I have to admit something – I’d never heard of The Kanneh-Masons before being given the opportunity to review this album, released via Decca. But I *had* heard, and heard OF ‘Carnival Of The Animals’. And I’d heard of Michael Morpurgo, and Olivia Colman.
So – there was no reason for trepidation, as I knew what I was in for – and indeed, even if I had, there’d have been no reason as the album is superb. ‘Carnival Of The Animals’, originally composed in 1886 by French Romantic composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, serves, along with Prokofiev’s ‘Peter And The Wolf’, as an introduction to classical music for many children. And in the talented hands of The Kanneh-Masons, it’s glorious; sumptuous layering of sounds, that make you want to turn the volume up to 11 so the neighbours will finally realise how cultured you are (maybe I did that…).
In addition to the stunning music (my favourite is ‘The Elephant’), each track is introduced by a poem, written by Michael Morpurgo, and recited by either himself or Olivia Colman. Morpurgo does it with the same enthusiasm as one would imagine he employs in front of a live audience – he EmphaSises, and STREsses, and brings his poems to life. Colman is almost as enthusiastic, but in a more, restrained, Nanny style way. Think Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins.
The Kanneh-Masons are seven siblings, all of whom play either violin, piano, or cello. Accompanying them are viola player Timothy Ridout, violinist Ayla Sahin, clarinettist and composer Mark Simpson, Toby Hughes on double bass, flautist Adam Walker, Adrian Spillet on xylophone, and Scotland’s Alasdair Malloy on the glass harmonica.
Following on from Carnival Of The Animals, Michael Morpurgo’s classic tale, ‘Grandpa Christmas’, is given the musical treatment, set to pieces by Tchaikovsky, Greig, Rimsky-Korsakov, among others. This time, youngest Kanneh-Mason sibling, Mariatu, joins Morpurgo in the narration, and does a wonderful job.
It’s certainly a beautiful album, with a bonus cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ bringing it to a close. Naturally it’s aimed at the Christmas market, and will definitely be added to my festive playlist, but it’s certainly appropriate listening for all year round.
‘Carnival Of The Animals’ is out now, through Decca Classics, and is available to buy, stream, and download here. You can find out more about the incredible Kanneh-Mason family on their official website.