sat 20/07/2024

Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Friends, Bold Tendencies review - intimate tenderness under a car-park roof | reviews, news & interviews

Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Friends, Bold Tendencies review - intimate tenderness under a car-park roof

Sheku Kanneh-Mason & Friends, Bold Tendencies review - intimate tenderness under a car-park roof

Peckham magic once more from a star cellist who values collaboration

Five cellists in the Peckham twilightAll images by Nei Foster

When I worked in the Music Discount Centre decades ago, and non-stop CDs in the background were ordained, a customer remarked wryly of eight Bayreuth Festival horns playing Wagner “very crepuscular”. Five cellists playing Bach and Villa-Lobos as darkness fell beneath the roof of Peckham’s Multi-Storey Car Park could also be so described, but as a compliment: this was a grave and beautiful way to start the perfect entertainment.

What a team the already-great Sheku Kanneh-Mason had assembled from among his many colleagues – they all deserve a credit. The others were Hedwych van Gent, currently a masters student at the Royal Academy of Music and a sweet singer, too; Hannah Roberts, who taught Kanneh-Mason at the same institution; Max Ruisi, recently-graduated mover and shaker of the superb !2 Ensemble; and Ashok Klouda, familiar from outstanding performances at the Highgate International Chamber Music Festival, introducing himself in an irresistible biography as "indisputably recognised as the leading half-Indian, quarter-Irish, quarter-Czech (but still actually British) cellist in Buckinghamshire". Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Harry Baker“Sheku” is a total star, of course, and deservedly so: when he takes up his bow he’s another being from the affable young man of few words who spoke about many of the pieces being played. The sounds he produces in the upper register of his 1700 Goffriller cello are supernaturally beautiful, as much so as the tone of Steven Isserlis in the memorable hit of Tavener’s The Protecting Veil.

Those sounds were used here to gild the Preludio from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 as arranged by Simon Parkin (not the famous one with soprano from No. 5), to take us into visionary realms in the from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and as one of many surprises of “Cry Me a River” – already a wondrously original song, but made more so by the cellist’s arrangement with the superb jazz-and-classical pianist composer Harry Baker (the two pictured above), another humble but special soul. Zak Abel and coHigh cello parts among the five alongside Baker and Zac Abel (pictured above with Kanneh-Mason, van Gent and Ruisi) singing “Same Boat”, a catchy song composed in lockdown solidarity with Kanneh-Mason, gilded a very different lily, and I’m still earwormed by the final number, CHIC’s “Good Times”. The programme was finely calibrated, with a backbone of folksong to complement the more complex numbers, and while these are definitely the worst of times both at home and in the world at large, a dash of feelgood was also what the packed-to-capacity and diverse – hurrah! – audience needed on a late summer evening. All credit to Bold Tendencies, whose overall schedule has once again been a thing of wonder.

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