Music review: Maeve Gilchrist/Nic Gareiss/Mr McFall's Chamber

Harpist Maeve Gilchrist's Edinburgh International Harp Festival commission, Pastures Red, demonstrates her talent for criss-crossing musical styles and genres with a sophisticated, stylish grace. Celtic folk influences of her native Scotland and Irish heritage provided the bedrock with Nordic traditions, jazz , classical and a smattering of Brooklyn, New York, where she lives now, added to this eclectic mix.
harpist Maeve Gilchristharpist Maeve Gilchrist
harpist Maeve Gilchrist

Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh ****

Joined by Mr McFall’s Chamber for the premiere of her work for harp and string quartet, Gilchrist used the shimmering strings to frame her iridescent harp melodies. Inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Watt, she used snippets from the text – a recording of Jack McGowran and a live passage read by herself – to give this articulate exploration of music as a living breathing organism an edgy Irish lyricism.

It’s spacious feel was similar to Mr McFall’s reading of Toru Takemitsu’s A Way A Lone with its stop-start rhythms echoing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The quartet’s Su-a Lee on musical saw, added a billowy ethereal mist to Ghostwood, Gilchrist’s homage to David Lynch. And her vocal warmth shone through in Tom Wait’s exquisite song The Briar and the Rose.

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The harpist’s collaboration with the sensational American percussive step dancer, Nic Gareiss, was theatrical, dynamic and at times touchingly intimate. There was a seamless dialogue between Gareiss, who told stories with his pattering sand-shuffling feet, and Gilchrist’s glittering harp in The Sand Hunter. And when Gilchrist stepped away from her harp to waltz with Gareiss in the poignant Mountain Bird, the air crackled with enchantment.