Notes and Editorial Reviews
Decca Classics announces the release of Carnival, a very special collaboration between Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman, children’s author Michael Morpurgo and the seven “extraordinarily talented” (Classic FM) Kanneh-Mason siblings – Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu. The brand-new Kanneh-Mason album, their first as a family, will be released on 6th November 2020.
Recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios, the release includes new poems written by War Horse author Morpurgo to accompany French composer Saint-Saëns’ beloved musical suite ‘Carnival of the Animals’. The poems are read by the author himself, joined by The Favourite actor Colman, and guest musicians complete the ensemble for the suite.
On working with the Kanneh-Masons, Morpurgo says, “These young people are remarkable, not because they are young, not because they are the seven siblings from one family, but simply because they make magnificent music together, and it is evident they love doing it. Hear them and you know it. See them and you know it.”
Along with Colman’s readings interposing the humorous suite ‘Carnival of the Animals’, which represents different animals through descriptive musical motifs, the recording features Morpurgo’s heart-warming Grandpa Christmas story, set to music for the first time with classic tracks including ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’, ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ and ‘Sea Murmurs’.
Morpurgo reads the role of Grandpa, with the youngest Kanneh-Mason, Mariatu, reading his granddaughter. The album includes a new arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s ‘The Seal Lullaby’ featuring all seven siblings, aged between 11-24. It is also the debut recording for youngest sisters Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu.
Also featuring on the album is the Kanneh-Masons’ own arrangement of Bob Marley’s iconic hit ‘Redemption Song’, marking 40 years since its release in 1980 – fewer than five years before the singer’s death.
The stunning artwork for Carnival has been specially commissioned from children’s illustrator Emma Chichester Clark, who has created a colourful storybook world featuring vibrant birds, friendly kangaroos, curious elephants and all seven of the Kanneh-Mason siblings – depicted, of course, with their instruments.
Like all good children’s literature, these lighthearted ponderings belie serious ideas. The Kanneh-Masons are superb, applying a light touch that comes from serious musicianship. Pianist Isata jumps and hops along the keyboard in ‘Kangaroo’ and, joined by Konya, glories in the scalic ‘Pianists’.
– BBC Music Magazine
Morpurgo knows his audience too well to patronise them; his animals are wry, self-assertive, remarkably educated. The Kanneh-Masons (plus some distinguished friends) play Saint-Saëns’s jeu d’esprit with a sensitivity that might verge on the wistful if it wasn’t balanced by such evident fantasy and joy. Isata, on piano, is the most striking presence. Sheku plays ‘The Swan’ with eloquent poise.