Cecil Sharp House on a wintry Thursday night was a perfect setting for ‘Within The Waves’, a composition written by percussionist Adriano Adewale that draws on sea-faring traditions from England and his native Brazil. Adewale has had a stellar career – resident in London for the last ten years and having played with a host of big names in the jazz, soul and folk worlds, he is now an associate artist with the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS), and this is his first project under that role.
Written for an eclectic ensemble of two lead vocalists, two percussionists (Adewale and Andreas Ticino) and the combined forces of the Cecil Sharp House Choir and female folk ensemble Werca’s Folk, Within the Waves was at best exhilarating, and infused with an innocence and joy.
Rather than being written as a large- scale composition, the performance consisted of several songs which were smoothly transitioned between – mainly arrangements of traditional English and Brazilian songs, as well as some original tracks. This lead to some interesting juxtapositions and textures, ably lead by lead vocalists Rebeca Vallim and Sarah Jane Morris. Vallim’s sinous and delicate vocal lines were contrasted by Morris’ astonishingly deep, fierce tone, which was particularly striking in the ‘Suite do Pescador’- when she performed a spoken word piece over the harmonies of the choir, one of my favourite moments of the evening. Another personal highlight was Pete Churchill’s passionate and committed conducting, which seemed to draw amazing colours from the 80 strong Cecil Sharp House Choir, made up entirely of volunteer singers.
I only allowed scepticism to take root a couple of times – the metaphor of ‘the sea’ is well explored as a compositional tool, and can lead to obvious soundscapes- the sound of ‘waves’ in the percussion and the storm section both had a tendency towards the unoriginal, both musically and metaphorically. However, the music really took flight in the traditional Brazilian tracks – in particular the penultimate track ‘Canto de lamanja’, which had the entire audience and 100 performers moving with its infectious energy.
Adewale himself was totally immersed in the music throughout, which was bewitching to watch. He is evidently a phenomenal percussionist, but what I particularly liked about his creative direction of the project was that rather than use it to showcase his own bountiful talents, he actually acted more as a curator – allowing the skills of the various music leaders involved to shine. Each song was excellently arranged and conducted by different leaders throughout the evening, including Churchill, Sandra Kerr and Sally Davies alongside Adewale himself. Even the stage layout lent itself to this collaborative approach – with no particular spotlight on percussionist, lead vocals or choir but an equal view of each. A new and democratic way of composing which I think reflects Adewale’s confidence and vision as an artist.