heard a recording of the Boswell Sisters and said “Ok, when do we start?” Within weeks we knew we were on to a good thing with this. Some of the music drove us to tears, some of it made Trina’s pet dog howl with joy! Before long, the audiences were requesting our presence and our homage to the Boswell Sisters was proving to be very popular.
I would never have spoken to Cathy again had she not chosen me to work with her on this project. I’ve loved jazz, blues and soul music and always sought it out as a child even though I lived in Iran, (I was lucky to have US TV at that time) and then deepest darkest Lincolnshire back in the UK.I used to order American imports from a little record shop in my local small town, Grantham. One record a week cost my entire paper round wages. I did this religiously for many years. The job changed a few times but my music box collection kept on building up. I first started singing harmony at school in choir and loved it. From then on I would sing along to records and making up my own. I never sang into a hair brush though! Ok?
We called ourselves the Bovril sisters as our own homage to the well and long known English beverage, to help conjure up an image and evoke a flavour of the time.
The complexity of the harmonies of the Boswells, the jazz and the blues, the music of the Deep South. The intonation between the three of them and the tightness of the timing. There is no group like the Boswell Sisters, there never has been and probably never will be. This is another important reason for us to keep the music alive by keeping as close as possible to their original arrangements and unique ‘sound’. It is our pleasure and privilege to do so. Cheers Cathy!
I had never heard of the Boswell Sisters before Cathy played us those first recordings. I still remember exactly where we were sitting and what we were doing – we were in my kitchen back in the early 90s and I just couldn’t believe how great they were! – I had heard the Andrews Sisters but didn’t realise just how far it is possible to push vocal harmony… When we had our first go I just fell in love with the sound and to this day cannot think of a more satisfying sing!
Even though we all have other musical involvements we always come back together and heave a sigh of relief at the shear joy of singing together again. What else can I say except I love it!
The Boswell Project
Three talented singers went searching for a project they could work on together and what they found was the life-changing experience of being Bozzed! Since 2012 The Boswell Project has been on a Boz trek that has led to sold out concerts from their native Adelaide, Australia all the way to New Orleans. Oi, oi, oi is now the Aussie word for Yowzah!