Adriano Adewale - Within the Waves

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Adriano Adewale

Pre-show, in the main hall at Cecil Sharp House, there's a palpable buzz – something special is coming. The plethora of mics, stands, chairs, a table with bottles on it – not to mention the forest of percussion instruments – all suggest something big. Adriano Adewale's concert-piece (cantata almost) for percussion, soloists and choirs draws on British and Brazilian sea-faring traditions to weave a tapestry of human experiences and emotions, delving beneath the surface to look for our common threads.

Opening with the great shanty 'Rio Grande', it's spine-tingling to hear the massed voices and see the light in the faces of the singers, beautifully brought out of themselves by conductor Pete Churchill. Adewale and co-percussionist Andreas Ticino charge the atmosphere with evocative sounds from a range of sources, from berimbau to water in a stone pot; and we're introduced to the two soloists, symbolic of their respective homelands – Sarah Jane Morris and Rebeca Vallim (both stunning). Brazilian and British material alternates until the central section 'Storm and Poem' – this extraordinary movement features fantastic work by the choirs (Cecil Sharp House Choir under Sally Davies and, from Northumberland, Werca's Folk under Sandra Kerr), who use vocal effects to summon the sound of the sea after a great storm; the thought occurs that perhaps the sea is the greatest percussion instrument of all. 'The Jovial Broom Man' is a different kind of sea-song, a tall tale, suggestive of drinking but also the fraternity of the sea and the way that it has always brought people together. Just when we think things can't get any better, Afro-Brazilian praise song 'Canto de Iemanja' has the most gorgeous stirring harmonies! We finish with a return to 'Rio Grande' and some hearty audience participation. This was indeed something big, a rich, truthful and compelling evening of musical excellence and shared experience.

– Philip Hogg