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The Mediæval Bæbes – (live at Bush Hall)

The Mediaeval Baebes November 2014London
24 November 2014

Bush Hall was built more than ten years before the outbreak of the First World War. It still has that feel of Victoriana, even though it was built after the Victorian era, and a gothic charm too; with its chandeliers and pillars it seems at odds with the world outside its location. So a perfect place for the Mediæval Bæbes to play.

Their set tonight is based around yuletide / Christmas time and is to promote their new vinyl release Of Kings and Angels. This is not the first time the Bæbes have recorded a seasonal offering, as another of their albums is all about springtime. Tonight we are offered new and beautiful treatments of carols we think we know so well, plus some other songs from their repertoire.

First of all though, I feel I have to say this; their voices are amazing, whether in unison together or solo they create a beautiful stirring atmosphere that shakes down into your very soul. You just don’t hear singing of this type or quality very often and even though I have seen the band live before it never fails to amaze me just how lovely they sound in concert. It really is shivers down the spine stuff at moments.

The Mediaeval Baebes November 2014

During the first set, the Bæbes are dressed in white diaphanous gowns, whilst during the second they wear mediaeval style dresses. Songs such as “In The Bleak Midwinter” are haunting, whilst “In Dulci Jubilo” is sung with zest and passion. The Bæbes play a variety of instruments during the set, with violins, hand-held harps and psaltery being played, with both Katharine Blake and Emily Alice Ovenden doubling up on recorders at points. During certain jaunty numbers Josephine Ravenheart dances at the front of the stage, just adding to the revelry. The Bæbes’ backing band are wonderful, knowing when to add passion to the songs or when to simply hold back.

The Mediaeval Baebes November 2014The set flits between melancholic songs, some expressing loss, and jubilant clap-along numbers of joy; and that is the Mediæval Bæbes’ greatest strength. At one minute you are sitting quiet in an almost church-like silence; the next you want to dance like Josephine. Each of the Bæbes bring their unique vocal sound to the tracks and its always interesting to see when some stop singing and others carry on just how much their sound changes. Melpomeni Kermanidou, Clare Marika Edmondson, Sophie Ramsay and Anna Tam all bring something unique to the overall sound, so you feel the band wouldn’t be quite the same without one of them. At times the music sounds as if it’s from the 1200s with its plaintive tones and ethereal atmospheres; at others as if it could be being played in a souk in Marrakech.

At the end of the evening Katharine Blake says, “Can I be the first to wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year?” with a mischievous smile on her face that makes the audience laugh. The band then performs one of the most stirring and understated versions of “Auld Lang Syne” that I have ever heard and a is perfect way to end the evening. This was a wonderful way to start the coming days towards the winter solstice as the nights draw in and we prepare for midwinter. The Mediæval Bæbes are marvellous and the beauty of their music stays with you long afterwards.

-Gary Parsons-

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