You don’t have to be a family to give the family Prom, but it helps: this year, half the 14 musicians on stage were called Kanneh-Mason. And on a day when the sounds of Carnival should have been thudding through the streets two miles west of the Royal Albert Hall, Daniel Kidane’s new work, Revel, offered a nod to this absence. Its four musical episodes are inspired by childhood memories of Carnival in Manchester: solemn, almost churchy anticipation; Steve Reich-esque cross-rhythms introducing the city; clashing layers as the sound systems collide; and a rainy walk home. But that’s only half of it – the music is punctuated by poems by Lemn Sissay, who delivered them vividly himself, and set within a narration from a perky carnival-goer played by the actor EM Williams. Sian Ní Mhuirí’s script was heart-warming stuff, but there was too much of it; Television viewers saw a slightly trimmed version.
Revel was written for the same combination of instruments as Saint-Saëns’s brilliant Carnival of the Animals, which this ensemble recorded last year in a version with new, warmly contemplative poems by Michael Morpurgo. He too was on stage to read, sharing the reciting with Williams, who also prowled the stage impersonating a lion, hen and kangaroo. With all the words and applause, 45 minutes of music became a long 90-minute concert.
아직도, the quirky animal portraits brought some lovely moments, including Adam Walker’s Aviary flute solo and a graceful Elephant from double bassist Toby Hughes. Mark Simpson’s clarinet Cuckoo got everywhere, even interrupting the joke episode depicting practising Pianists; here we had Sheku and Braimah Kanneh-Mason – the only non-pianist siblings – muscling their way on to the piano stools and serving up shambolically bad scales. The Aquarium revealed its full, beautiful weirdness thanks to the rare inclusion of the glass harmonica, played by Alasdair Malloy. And of course there was the Swan, tender but unsentimental as played by Sheku.