REVIEWS: Mayflower400 | Voyages of the Heart

Following the stunning world premiere of Voyages of the Heart last Friday, some of our brilliant interns tell us what they thought of the concert!

If you missed it, it’s not too late! Tickets are available until 7pm, Monday 3 May and the event is available to watch until 10pm, Monday 3 May. Book your tickets here.

Photo by Rachel Adams

…it is so powerful and leaves you with a real sense of hope.

Becky Davies, Concert Promotions Intern

On Friday evening, the long-anticipated world premiere of Tunde Jegede’s Voyages of the Heart was broadcast from Turner Sims. It is available to watch until 10pm on Monday 3rd May, so if you haven’t watched it yet, here’s why you should:

Voyages of the Heart is more than just music. It is an episodic narrative of individual migrant experiences across various cultures and circumstances, telling stories of separation, loneliness and injustice, but without losing hope. Across the 32 songs in this piece, each of the 25 musicians gets a chance to shine, as they journey across various genres including opera, reggae and Indian classical.

There are some real standout performances within this concert. Shannon B and the gospel choir were brilliant throughout – Shannon’s soulful voice seems like a cross between Mutya Buena and Jorja Smith, adding an R&B quality to the performance which blends perfectly with the string instruments that flow through the majority of the piece. Ivan Dellimore’s performance of The Political Prisoner which opens Part II of the performance was a particular highlight, as is The Human Activist that follows. Both are perfect examples of how vivid the imagery in the lyrics of this piece are, as you can really visualise these stories in your mind’s eye. There are aspects of this piece which really hone in on the politics that force people to be uprooted from their homes, particularly in Sal Chitulu’s verses. The relaxing vibes of the music combined with such thought-provoking lyrics keep this piece interesting throughout.

As well as being wonderful to listen to, the film is incredibly visual, with montages of images and films from across the world, from Nazi regimes to the Israeli-Lebanese conflict. But it isn’t always sinister – Pooja Angra’s performances are brought to life by images of life in rural communities and boats on rivers showing people on all kinds of journeys. In her interview with Unity 101 Community Radio, she discussed how music enables people to connect across cultures, even if you can’t necessarily understand the lyrics, and I completely got what she meant – her performances were very evocative. One of the most moving moments of the entire performance was Laverne Williams singing of a pregnant war refugee having to bury her mother on the roadside whilst trying to escape her country; she holds so much emotion in her voice and really captures the devastation of the people she sings about. As brilliant as the music is here, they have balanced the performance well so that these stories take centre stage throughout.

My favourite moments of the night were certainly Far From Home, which details the pain of being separated from your loved ones, and Voyages of the Heart, the two performances that bookend the piece. The opening performance by Hayley McDonnell was simply stunning – her voice, and the simple beauty of the harp, Irish whistle and folk violin give this an ethereal quality reminiscent of Amazing Grace. When it is reprised at the end, featuring all the lead vocalists, it is so powerful and leaves you with a real sense of hope. This closing performance really epitomises the sense of community that runs throughout this piece; this one song encapsulates so many genres that blend together effortlessly, and bring together the different perspectives of family members that were explored throughout the evening.

This performance is absolutely worth listening to if you haven’t already, as it gives an insight into migrant experiences from across the world over several centuries. Each musician should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved here – it is certainly one of the most interesting and inspirational concerts I’ve ever seen.

Becky Davies

…it is certain that you will hear something new in Voyages of the Heart.

Hope Felts-King

Tunde Jegede represents the 400-year anniversary of The Mayflower’s voyage from Southampton to America in 1620 through music in Voyages of the Heart.

The main piece is broken down into a collection of songs representing the range of migrant communities in Southampton. You can hear carefully constructed sounds from Gospel to Gaelic, Indian classical and operatic choir all in one place. There is something available for everyone!
The opening imagery of the concert reminded me of the visual pop albums that have grown in acclaim in recent years, most notably Beyonce’s Lemonade. The whole programme intersects concert view with images and videos of the different communities and identities in Southampton and some other more abstract content. Voyages of the Heart gives a larger immersive concert perspective. We get to consume this concert through multiple visual perspectives as the concert goer and the community member.

