Mishaped Pearls

Live Review | Doncaster Minster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Doncaster’s Minster Church of St George opened its doors tonight for a concert with a difference, featuring three diverse acts, including a male voice choir, an opera singer/classical guitarist and three members of the much discussed Mishaped Pearls.  The concert, organised by fund-raiser Eileen Myles, whose successful events usually centre around the folk genre, under the banner of Folk Delivering Hope, has taken the bold step of introducing Classical and World music into the realms of her selfless humanitarian endeavours.  The Church stands in the centre of Doncaster, where a mediaeval church once stood for seven centuries, before being destroyed by fire in 1853.  The present building, built to the designs of architect George Gilbert Scott between 1854-1858, made a perfectly conducive venue for the music we heard tonight.  One of the highlights of the evening was an appearance by London-based Mishaped Pearls, albeit in a stripped-down version of the band.  Normally boasting seven members, the three core musicians of Manuela Schuette (mezzo soprano), Ged Flood (guitar) and Naomi Burgoyne (cello/piano), performed a spellbinding acoustic set, featuring songs from both of their albums The Singer and the Poets and their more recent release Le Puy En Velay, successfully capturing the desired atmosphere in such a grand building.  So successful in fact that the table full of cds at the beginning of the evening were gone by the time of the interval, surprising everyone, not least the band.  Manu took centre stage, which was located in the crossing area of the Church, just before the pulpit, from which tonight’s compere, the Revd. Canon Dr Paul Shackerley made the introductions, including a reading of Barack Obama’s Daniel Pearl World Music Day letter.  The singer was flanked by her two fellow musicians for the all too short set, with Naomi making the short excursion from the cello to the grand piano to perform both “L’Aimée de Sappho” and “Benedizione”, both pieces from the group’s debut album.  The three musicians also performed a brand new song destined for their new record, “Creatures of Compromise” and concluded with the beautiful “Le Reveur”.  The concert also featured an impassioned performance by Falkirk-born tenor and Classical guitarist Martin Aelred, who accompanied himself on guitar for one or two songs, having to rely on an orchestral backing track in lieu of an orchestra for the arias.  Although this reviewer is not normally accustomed to listening to “Nessun Dorma” as a rule, I have to say I was totally relaxed in the pews, almost fully reclined, whilst staring up at the impressive stone rafters as Martin reached that all too familiar and passion-fuelled crescendo.  Opening the evening was the local South Yorkshire Police Male Voice Choir, who performed a range of vintage popular songs including “Magic Moments”, “Standing on the Corner” and “Two Little Boys” of all things, to get the concert off to a good start.