Bloody typical, you wait 72 years for a throat singer and then two come along at once! Unlike the Asian version I saw last week, this was of the African variety and only a single register, the deep growl, was sung at one time. Here it was employed in moderation unlike last week where it was the central feature of the performance.

Manchester Collective are a group of musicians who ‘create intimate and intense human experiences inspired by the music that we love, for everyone.’ This performance was certainly intimate and intense, not to mention immersive and totally joyous.

The group often collaborates with other artists and tonight it was South African cellist Abel Selaocoe and his two fellow musicians Alan Keary on Bass Guitar and Mohamed Gueye on African Percussion.

As is customary at this venue, we were given a chat outlining what to expect – mainly the unexpected. This was done by the leader of the Collective but there was also plenty of banter from Abel Selaocoe throughout the evening.

The members of the Manchester Collective are; violinists Rakhi Singh, Julian Azkoul, Simmy Singh and Anna Tulchinskaya; Ruth Gibson and Lucy Nolan on viola; cellists Colin Alexander and Wayne Kwon; with Marianne Schofield on double bass.

As well as the throat singing there were bursts of epiglottal clicks which are used in the Xhosa language. Those of a similar vintage to myself will remember this technique in the song Pata Pata made famous by Miriam Makeba in the 1950s.

The programme was a mix of improvisation, traditional classical works, folk music and new pieces by Abel Selaocoe which closed both halves of the set. This wasn’t an exercise in self-indulgence but a brilliant way to end with barnstorming crescendos designed to bring the audience to its feet, which it did.

The name Oracle was obviously a look to the future, but in order to do that you need to refer to the past and, after an improvisation Chesaba, there was an interpretation of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in G Minor, RV 156′. This was followed by the oldest work in the list, In Nominee, written in about 1580, and one of the newest, Honey Siren: II. (Full Like Drips) by contemporary composer Oliver Leith. The first half ended with Camagu by Abel Selaocoe which was as groovy as anything by Funkadelic or Earth, Wind and Fire.

After my mid-performance coffee, I needed to replenish the caffeine level for round two, we were treated to Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for Strings, Abel Selaocoe’s Tshepo, Mica Levi’s Love, a Traditional Danish song Brudestykke (Bridal Piece) and Kea Mo Rata, again by the featured artist.

By this time it seemed that the whole audience had been on caffeine at the interval as they were not in the mood to let the artists leave the stage without giving us an encore, which they duly did. It was another African influenced piece celebrating motherhood, the name of which I didn’t catch, but I don’t care it is the music that counts and this was a perfect way to send us home in joyous mood.

For more information about Oracle and the forthcoming dates on their tour, which includes ones in Manchester, obviously, and York, as well as how to access a free online broadcast on YouTube on Sunday 1st May at 4.00pm, please go to https://manchestercollective.co.uk/oracle

You will see from the above site that the approximate running time is 100 minutes but Friday’s concert lasted from 7.45pm until just before 10.00pm so don’t book a cab, although most of us would have been happy if it had continued until 11.00!

This was yet another brilliant concert staged by Howard Assembly Room. Any music lover should make sure that they give it a visit. There must be something coming up which is bound to appeal to your taste and plenty more that will if you step out of your comfort zone. For full details of forthcoming events please go to https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/

All photographs by Stan Graham

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