Review: Celtic Christmas Strings at the Lichfield Guildhall

The award-winning musical partnership of harpist Marie Ni Chathasaigh and guitarist Chris Newman kept a Lichfield audience enraptured by their musicianship and easy on stage demeanour when they appeared at the Guildhall.

Although the show had a Christmas and winter theme, they were also able to show their versatility across a wide range of genres, from gyspy jazz swing, tonal mood poems, and slow Irish airs.

Chris Newman and Marie Ni Chathasaigh

Chris Newman and Marie Ni Chathasaigh

They also played pieces to show of the versatility of the instrument, explaining the technical aspects. The bluegrass elements of the harp were shown, as was a dextrous Irish version of music by Handel, showing the classical textures and timbres that the instruments have.

O’Carolan’s concerto was a three minute exploration of the harp’s traditional sound as a court instrument.

Their own music featured throughout the evening, with Chris Newman’s music finding new settings for their duo sounds, with pieces such as Pheasant Feathers, with its shifting time signatures, or the shimmering textures of Bright Falls the Air being particularly notable.

The Christmas carols and songs that they played featured inventive arrangements of such favourites as The Holly and The Ivy, O Come All Ye Faithfull, Infant Holy, and solid reading of a medley of I Saw Three Ships come Sailing in, and Sussex Carol which closed the concert.

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