TO all but the most dedicated traditional music fan, a concert by a solo harp player is of restricted appeal, no matter the level of technical expertise on display.
There is no doubting Stevenson’s musical gifts, but Thursday night’s show was a resounding affirmation of the work she has done in the past 16 years to bring this most maligned and marginalised instrument into a more popular arena. Indeed, Stevenson even goes as far as to admit that she aims at times to make her harp “not sound like a harp”.
By the time the show ends and all her special guests are assembled together, it is self-evident how highly regarded she is amid the British Isles’ foremost folk musicians of the past 30 years. On stage are Danny Thompson ( double bass ), Capercaillie’s Charlie McKerron on fiddle, Davy Spillane on whistle and uillean pipes, Phamie Gow on second harp, and singers June Tabor and Eddi Reader.
Each is used sparingly, but to good effect, Thompson and McKerron underpinning the often maudlin music, their natural empathy all the more surprising considering the hastily assembled nature of such a performance. Spillane complements her Iona My Heart, and has a short solo slot, while Gow, the winner of last year’s Danny Kyle award, enters for a rare airing of Cutting The Chord.
Tabor and Reader sing beautifully – the mournful The Baker, and the marginally more upbeat Touch Me Like The Sun, respectively. The Former is heart breaking, the later reassuringly soulful, Stevenson’s unaccompanied pieces, Emily’s Calling and Blue Orchid, are evocative and beautiful.
With its sheer depth of talent and breadth of styles embraced, this show came closer than any other did this year to epitomising the aims and strengths of Celtic Connections….