The Belfray Country Inn will be bathed in the sound of the forties when the Sweethearts of Swing come to town this week.
Following their successful sold out Belfast launch show, the Andrews Sisters inspired girl group will be treating the local audience to a night of pitch perfect harmonies taken from an incredible musical era.
Focusing mainly on the 1940's wartime Swing and Jazz era while also dabbling into the fifties and early sixties, you’ll be enticed onto the dance floor to Lindy Hop, move your feet to the Charleston or to simply bust some moves.
The three piece are made up of Belfast ladies Kat Reagan and Naomi Rocke, along with local girl Orla Mullan, and all three are not only profesional singers, but actresses also.
From the Fairy Godmother to Bette Midler, Orla Mullan has performed a wide variety of roles during her career. With acting credits including The Fall, Emmerdale and Peter Kay’s Britain’s Got The Pop Factor on her CV, not to mention the numerous theatre appearances thrown in there also, Orla is thoroughly enjoying performing classic songs from an era she absolutely loves.
We caught up with, the Sweethearts of Swing’s ‘Vintage Vamp’ over a coffee to find out more about her latest project.
“The big appeal was the very intricate harmonies and to make a sound that doesn’t really exist anymore” Orla started by telling me.
“The work that goes into the harmonies is really challenging. You want it to sound like you’re being transported back into that era that’s so romantic and it’s also the backdrop to the War. At the time it was very, red lipstick, seamed stockings and there was a finesse and a genteel glamour to it.
“Because technology has taken music to another place, the girls and I wanted to go back to pure raw vocals and the big band sound.”
Having spent most of her professional career in England, studying and performing, Orla made the decision to relocate back home as the Northern Irish film and tv scene has been hotting up in recent years.
“Musically, I was classically trained from a very young age but it was at school that I became more interested in acting. Then I went onto the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which was co-founded by Paul McCartney, and spent three years there.
“One of my first jobs was a big UK musical tour for Disney’s Beauty in the Beast. There were a lot of musicals after that but I wanted to keep involved in the straight acting as well but it was a real mixed bag of jobs which was fantastic” she said.
The Sweethearts of Swing - Promo
Performing tracks from an era of times gone by brings with it some challenges. “The one thing that we found with this style of music was that there was a very little amount of sheet music available for that genre of music” she said.
“You may get the music of the song, but you won’t necessarily find the music for a three part harmony. So it meant that at least half of our set has had to be arranged by ourselves, and in particular Kat who has the tough job of arranging the harmonies.”
“With this era the harmonies are really tight and we purposely didn’t want one person to always be the top soprano, one always to be at the bottom and the other to be in the middle. We as a three piece like to mix it up a lot. We all have three very different voices too but they all come together very well.”
Organising sheet music proved to be not the only challenge that the Sweethearts were met with. “We were used to just turning up for a show, performing and then going home. We had no idea how much prep goes into putting on a show” Orla laughs.
“In the weeks leading up to our show at the Empire last year, we barely sang a note. It was all press, admin, organising, flyers, posters. It literally took on a life of its own and we were getting a lot of press too which was fantastic. We were really lucky that everyone embraced us with opened arms and welcomed us.”
So having sold out the picturesque Empire Music Hall, the Sweethearts of Swing are looking forward to bringing their show to the Belfray this week. “The ballroom at the Belfray is the perfect place for our Derry launch as it’s got that cabaret style feel to it.”
And what can we expect from the show? “We have two halves to the show” Orla said. “The first half is mostly 1940’s and a lot of people will think: ‘oh, I don’t know any of the music from then’ but you would be surprised by how much you actually do know. A lot of the tracks have been rehashed over the years and have even appeared in movies too.
“For the second half of the show, we touch into the fifties and touch into the sixties. In the second half you’ll actually find out more about us individually too as we have some tracks which we perform on our own. You will also be able to hear how different our three voices actually are.”
You can catch the Sweethearts of Swing when they take to the Belfray Country Inn's ballroom on Friday 10th March from 8pm. Tickets are priced at £10, or £12 on the door.