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Review: Chris Newman and Maire Ni Chathasaigh @ Lichfield Guildhall

Two fine practitioners in traditional music gave a masterclass in deft musicianship when the harpist Maire Ni Chathasaigh and the guitarist Chris Newman returned to the Lichfield Guildhall.

With a set that ranged from gypsy jazz, playful Spanish pop, traditional Irish and Scottish music, bluegrass and the music of Turlough O’Carolan, this was music making of the highest order.

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman

Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman

Things began with the traditional Irish number Queen of the Rushes, complete with its dextrous harp playing and support from the guitar. They then changed pace to the gypsy jazz of Newman’s Swinging the Lead with its Django Reinhardt-styled guitar part and catchy harp playing.

A 17th Century aire for harp featured next, with the haunting Molly St George, while the playful side of the duo’s relationship was featured in The Lost Summer, with its sixties pop sheen and Spanish guitar flourishes.

Appalachian music featured in their reading of Tell her lies and feed her candy/Old Joe Clark, before a more reflective atmosphere was achieved for Newman’s Closing Time.

Turlough O’Carolan is one of the more famous composers for the Irish harp and the first one of his pieces was Caroline’s Concerto, while the more light-hearted Pheasant Feathers was used to close the first half.

The second half started with the The Sport of the Chase. The duo then needed fleet fingers for their reading of James Scott Skinner’s The Triplet Hornpipe and O’Carolan’s Eleanor Plunkett.

An atmosphere of levity was achieved with The Wild Goose Chase before a harp solo for traditional number The Fair Haired boy. The Three Piece Suite was a showcase for Maire’s talent as a composer, while The Beeswing/Wellington’s Reel was a strong pairing for the two musicians.

The set closed with another one of Chris Newman’s forays into Gypsy Jazz in Strong Arms.

An encore of Ginny’s Waltz was a slow piece, full of reflective atmosphere and was a perfect pairing for the instruments and their surroundings.

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