The individual songs in this concert rotate ethnic identity. We open with a folk tune from Ireland and then move to a gospel piece where Tunde himself is a featured performer on the kora, a West African harp-like bright and clear plucked string instrument and further through all the different genres. The ending number mixes all the cultural identities to reprise the opening song, an arrangement of Amazing Grace, a national song of America – the country that The Mayflower was migrating to 400 years ago.
The opportunity to immerse the listener into different visual aspects is a huge benefit of having this concert streamable. I thoroughly enjoyed the use of voice as a narrative platform and really appreciated the authenticity given to each community through instrumentation. There is such a wide range of authentic and unique sounds throughout this concert, it is certain that you will hear something new in Voyages of the Heart.

Hope Felts-King

Photo by Rachel Adams

I feel enlightened about the history and culture of Southampton having seen it.

Martha Raban

Commissioned by Turner Simms, Voyages of the Heart was a truly inspiring way to commemorate Southampton’s long history of welcoming people from all corners of the globe. With 22/25 musicians being local to the area, and all musicians being form diverse backgrounds, the personal connection and passion from each performer shone through. The unique blend of genres used throughout the piece ranged from folk to soul to opera and created a sense journeying, that we as an audience were getting to experience snippets of the challenges that people from migrant communities had faced. The use of instruments traditional to other cultures such as the tabla and sarod were seamlessly incorporated with more familiar instruments such as the piano, electric guitar and a string quartet. This mixing of instruments, to me, felt like a subtle but strong comment on the mixing of cultures within the city and the benefits that has brought with it.

Personally, my favourite section of this work was Part II: Testimonies. For me, this was incredibly moving. The lyrics revealed details of personal loss and struggles, really demonstrating the power and tragedy of oppression. This was accompanied by images and footage depicting scenes from history that demonstrated political terror and riots such as Germany in World War II.

Overall, this work was a poignant reminder of the lives that have been lost, changed and bettered due to migration. This powerful performance showed a side to history that had previously not been highlighted and I feel enlightened about the history and culture of Southampton having seen it.

Martha Raban

Tunde Jegede’s writing is moving and thought provoking, and the combination of contrasting musical styles was incredibly effective

Olivia Gabriel

Voyages of the Heart marks the anniversary of the Mayflower ship leaving Southampton 400 years ago. Throughout this powerful concert, composer Tunde Jegede tells stories of communities affected by migration to and from the city, reflected in a program of music that explores a variety of genres and cultural styles. These tales of identity and mixed heritage told in both English and other languages beautifully bring together people of different backgrounds in Southampton, across four parts – The Opening, Departure, The Passage, and The Horizon – these distinct sections reflecting the different stages of a journey into a new culture.

The concert opens in an Irish folk style with the song Voyages of the Heart; soloist Hayley McDonnel sings with a traditional folk ensemble, immediately presenting the concert’s overarching theme of national identity. We then jump across to the other side of the world for Contours of Memory, a song accompanied by both traditional Western and African instruments, such as violin and kora. Consistently throughout the concert, Jegede pairs classical Western instruments with conventions and instruments of other cultures, such as the Indian tabla, which is highly effective in representing the integration of immigrants into the UK.
Along with its various vocal and instrumental ensembles, Jegede’s concert features a number of talented solo singers who each bring a different element to the event through their diverse vocal styles. Evocation introduces Shannon B as a soloist, the song’s almost haunting melody brought out by the warm tone of her voice, while Laverne Williams’ impressive high range provides a very different atmosphere through songs of suffering, such as The War Refugee. Pooja Angra’s ornamented Classical Indian vocals heard in Parting evokes ideas of one culture, while Ivan Dellimore’s voice represents another in The Political Prisoner. Sal Chitulu again contributes a new sound through use of rap in The Asylum Seeker, over traditional Western and African instrumentation. A reprise of Voyages of the Heart concludes the event, this time incorporating the other soloists alongside McDonnel in their respective genres – a satisfying culmination of the concert in one final song.

Through the potent political themes of war, colonisation, and civil rights, this Mayflower 400 Anniversary event emphasises the importance of family, identity, and community during difficult times. Tunde Jegede’s writing is moving and thought provoking, and the combination of contrasting musical styles was incredibly effective, brought to life by the notable talent of the many musicians involved. A remarkable demonstration of music and culture, Voyages of the Heart is a concert not to be missed.

Olivia Gabriel

Tickets to view this broadcast are available to purchase until 7pm, Monday 3 May
This event is available for you to enjoy until 10pm, Monday 3 May

Book your tickets

This project is commissioned by Turner Sims Southampton and its project partner Southampton City Council, supported by Arts Council England and the University of Southampton.

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