24 August 2012

Review of Carminho at Snape Proms, 17 August 2012

By Rachel Sloane

Temperatures had soared to make it the hottest week for years and Snape was steaming in the evening sun – and inside Snape Maltings Concert Hall the audience were transported to a sultry Portugal. Once again Snape Proms had brought something musically very different to Suffolk, a top fado singer.

Maria do Carmo Carvalho Rebelo de Andrade, known as  Carminho, came with her  traditional Portugese singing,  accompanied by three musicians on Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar and acoustic bass guitar. On a simple stage set of three raised dais for the black- clad guitarists, (impressive in their musicality and technique), Carminho, with her hair in a severe bun, dressed in a flowing fitted long black dress and wearing very high heels, held the audience spell-bound, even though the majority of us could not understand a word of the songs she sang.

Fado was sung in Carminho’s home as she grew up:  her mother was a professional performer.  So what is fado? Usually performed in taverns, “Fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul. It is arguably the oldest urban folk music in the world. Whatever its origins its themes have remained constant: destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair. A typical lyric goes: “Why did you leave me, where did you go? I walk the streets looking at every place we were together, except you’re not there.” It’s a sad music and a fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears. Fado can be performed by men or women, although many aficionados prefer the raw emotion of the female fadista. Dressed in black with a shawl draped over her shoulders, a fadista stands in front of the musicians and communicates through gesture and facial expressions. The hands move, the body is stationary. When it’s done correctly, it’s a solemn and majestic performance.”

It sounded as though Suffolk was in for a pretty miserable evening…. but that was far from the case!

Carminho, a well-known fado recording artist, performed as described but the rich timbre and husky lilt of her voice echoing around the concert hall, sent a shiver up your back, while also sometimes changing the pace with an up-tempo song that made your foot tap. The songs were a mix of traditional ones and those she had written herself and, in her hesitant but impressive English, Carminho introduced them and explained a little of what they were about.

At the end of a very special evening, when Carminho pulled off her microphone and sung an encore without any amplification, using the amazing acoustics of Snape Maltings Concert Hall, we could just imagine that we were with her in a tavern in a small Portuguese town. 


This, and other reviews, can be seen on www.onesuffolk.co.uk.