[live review] wildbirds & peacedrums with voices, choir of young believers @ bishopsgate institute

May 16, 2010

Concert date: May 15, 2010

I’m still reeling from the state of rapture that Wildbirds & Peacedrums, above, created – for themselves as well as their congregation at the Bishopsgate Institute – last night. The Swedish husband/wife drums/vocals duo combined primal rhythmic power with unmediated emotional intensity in a way their recorded output hints at but cannot match (for a taste listen to There Is No Light, which was one of my tracks of last year).

The performance – deliberately or otherwise – was perfectly programmed, building from the quaint and exploratory, through the serene and uplifting, to the revelatory and transcendental. It culminated with My Heart (from 2008’s The Snake), an eight minute declaration of love by vocalist Mariam Wallentin to husband Andreas Werliin. “I’m lost without your rhythm” she cries, with a passion that matches, exceeds, the fervour of a gospel singer lost in communion with the Lord.

Wallentin communed with the audience instead, moving away from her microphone she sang parts of the song unamplified to and with the audience – who responded, blessed, with hushed accompaniment – before returning to her husband’s adoring gaze.

The experience felt like a religious celebration, worshipping not God but the human capacity for emotional honesty, righteous protest and uncomplicated love. This feeling was enhanced by the addition of the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir for many of the songs, who added a heavenly aura to Wallentin’s secular hymns to the heart.

By the end of the evening, performers and audience alike seemed overwhelmed by the adoration each accorded the other, with the latter leaving the venue in a reverie that will surely take some time to dissipate completely.

Before all that though, Choir Of Young Believers – another Scandinavian group, centred on the talents of Danish/Greek singer-songwriter Jannis Noya Makrigiannis (above, right) – served up the perfect start to the evening.

Performing in a duo with cellist Cæcilie Trier (left), Makrigiannis’ rural take on indie (principally from his 2009 album This Is For The White In Your Eyes) succeeded in enchanting his audience, despite many being reluctant to be pulled into the music so early in the evening. This was not least due to his pure, even angelic, voice (which reminded me, in feel and timbre, of Arthur Russell, though Makrigiannis is the superior singer).

Simple, honest, sincere, free: four adjectives that capture both Choir Of Young Believers and Wildbirds & Peacedrums on an evening full of wonder.

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