Adiemus - Live at St. David's Hall
Cardiff, Wales
16 March 2001
Concert Review

St Davids Hall Ticket

Review and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2001
Formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
Last updated: 01 April 2001

St. David's Hall in Cardiff, Wales was selected as the venue for the second live performance since the debut of Adiemus' The Eternal Knot, which was also featured in the S4C television show The Celts. A gala pre-release concert at The Royal Albert Hall in September 2000 featured the entire ensemble and met with critical acclaim from media and enthusiasts as well. With growing interest in their live performances and obvious commercial potential, S4C and KJM collaborated to record the St. David's Hall concert in multi-track digital audio and video as well. The two will be properly mixed and prepared for televsion and many enthusiasts are already clammering for a DVD.

Welsh Adiemus fans are reported to have queued for hours when the tickets to this live performance were initially made available. The ensemble's composer and conducter, Karl Jenkins, hails from Swansea, only an hour by motorway from Cardiff. The venue for the performance is located in the city centre, only minutes from the castle and within walking distance of several luxurious hotels. The hall actually remained almost empty until only moments before the orchestra took their positions for the first 'set.' The audience milled around noisily in obvious anticipation in the lobbies outside the entrance doors until then. Ages ranged from school children to OAPs. With their music defying classification, Adiemus typically appeals to those that enjoy new age, world, adult contemporary and even rock music. The faster paced, lively or happy numbers are highly inspiring and those that really know the music often move with it and can sing or mouth the nonsensical lyrics. But not here, not tonight.

After the orchestra and soloists had taken their seats, the nine Finnish Adiemus Singers took their positions at the rear of the stage; Karl Jenkins came to the podium and then the stunning lead vocalist and Adiemus Star, Miriam Stockley walked to her spot, on the left side, behind the percussion, with the Finnish Singers to her immediate left.

A large version of The Eternal Knot logo was placed on an image-textured background behind the stage, meant to draw attention to the latest album's cover. Image colours changed throughout the show to enhance the mood. Smaller versions of the logo were placed strategically in front of the stage and also adorned the floor of the podium upon which Jenkins stood. Video cameras were strategically placed on either side but above the orchestra and a boom camera on the left hand side was only slightly distracting. Lights above worked fine but those on the stage floor shone upwards into the balcony causing serious visual distraction and annoyance to those seated upstairs. Close-ups for the upcoming video were shot during 40 minutes of truly outstanding retakes--especially the signature track "Adiemus"--after the audience left the hall.

After the customary conductor's bow, the reserved audience applauded lightly and the music began. One can not help but being knocked back by the wall of percussion that characterises a live performance of Adiemus' music as I was when joining the rehearsal as it came to a conclusion earlier. It was equally dramatic when they began the show with "In Caelum Fero" from their first album Songs Of Sanctuary. And whilst the vocals in Adiemus' music are heard on the albums primarily as layers of Miriam Stockley's work, the live performance achieves a similar effect from nine Finnish girls, who unfortunately were mixed up a bit higher than we would have liked. Miriam danced with the music as did the Finnish girls from time to time adding significantly to the visual experience. Pamela Thorby's evocative recorder passages were very inspiring.

The first part of the concert featured some of the most popular tunes from Adiemus' first three albums ranging from the fast paced and happy tunes to the slower, more melancholy orchestral or choral numbers. While we would have liked to have heard "Rain Dance" from Dances of Time, we were delighted that Jenkins chose the moving "Kayama" from the first album and the percussive "Cantus - Song Of The Plains" complete with the hand claps. The ensemble's signature track "Adiemus" was also a major treat. We especially enjoyed Miriam's stunning solos and the passages sung with only one or two of the Finnish girls. The audience sat quietly and perfectly still during the first set showing little emotion or involvement in the music. Reserved applause followed each song's performance. A short interval preceded the second part of the concert.

The orchestra returned to the stage for the second part with the addition of musicians Martin Taylor (guitar), Nigel Hitchcock (saxophone and clarinet), Catrin Finch (harp), David Farmer (accorian) and Caryl Ebenezer (soprano and The Celts producer). Jenkins, the Finnish girls and Miriam took their positions and the ensemble's performance of their latest work, The Eternal Knot began. Notably absent was Davy Spillane (uillean pipes), but his parts were absorbed nicely by Nigel Hitchcock with his woodwind instruments. Miriam's vocal solos were again most impressive and the highlight of the second part and the passages accompanied by the Finnish girls were substantially more dynamic especially when they worked together in pairs or threesomes. Caryl's solos although somewhat reserved, were nicely performed, and she worked quite well when singing duets with Miriam.

Glorious sound effects, underscored by percussion, added to the drama of "St. Declan's Drone," while the vocal harmonies and lovely guitar parts added to the highly accessible "Ceridwen's Curse," one of our favourites from the album. The extremely fast paced and challenging tune "Math Was A Wizard" was performed quite well and concluded the second part. "Hymn"--from Songs of Sanctuary--was performed on solo guitar by Martin Taylor whose performance drew wild applause from the otherwise reserved audience. The Finnish girls and Caryl both loosened up significantly during the set as Miriam's rhythmic movements spread across the string of ten additional vocalists.

After the set concluded, Miriam and Karl returned to the stage for a rousing performance of "Dos A Dos" from Dances of Time where Miriam actually got the audience all clapping along with the music for a couple of minutes. Although applause followed for some minutes after they left the stage for the second and then third times, no further encores were played for that audience.

The orchestra and Finnish girls left the stage and the hall was emptied. It was clear that this reserved audience had enjoyed the evening after over two hours of Adiemus live music. Once the hall had been emptied, the orchestra and other musicians came back to the stage for the close up filming. Although several of the tracks were cut short, their performance was stunning and the additional footage will blend well with the material shot earlier in the evening. Their rendition of "Adiemus" during this set was especially enjoyable since the Finnish girls had backed off and Miriam's lead rang through; a perfect conclusion to the evening!

Here is the complete set list:

In Caelum Fero
Cantus Insolitus
Cantus - Song Of The Plains
Dawn Dancing
Cantus - Song Of The Spirit

Cú Chullain
The Eternal Knot
Palace Of The Crystal Bridge
The Wooing Of Étaín
King Of The Sacred Grove
Saint Declan's Drone
Salm O 'Dewi Sant'
Connla's Well
The Dagda
Ceridwen's Curse
Math Was A Wizard

Adiemus is difficult to classify but they appeal to vast audiences worldwide. Although faithfully reproduced in a live setting, obvious differences arise from the wall of percussion and backing vocalists. The smaller orchestra sounds great but lack the lushness--especially at the lower end--that is produced both on the albums and with a larger ensemble. And although only 2000 were able to see and hear this performance at St. David's Hall, a much larger audience will be able to enjoy the video/audio production arising from this performance when it is publicly aired. It wouldn't hurt for fans to clammer over a DVD either. These websites are worth a journey.

Unofficial Adiemus Homepage
Miriam Stockley's Official Website
Karl Jenkins Music Website

We were completely captivated by Miriam Stockley's live vocal and visual stage performance, having waited four years to see her perform live with Adiemus. Perhaps next time the sound engineer will bring her vocals a further up in the mix!

There are presently no published plans for further live performances. Hopefully the ensemble will do so again and both those that have seen them before and those who have not will take the opportunity to experience Adiemus Live--a stunning live performance by a cohesive and talented group of artists in all respects!

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