Music is all about connection as Katie Johnson discovers when she talks to Manchester Collective’s CEO Adam Szabo and cellist Abel Selaocoe about their latest collaboration, The Oracle
Manchester Collective are aligning once again with South African cellist, composer and singer, Abel Selaocoe in a boundary-pushing concert, The Oracle, about connection through music.
In a progression of their highly popular Sirocco collaboration, and backed by the beat of African percussion, Abel is joined by the Collective at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, to present a life-affirming, musical journey across space and time – spanning continents and generations, past and future.
“My journey with Manchester Collective started quite some time ago and our relationship has now matured into something extremely beautiful,” says Selacoe. “The Collective has served as one of my homes to create without any inhibitions – something special always seems to come out of this environment they’ve created. Our latest collaboration will see us explore the sound worlds between classical music and African music, and beyond”.
The title of the show is inspired by the concept of oracles – characters from different communities who impart wise and insightful counsel – transcending space and time to bring a message that is important for everybody’s wellbeing. Exploring a whole new musical connection, the evening will feature four new works on this theme by Selaocoe, (commissioned by Manchester Collective and the Southbank Centre in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society), alongside masterpieces by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Igor Stravinsky, Mica Levi and Oliver Leith.
The music incorporates electric bass, African percussion, solo cello and a string orchestra. From Baroque to Mbaqanga music from South Africa, it promises to transcend the boundaries of genre, reimagining classical instruments’ sound worlds, and inviting audiences to jump into different worlds of expression.
“Audiences can expect to be thrown into a world of both the familiar and unfamiliar,” says Selaocoe. “They will be taken on a journey that explores the types of sounds an instrument can make outside of itself, just like an oracle – somebody who can transcend their community and tell a story so that people can understand their purpose.
“Another theme that will bind everything together is Afrofuturism. This has been a very personal journey for me, exploring a topic that speaks to me as a Black person and my idea of where my journey goes in the future – the use of technology, the idea of space, and of transcending what was before to look further ahead. For me, The Oracle is all about finding a universal idea of spirit that can take us to another world.”
Since co-founding Manchester Collective in 2016, Rakhi Singh (Musical Director) and Adam Szabo (CEO) have championed the organisation’s experimental programming and collaborations. In a relatively short time, the Collective has staged around a hundred live shows that have spread over six seasons; integrating classical and electronic music, as well as commissioning new work from contemporary composers including, Edmund Finnis, Hannah Peel, Lyra Pramuk, and Laurence Osborn.
Szabo is led by personal inspiration in seeking exciting collaborations. ‘We tend to find artists that we are blown away and inspired by. They often work in different kind of areas but generally, they have a very strong distinctive artistic personality. Their work has a certain flavour which is absolutely individual,” he says.
“Working with Abel has been interesting as it’s been evolving for many years now. We worked together the first time in 2018 and we have done work together almost every year since that time. A lot of classical musicians are trained to just interpret what they’re given, but Abel always brings something new. There are not many musicians who have that kind of energy; an inexhaustible well of creativity.”
The show aims to create an uplifting atmosphere with joy woven through it. Szabo emphasises it is an event for everyone: “There can be two types of audiences,” he explains. “One of those audiences are people who don’t normally find themselves in concert halls and it will be cool to blow their minds and show them what is possible and how exciting live music can be. The other audience is an artistic community of artists who work in a classical tradition and then it’s about expanding their ideas of what is possible with these instruments”.
The event has been designed to inspire a rush of energy into the audience. Selaocoe has been known for creating a type of atmosphere where you don’t know what could happen next. But Szabo is certain about one thing: “Music is something that should be a shared experience.’ So, if going along to The Oracle, expect the unexpected, alongside a mixture of listening and sense of togetherness.
Those who love live music know the euphoric atmosphere and togetherness that can be experienced at a gig. We could all do with more connection and for some, The Oracle may be the missing piece that can bring a sense of belonging.
The Oracle comes to Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on 15 April before continuing on its UK Tour. Manchester Collective is also collaborating with Hannah Peel and Lyra Pramuk in Neon which will be held at The White Hotel in Salford on 20 May 2022. This event is minimalistic and includes evolving trance rhythms.