WITH a stage crammed with two harpists, a string section, double bassist and percussionist, plus a piper lurking in the shadows, this reprise of Corrina Hewat's sequence Making the Connection, written in 1998 as a Celtic Connections New Voices commission and here re-arranged for the Edinburgh International Harp Festival, looked and sounded intriguing and powerfully re-invigorated.
The Maggie MacInnes Trio opened the concert, with the Gaelic singer and harpist accompanied by Brian McAlpine on keyboards and accordion, and Anna Massie on guitar, alternating lively waulking songs with some poised and delicately accompanied material from Barra and Mingulay. Chan e Caoidh Mhic Shirid, a sister's lament for her drowned brother, was particularly poignant.
Making the Connection progressed from Hewat's own pensively lyrical harp introduction to embrace small pipes from Lorne MacDougall – consigned to the hall floor due to the crowding on stage – and Mary McMaster joining on second harp as the music shifted from jig-time into a gentle waltz for harps and strings and onward, at one point strings and harp ticking and chiming together like an agreeably wayward musical clock.
A section inspired by a busy office was perhaps less successful, with Mairi Campbell and Inge Thomson contributing to breathily repeated wordless vocals, but things definitely connected as the ensemble accelerated into a finale, with MacDougall's Highland pipes, strings and harps working up a hypnotic reel-time riff over rhythms laid down by drummer Donald Hay and bassist Rick Standley.