Music review: Tradfest - Brighde Chaimbeul with Aidan O'Rourke

Small pipes and fiddle might have been made for each other, as deftly showcased by a rising star of the Scottish piping scene, Brighde Chaimbeul, joined for this Edinburgh TradFest concert by fiddler Aidan O'Rourke of the folk power trio Lau.

Brighde Chaimbeul
Brighde Chaimbeul

Tradfest: Brighde Chaimbeul with Aidan O’Rourke, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh ****

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Skye-born Chaimbeul, a 2016 BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award winner, played the first half with guitar accompanist Steven Byrnes. She may be steeped in Gaelic culture, but her repertoire ranged engagingly between established Scots fare such as the two nicely unhurried 2/4 pipe marches with which she opened, every note having its say, and brisk strathspeys, to the spoils of far-ranging piping safaris – Scandinavian polskas, and a tune from Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains that skittered nimbly alongside Byrnes’s thrumming guitar.

She opened the second half herself with a bubbling account of the old Border tune Hacky Honey before fiddler O’Rourke joined her for a set that had the feel of a spontaneous session, with some mildly fraught tuning exchanges (Chaimbeul’s pipes are in C rather than the more usual A or D tunings). Then the pair were off, O’Rourke slipping between harmonising and syncopated double-stopping into tight unison with the pipes, the duo flowing swiftly in the jigs Old Woman’s Dance and the Skylark’s Ascension and deliberating sweetly on a Gaelic song air.

A further Bulgarian excursion chirruped vivaciously before an encore brought things back to base with a crisp strathspey, in this no-nonsense but highly satisfying pairing of reed and string.