Michael Morpurgo’s Christmas album – Carnival of the Animals, The Kanneh Mason

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The Animals’ Carnival

Masons of Kanneh

Decca Decca

The first joint release of the Kanneh-Mason clan targeting young music lovers covers a lot of ground – musically, performance-wise and geographically.

In addition to writer Michael Morpurgo, who narrates the Christmas tale Grandpa Christmas, seven members of the talented family are featured on the disc, with the youngest, Mariatu, playing a starring role.

The only guest at the sessions is far from him. The actress Olivia Coleman performs alongside Morpurgo, who recites the new text he wrote for the Carnival of the Animals of Camille Saint-Saens, and well-known musicians, including violist Timothy Ridout, clarinetist and composer Mark Simpson, and Scotsman Alasdair Malloy, join the family party on his special instrument, the glass harmonica.

The words of Morpurgo update the suite – Hens and Roosters, Lion, Dinosaurs, Swan et al – if you think a casual allusion to The Move’s 1970 pop hit Brontosaurus in time (which would go over the heads of the intended audience), and the recording – made at Abbey Road Studios – is exemplary, with the music always in the foreground, regardless of the verses sung by the star cast.

For the Christmas story which follows, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov and particularly Bela Bartok are used. A lovely ensemble arrangement of the Seal Lullaby of Eric Whitacre rounds things out, and as an encore there’s Kanneh-Masons’ arrangement of the Salvation Song of Bob Marley.

With great ability, producer Dominic Fyfe, whose own story of how he met Morpurgo as a teenager is a fine tale in itself, brought all of these ingredients together. It’s an hour of music and words that many young ears, as well as some older ones, are sure to captivate.

Bruce Keith

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