Move over the von Trapp family! The prodigiously gifted Kanneh-Mason family will this week release a new album Carnival, on Decca Classics. Carnival is a very special collaboration between Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman, former Children’s Laureate and author of War Horse, Sir Michael Morpurgo and the seven talented Kanneh-Mason siblings – Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu.
Recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Carnival is terrific for kids and includes new poems written by Morpurgo to accompany French composer Saint-Saëns’ musical suite The Carnival of the Animals. The poems are read by Mopurgo himself, joined by the star of The Favourite, Olivia Colman and guest musicians.
In The Carnival of the Animals, Saint-Saëns uses different themes and instruments to represent different animals through descriptive musical motifs. The cameo pieces are interpolated with readings by Colman. Morpurgo’s heart-warming Grandpa Christmas story, is set to music for the first time with classic tracks including Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Sleeping Beauty ballet, The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov and Sea Murmurs by Eric Whitacre. Morpurgo reads the role of Grandpa, with the youngest Kanneh-Mason, Mariatu, reading the role of his granddaughter.
Carnival is the debut recording for youngest Kanneh-Mason sisters Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu. It includes a new arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby featuring all seven siblings, aged between 11-24. There is also the Kanneh-Masons’ own arrangement of Bob Marley’s iconic Redemption Song, marking 40 years since its release in 1980 – fewer than five years before Marley died.
The charming artwork for Carnival has been specially commissioned from children’s illustrator Emma Chichester Clark, who has created a colourful storybook featuring birds, kangaroos, elephants and all seven Kanneh-Mason siblings, depicted with their instruments.
For the Kanneh-Masons, 2020 has presented one overriding positive: the opportunity for all members of the family to gather at home for the first time in over five years, performing together and sharing their extraordinary talents with the world via a series of livestreams, watched by millions around the world.
The family is passionate about music education and Sheku, who is still a student, has inspired many children to take up the cello – dubbed ‘The Sheku Effect’ (New York Times). While Sheku and Isata enjoy successful solo careers, they also appear internationally as a duo with performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall. With their brother Braimah, they often perform together as the Kanneh-Mason Trio, having toured in the UK, US and the Caribbean. Braimah, who leads the ensemble on Carnival, performs regularly in the UK and sometimes appears with British electronic music group Clean Bandit, performing on the band’s No. 1 single Rockabye.
While Carnival is the first Kanneh-Mason family album, Sheku and Isata have each released their own solo albums. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who rose to fame after winning BBC Young Musician 2016 and later performed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has released two albums – the most recent, Elgar, proved a chart hit when it was released in January, with 14 consecutive weeks at No.1 on the Australian Classical Chart and reaching No.8 in the UK Official Album Chart. Meanwhile, Isata landed Germany’s prestigious Opus Klassik Young Artist award for her debut album Romance: The Piano Music of Clara Schumann.
The performers: Isata Kanneh-Mason, age 24 (piano)/ Braimah Kanneh-Mason, 22 (violin)/ Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 21 (cello)/ Konya Kanneh-Mason, 20 (piano & violin)/ Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, 18 (piano & cello)/ Aminata Kanneh-Mason, 15 (violin & piano)/ Mariatu Kanneh-Mason, 11 (cello & piano)