You may know her best as an Oscar-winning actress, acclaimed for her roles in The Favourite and The Crown, but national treasure Olivia Colman has added a new string to her bow – taking off her Queenly garb to collaborate with the Kanneh-Mason family on their new album.
The gifted group of seven siblings, who range between 11 and 24-years old, consists of Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu. Sheku may be familiar to royal fans as the young cellist who made waves with his moving performance at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding in 2018.
For those expecting Colman to showcase previously unknown operatic skills, however, it’s worth noting that she’s speaking, rather than singing, on the new album. It features brand-new poems from renowned author Michael Morpurgo, read by the author himself, with the help of Colman. Morpurgo reads the role of Grandpa, for example, in his Grandpa Christmas story, with Mariatu, the youngest Kanneh-Mason, playing his granddaughter.
Recorded at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios, the Kaneh-Masons have brought new life to the musical suite, ‘Carnival of the Animals’, by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, which is interspersed with readings. As well as Morpurgo and Colman lending a hand, guest musicians joined the family to complete the ensemble for the suite.
The album also includes the Kanneh-Masons’ own arrangement of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, paying tribute to the artist 40 years on from the song’s original release in 1980. Special artwork was commissioned from illustrator Emma Chichester Clark, who created a whimsical world of friendly animals, keeping the seven Kanneh-Mason siblings and their instruments company.
Morpurgo said of the Kanneh-Masons: ‘These young people are remarkable, not because they are young, not because they are the seven siblings from one family, but simply because they make magnificent music together, and it is evident they love doing it. Hear them and you know it. See them and you know it.’
The Kanneh-Masons commented: ‘This album has grown from our passion as a family for making music together. This has been a heart-breaking time for musicians and performing artists. We want to share our love of music and our passion for communication. As young children, the power of combining music with storytelling is truly magical and we are honoured to have collaborated with Michael Morpurgo, Olivia Colman and the wonderful musicians who joined us, to create music that celebrates our connection with the natural world. Together, we want to inspire children and adults to listen more closely, to value our world and all the diversity within.’