The Scotsman Sessions #268: Màiri Chaimbeul

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country (and beyond) and releasing them on, with introductions from our critics. Here, Skye-born clàrsach player Màiri Chaimbeul performs two tunes from Mayne Island, British Columbia

For her Scotsman Sessions recording, Skye-born, North American based harpist Màiri Chaimbeul spins out two distinctly Gaelic-sounding but well-travelled tunes in a summery garden on Mayne Island, British Columbia, where she has been staying for the past few months.

The first is Còta Mòr Ealasaid – “Elizabeth’s Great Coat”, which is both a puirt à beul or mouth music song as well as a pipe tune, which Chaimbeul heard a lot while staying on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It’s followed by the popular four-part pipe reel Dolina McKay, the two tunes hanging well together as she adds her own, part-improvised approach to them.

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A member of a famously musical Skye family, Chaimbeul crossed the Atlantic to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she graduated, won its American Roots Award, and went on to teach harp in the college’s string faculty. Before the disruption of Covid lockdown, she was in demand as a performer, touring widely in her duo with Boston-based American-Irish fiddler Jenna Moynihan, with the Canadian neo-folk band the Aerialists and in progressive bluegrass fiddler Darol Anger’s band, the Furies.

Màiri ChaimbeulMàiri Chaimbeul
Màiri Chaimbeul

Resident in British Columbia for the summer but heading back to Nova Scotia in a few weeks, she’s been developing some new music for the Aerialists. She’s also working on a solo harp album: “It’ll be mainly Gaelic song melodies,” she says, adding she hopes to include the tunes she pairs in this video.

As restrictions ease, she’s managed a few shows in British Columbia with the Aerialists. “We’ll be doing some more shows on the East Coast in the fall. And I’m still working with my great friend Jenna Moynihan and we have plans for the duo. I also have some new projects on the East Coast including recording with an improvising group of amazing musicians called Quilting.”

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