By PETER DENNIS
Ute Lemper brings her latest project, the 9 Secrets, to The Cadogan Hall in the heart of Chelsea. Based upon the novel ‘Manuscript Found in Accra’ by Paul Coehlo, this ‘lost’ text laid undiscovered for 700 years and is an echo from history bringing a message for modern humanity. A bible without religion that offers 9 secrets, or commandments, for a more wholesome, peaceable life.
In an impressive venue that is more associated with choral and classical music it is nevertheless the perfect location for Ms Lemper with its high ceiling that offers great acoustics for her truly international band. Backed by a six piece ensemble who share a telepathy with Ute and understand her vocal nuances a band, especially pianist and accordionist, who act as a sea upon which the vocals gently float.
A musical chameleon whose work is pleasantly hard to categorise Ute’s 9 Secrets cycle draws from a wide range of influences. Opening with ‘Solitude’ and then ‘Beauty’ which explores jazz and middle eastern rhythms to ‘Love’ in which we can hear the pull of Kurt Weill (a friendly ghost which haunts much of Ute’s work). Despite all these disparate influences what holds the whole work together is the marriage of music and text. ‘Success’ poses the question: ‘What is success?’ To which is answered: ‘It is being able to go to bed at night with your soul at peace.’ A message that is diametrically opposed to the ideals of our modern society. It is a great credit to Ute and band that they bring a real colour to Coehlo’s words. The music evokes warm golden reds, bold greens and soft yellow hues which transport the audience from a rainy Chelsea to the sun drenched ruins of Accra.
When, in a slight departure from the 9 Secrets, Ute performs Alberstein’s ‘Stiller Abend’ (from 2012’s Paris Days and Berlin Nights) it doesn’t seem out of place at all. This piece of klezmer transports us to another lost world (this time to a vanished eastern Europe) and is performed with a real joy de vivre that expresses both bliss and sorrow in equal measure, again evoking vivid warm textures, and is greeted with thunderous applause.
Despite the obvious difficulties in interpreting others’ words and setting them to music the 9 Secrets is a real success. Perhaps even more so in a live environment where an earthy, organic sound adds an extra third dimension to the text. The 9 Secrets touches upon all three major Abrahamic religions aiming to create a unity in this age of fragmentation and that is something we should all celebrate.
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