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Gareth Malone Tour, With The Ayoub Sisters And The Swingles Colston Hall, 20th November 2017

Gareth Malone Tour, With The Ayoub Sisters And The Swingles Colston Hall, Bristol Review
Not for nothing is Gareth Malone known as the nation’s favourite choirmaster and anybody who can knit together a motley Bristol audience at the Colston Hall, compose a song on the spot, with their ideas; consisting of in this case Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who apparently did Bristol well, finishing with a rising crescendo of “Gurt Lush” in psalm-like fashion, gets my respect and admiration. In fact the tune has been a persistent ear-worm for me ever since so thank goodness the fabulous Ayoub Sisters and The Swingles were on the bill too providing some serious relief.

The Ayoub Sisters have a wonderfully eclectic heritage to draw on being of Scottish/Egyptian descent, classically trained and playing violin and cello they take inspiration from the soft and haunting melodies of the east, tempered with the damp and melancholy tones of the north. They turn the classic way to play their instruments on its head by the use of loop stations, electronic gizmos that allow you to record yourself playing live and layer track upon track until it appears you have magically made a whole orchestra appear. We loved their treatment of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and even better Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ which fires along at a pace with just a hint of the melody here and there to recognise. I’m all for anything which brings the idea of classical music to a wider audience and the Ayoub Sisters do this in spades with technical excellence, a passion for their instruments and the discovery of new ways to break musical boundaries.

The Swingles, of course, are an enduring entertainment; in 1963 American Ward Swingle put together a group of session singers to sing Bach’s keyboard music in a cappella and the rest is history. They are an amazing group (obviously the line-up has changed since 1963), especially to see live as then you can really appreciate the art form going on. Gareth Malone has been wowed by them and so were we; their performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s America left us spine-tinglingly sad but it’s not all close harmony, there is room for solos and Sara Davey’s ‘Diva’ (from the film The Fifth Element) was a wonderful.

Gareth Malone himself was the cornerstone of a very different evening, his own songs are tender and emotional and as he said he wanted a show that was as if he had invited us to his house to hang out with some amazing musicians and we are privileged to say that is exactly how it was.

Jacquie Vowles

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