Fusion was the overriding theme of this concert at the Cutty Sark – a night of unrelenting genre-bending that took its audience across Europe and sub-Saharan Africa on a voyage of musical discovery, retracing the steps of the 19th-century vessel poised above our heads.
Kabantu, the Manchester-based quintet who create unlikely marriages of folk music from around the world, joined forces with that quintessentially British of ensembles, the BBC Singers, adding a further element of musical crossover – this time between the oral and written traditions.
The evening was divided into three sections, the first two giving each ensemble the opportunity to perform on their own, before coming together for a grand finale. When conductor Alexander L’Estrange led his singers down the aisle beneath the burnished hull of the 19th-century clipper, the suspicious ubiquity of water bottles gave us our first hint that a night of gimmickry awaited. Part one, entitled “The Suez Canal Route” was a hodgepodge of maritime-themed ditties that opened with Charles Trenet’s Beyond the Sea. Thankfully a Thomas Weelkes madrigal, The Andalusian Merchant, broke the spell before too many hips began swaying.
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