The Shout | Purcell Room, London

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The Independent Culture

Most "classical" children's events are billed as unsuitable for children under seven, but this contemporary choir bravely set up shop in front of an audience full of toddlers, babies and restless children who can make opening a crisp packet sound like an endless musique concrÿte tone poem. The musicians were unfazed, perched on the edge of the stage to begin with "And The Days Are Not Full Enough", an Ezra Pound setting with enough vocal fireworks to give the audience an idea of their idiom: rich-sounding, acoustic, expert and modern. The Shout's composing co-leaders, Richard Chew and ex-Man Jumping man Orlando Gough, captured the children's attention by inviting participation in the improvisatory "In Praise of Pizza", whose simple head tune we all learnt in no time.

The more serious Tall Stories suite was excellent, but possibly a little too long for this kind of audience, since even diehard contemporary music parents find it difficult to concentrate at length while monitoring their infant charges. "Lift Boy", a setting of the poem by Robert Graves, featured the attractive tenor of Martin George, accompanied by the rest of The Shout jammed together like commuters in a lift, while Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "The Penny Candy Store" was a duet for Wills Morgan and bass man Jeremy Birchall. Audience fidgeting declined sharply when Gough and Chew, in true Blue Peter fashion, brought on something they had prepared earlier: 15 or so small kids who had attended the early morning workshop. The resulting collaboration, "Stout Denial", was terrific, based on the kinds of nagging questions that parents ask their children: "Where did you put it?"; "Why is it broken?"; "What did you swap it for?" answered by the children's sing-song "I don't know".

This was followed by "I Said She Said", another "confrontational" improvised piece for three pairs of women singers. By the time The Shout tore into "I Sing Because I Sing", the audience was hooked. This is a tremendous ensemble piece, with featured solos and duets. Carol Grimes was in particularly good form for her duet with Wayne Ellington. The Shout closed their fine concert with the relatively brief "Taking Leave Of A Friend".

There is something intoxicating about music like this. The Shout show us that there are many new things to be done with the voice, and that innovation doesn't have to be driven by technology, or anything more than a basic urge to make music - whether by scribbling it down, or by opening your mouth, taking a deep breath and letting rip.

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