St. David's Hall in Cardiff, Wales was selected as the venue for the second live performance
since the debut of Adiemus' The Eternal Knot, which was also featured in the S4C television
show The Celts. A gala pre-release concert at The Royal Albert Hall in September 2000
featured the entire ensemble and met with critical acclaim from media and enthusiasts as well.
With growing interest in their live performances and obvious commercial potential, S4C and KJM
collaborated to record the St. David's Hall concert in multi-track digital audio and video as
well. The two will be properly mixed and prepared for televsion and many enthusiasts are
already clammering for a DVD.
Welsh Adiemus fans are reported to have queued for hours when the tickets to this live
performance were initially made available. The ensemble's composer and conducter, Karl Jenkins,
hails from Swansea, only an hour by motorway from Cardiff. The venue for the performance is
located in the city centre, only minutes from the castle and within walking distance of
several luxurious hotels. The hall actually remained almost empty until only moments before
the orchestra took their positions for the first 'set.' The audience milled around noisily
in obvious anticipation in the lobbies outside the entrance doors until then. Ages ranged
from school children to OAPs. With their music defying classification, Adiemus typically
appeals to those that enjoy new age, world, adult contemporary and even rock music. The
faster paced, lively or happy numbers are highly inspiring and those that really know the
music often move with it and can sing or mouth the nonsensical lyrics. But not here, not
After the orchestra and soloists had taken their seats, the nine Finnish Adiemus Singers
took their positions at the rear of the stage; Karl Jenkins came to the podium and then the
stunning lead vocalist and Adiemus Star, Miriam Stockley walked to her spot, on the left
side, behind the percussion, with the Finnish Singers to her immediate left.
A large version of The Eternal Knot logo was placed on an image-textured background
behind the stage, meant to draw attention to the latest album's cover. Image colours changed
throughout the show to enhance the mood. Smaller versions of the logo were placed strategically
in front of the stage and also adorned the floor of the podium upon which Jenkins stood.
Video cameras were strategically placed on either side but above the orchestra and a boom
camera on the left hand side was only slightly distracting. Lights above worked fine but
those on the stage floor shone upwards into the balcony causing serious visual distraction
and annoyance to those seated upstairs. Close-ups for the upcoming video were shot during
40 minutes of truly outstanding retakes--especially the signature track "Adiemus"--after the
audience left the hall.
After the customary conductor's bow, the reserved audience applauded lightly and the music
began. One can not help but being knocked back by the wall of percussion that characterises a
live performance of Adiemus' music as I was when joining the rehearsal as it came to a
conclusion earlier. It was equally dramatic when they began the show with "In Caelum Fero"
from their first album Songs Of Sanctuary. And whilst the vocals in Adiemus' music are
heard on the albums primarily as layers of Miriam Stockley's work, the live performance achieves a
similar effect from nine Finnish girls, who unfortunately were mixed up a bit higher than
we would have liked. Miriam danced with the music as did the Finnish girls from time to
time adding significantly to the visual experience. Pamela Thorby's evocative recorder
passages were very inspiring.
The first part of the concert featured some of the most popular tunes from Adiemus' first
three albums ranging from the fast paced and happy tunes to the slower, more melancholy
orchestral or choral numbers. While we would have liked to have heard "Rain Dance" from
Dances of Time, we were delighted that Jenkins chose the moving "Kayama" from the
first album and the percussive "Cantus - Song Of The Plains" complete with the hand claps.
The ensemble's signature track "Adiemus" was also a major treat. We especially enjoyed
Miriam's stunning solos and the passages sung with only one or two of the Finnish girls.
The audience sat quietly and perfectly still during the first set showing little emotion
or involvement in the music. Reserved applause followed each song's performance. A
short interval preceded the second part of the concert.
The orchestra returned to the stage for the second part with the addition of musicians
Martin Taylor (guitar), Nigel Hitchcock (saxophone and clarinet), Catrin Finch (harp),
David Farmer (accorian) and Caryl Ebenezer (soprano and The Celts producer).
Jenkins, the Finnish girls and Miriam took their positions and the ensemble's performance
of their latest work, The Eternal Knot began. Notably absent was Davy Spillane
(uillean pipes), but his parts were absorbed nicely by Nigel Hitchcock with his woodwind
instruments. Miriam's vocal solos were again most impressive and the highlight of the
second part and the passages accompanied by the Finnish girls were substantially more
dynamic especially when they worked together in pairs or threesomes. Caryl's solos
although somewhat reserved, were nicely performed, and she worked quite well when singing
duets with Miriam.
Glorious sound effects, underscored by percussion, added to the drama of "St. Declan's
Drone," while the vocal harmonies and lovely guitar parts added to the highly accessible
"Ceridwen's Curse," one of our favourites from the album. The extremely fast paced and
challenging tune "Math Was A Wizard" was performed quite well and concluded the second
part. "Hymn"--from Songs of Sanctuary--was performed on solo guitar by Martin Taylor
whose performance drew wild applause from the otherwise reserved audience. The Finnish
girls and Caryl both loosened up significantly during the set as Miriam's rhythmic
movements spread across the string of ten additional vocalists.
After the set concluded, Miriam and Karl returned to the stage for a rousing performance
of "Dos A Dos" from Dances of Time where Miriam actually got the audience all clapping
along with the music for a couple of minutes. Although applause followed for some minutes
after they left the stage for the second and then third times, no further encores were
played for that audience.
The orchestra and Finnish girls left the stage and the hall was emptied. It was clear
that this reserved audience had enjoyed the evening after over two hours of Adiemus live
music. Once the hall had been emptied, the orchestra and other musicians came back to
the stage for the close up filming. Although several of the tracks were cut short, their
performance was stunning and the additional footage will blend well with the material shot
earlier in the evening. Their rendition of "Adiemus" during this set was especially
enjoyable since the Finnish girls had backed off and Miriam's lead rang through; a
perfect conclusion to the evening!
Here is the complete set list:
Adiemus is difficult to classify but they appeal to vast audiences worldwide. Although faithfully
reproduced in a live setting, obvious differences arise from the wall of percussion and backing vocalists.
The smaller orchestra sounds great but lack the lushness--especially at the lower end--that is produced
both on the albums and with a larger ensemble. And although only 2000 were able to see
and hear this performance at St. David's Hall, a much larger audience will be able to enjoy the
video/audio production arising from this performance when it is publicly aired. It wouldn't hurt for
fans to clammer over a DVD either. These websites are worth a journey.
We were completely captivated by Miriam Stockley's live vocal and visual stage performance, having
waited four years to see her perform live with Adiemus. Perhaps next time the sound engineer will
bring her vocals a further up in the mix!
There are presently no published plans for further live performances. Hopefully the ensemble
will do so again and both those that have seen them before and those who have not will take the
opportunity to experience Adiemus Live--a stunning live performance by a cohesive and talented
group of artists in all respects!