LIVE: Manchester Collective and Abel Selaocoe: The Oracle – Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, 21/04/2022 1

LIVE: Manchester Collective and Abel Selaocoe: The Oracle – Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, 21/04/2022

Since its inception in 2016 Manchester Collective has continued to place a strong emphasis on the creative power, efficacy and sheer unbridled adventure of musical collaboration. In those six years the arts organisation has worked to dazzling effect with such diverse artists as Edmund Finnis, Hannah Peel, Lyra Pramuk, and Laurence Osborn. And now on this eight date tour of England they have reconnected with Abel Selaocoe, having previously joined considerable forces with the South African cellist for the Scirocco project.

This time round Manchester Collective and Abel Selaocoe have evolved a brand-new show, The Oracle, that “connects us to the past, to the land, to ancestors and to forgotten songs”. And this evening, through the course of a quite thrilling and often mesmeric musical journey, they most certainly live up to this promise.

For these performances Manchester Collective comprises four violins (Rakhi Singh, Julian Azkoul, Simmy Singh, Anna Tulchinskaya); two violas (Ruth Gibson, Lucy Nolan); two cellos (Colin Alexander, Waynne Kwon); double bass (Marianne Schofield); bass guitar (Alan Keary); and African percussion (Mohamed Gueye). And together with Abel Selaocoe they explore the concept of sound, enabling us to listen to music through fresh ears as they do so.

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The twelve musicians begin with an Improvisation; Abel Selaocoe describes this as a natural starting point for the performance as it illustrates “having the confidence to find your own way”. And there is no shortage of self-belief in evidence as he and the Manchester Collective stretch the boundaries of invention through a kaleidoscope of rhythm and colour. The versatility and exhilaration of their playing is reinforced in the ensuing interpretation of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in G Minor, as they add a modern texture and an infusion of imperious melancholy to the original work.

The first half of this evening’s performance concludes with a second Improvisation – the freedom and determination of which sees Abel Selaocoe embrace the spirit of his homeland by adhering to the principle of “to survive you have to stay loose” – and then finally one of his own pieces, Camagu.

Manchester Collective and Abel Selaocoe resume after the interval with their reading of Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for Strings. It is now nearly 100 years since the great Russian composer wrote this piece and tonight’s interpretation of the work loses none of its vitality and incision through the passage of time. Love – written by the contemporary London-based artist, music producer and composer, Mica Levi as part of her soundtrack for the 2013 film Under The Skin – appears here as an overwhelming swell of emotion, albeit one that also captures elements of the unsettling menace that underpins the movie itself.

Abel Selaocoe’s Kea Mo Rata is shorn of any such terror, promoting as it does a strong message of “love without inhibition”, noble sentiments that reflect the essence of this entire performance. The Oracle invokes an acute sense of emotional well-being in those fortunate enough to be here tonight, one that is conveyed to us with great heart, humour, humility and no little musical dynamism.

The tour continues:

22 April: Bristol – St George’s Bristol
24 April: London – Southbank Centre

A free online broadcast will be streamed on this page and via YouTube on Sunday 1 May 2022 at 16:00 (BST).

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from this show can be found HERE

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