The evening saw the first fruits of percussion wizard Adriano Adewale’s tenure as Associate Artist at the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS) in the form of Within the Waves, billed as a musical exploration of English and Brazilian sea-faring cultures. With its doubled-up choir (an amalgamation of Cecil Sharp House Choir and Northumberland based Werca’s Folk, dressed in various shades of blue), two pro singers, two percussionists and sea-life-centre styled visuals above the stage, at least one member of the audience entered the auditorium fearing the moans of a beached whale more likely.
Yet from the first sound, the project began to unpick any cynical assumptions. The choir was for the most part strong and used to good effect, responding with agility to a rolling bench of choral directors - Sally Davies, Sandra Kerr and Pete Churchill - and giving a concerted if laboured effort at Brazilian-Portuguese pronunciation. Traditional songs from both countries were tied together by arrangements that gave the two featured vocalists, the enchanting Rebecca Vallim, and Sarah Jane Morris (who rose to the occasion with aplomb), plenty of space to weave their spells over the room.
In the middle of the programme, Adewale’s own composition ‘Storm + Poem’ was a real high point. Along with Andreas Ticino’s imaginative supporting percussion, all the elements of the event came into their own here in an intriguing maelstrom: Adewale himself finally got going. His distinctive charm and movement was, as always, utterly infectious. The piece ended on Vallim’s poignant reading switching suddenly into English and I was transported out somewhere in the equatorial Atlantic, a sea-deity haunting me at every turn. What might have been a leviathan big-sing bonanza, Within the Waves steered a surprisingly well-navigated course through the sea related music of these two cultures.
– Will Kemp