|Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman|
A few live reviews
Southern Daily Echo, February 3, 2004
"Two fantastic musicians sparkled in the Ashcrofts intimate theatre with a Celtic blend of jazz, country and baroque.
Chris Newman displays a phenomenal technique on acoustic guitar and a charming line in amusing, informative and anecdotal patter. Swinging the Lead is bouncy and clear, Albatross Waltz is ferociously fast, and Pass the Pick is a sizzling showstopper.
From 17th century jigs and reels, through 19th century hornpipes, to modern original material, Máire Ní Chathasaighs Irish harp transcends time and plucks directly at the heart.
The 18th century Hidden Pearl is touchingly beautiful, Máires clear floaty vocals caressing melancholy Gaelic laments, and the solo harp in the 17th century Blind Mary created a hush in the spellbound crowd.
The encore, Eleanor Plunkett, produced
one of those occasional, unforgettable moments when the music touches an audience so
deeply that moist eyes shine in the darkness.
LiveIreland Irish Music CD Review With Bill Margeson Sept 03
then---there is Máire Ni Chathasaigh
(pronounced Moira Nee Ha-ha-sig.) Surely, she is the greatest Celtic harpist of our
age. No fooling. And, were not the only ones who think so, as she was named
2001s TG4 Traditional Musician of the Year! She and her partner, the
Newman, on guitar, have carved a niche in traditional and folk music that leaves
them at the top of a wonderful mountain. There are several albums. Máire's first was the
New Strung Harp in 1985. The others include their latest, Dialogues and a riveting solo album featuring Chris on guitar in the aptly named, Fretwork. Through virtually all their albums, guest stars sit in on some of the cuts, and none more
well known than Maire's sister,
All of the albums feature a large dose of traditional music that is unequalled. The duo has been playing together since 1987. They are in incredible demand on festival stages world wide. The variety on these albums and in their personal appearances is staggering. A gorgeous air will be followed by a Latin-flavored jazz piece, such as Banana Yellow on the album, Dialogue. Or, another jazzy, Swinging The Lead. Variety and master musicianship. These two have conquered their instruments.
is, however, in live performance that the two are shown to best advantage. We had heard
of them and were, based on our aforementioned ignorance of the harp, modestly
interested in catching them in concert. They were at
may have an answer. We started to notice on a lot of tunes that Máire is holding her
right hand differently than other harpers---and it hit us. At least a partial explanation
is found in that positioning. Close your eyes and imagine the harpers you have seen, and
how they use their right hand. It is sideways, or mostly parallel to the harp. Máire
often turns her hand in a virtually 90* angle to the harp and
month, we are blessed to hear the greatest trad musicians in the world. Albums, too
numerous to review, pile up around us like autumn leaves. The tradition is in such
good hands. Young musicians like Michelle
Mulcahy and her gloriously gifted sister, piper and flautist, Louise,
ensure that the music will only grow and get better. But, there are also the supreme
talents, like Chris and Máire who are perfecting their traditional work constantly----and
also expanding and taking the music in new directions. Only the very, very best
can do this. We have told you for years that there are two main streams in trad. One
is the perfection of the trad form and exploring it and renewing it through the essence of
the tradition itself. Fiddle players like the fantastic Jesse
Smith and groups like The
Brock-McGuire Band are doing this. The pure drop. Played with passion and
Then, there are those masters who walk a different line. Be it a fiddle genius like Liz Carroll, flautist Niall Keegan, a group like Flook or a harp player like Máire Ní Chathasaigh, these musicians become specially talented in the pure drop, and then want to expand it. Stretch it. Less sure hands stretch it to the point where it breaks. The wonderful thing is that you hear people like Chris and Máire and you know you are in the hands of masters who are showing you something new. It fits. It is logical and brilliantly creative at the same time. It grows the tradition and your understanding simultaneously. We know this sounds like over the top p.r. work for Chathasaigh and Newman. So be it. Ask anyone who has seen and heard them in person. Failing that, get one of their albums. You'll know. Instantly.
other albums, The
Carolan Album, The Living Wood, Live In The
Irish Music Magazine July 2003
was at the end of the concert standing at the back of St Maelruan's Church in Tallaght,
Yes, I know you'll say I'm supposed to be critically dispassionate in what I write about performers, and so I shouldn't be coming across so effusively and so adulatory in what I write. And yes, I agree; but blame them, not me, for Pete's sake! (Pete who?) Have you heard them play? On disc or in person? I had heard them on disc a few times, having played them on my RTE programmes over the years, but - and you'll hardly believe this - I had never owned one of their recordings. Until now. Nor had I heard them in person either. I can see you all now (in your hundreds of thousands) through a cloud of drifting dandruff shaking your heads in disbelieve and dismay. And I'm sorry, truly sorry. I am.
Chris is a very
funny man, and quick-witted, too. He reminded me a little of Mike Harding, and he has that same fast-talking,
wise-cracking humour that one associates with inner city people who often appear to live by their
wits, or at least have be as nimble of wit as they are of foot in order to survive.
(However, Chris isn't
inner city anywhere; he's from
When William welcomed the assembly to the ... church, he used a line I suspect he's trotted out before: "It's nice to see so many people in the ...er, seats. How I wish it was like this every Sunday." (The plate, William, I said soto voce. Pass around the plate, for God's sake - well for your own sake, at least. The people will be delighted to express in a practical way their appreciation for 'the loan of the lend of the hall'. Carpe diem, William. But it was no use.)
Chris played a Scott Skinner number called Bonnie Banchory, and he was altogether hilarious as he talked about wanting to name one of his own compositions after his native place and calling the tune Bonnie Watford. "But I decided against it," he said, "because somehow, it just didn't seem to have the same ring to it." So he named it Stroll On instead and that led on to another funny story about the origin of that title. (But if you want to find out about it, you'll have to attend one their performances.)
I have indulged
myself endlessly and with complete abandon listening to Chris and Máire's two CDs The Living Wood and Live in the Highlands, and plan to treat myself and the family through time
to their other albums; these two
recordings are earlier works, but at the concert they played numbers from more recent ones, including
some from their very latest CD, Dialogue /Agallamh. If you are an aficionado of
pair's playing, then you'll want to get this recording. It isn't every
day one gets to hear musicians whose playing and singing are so moving, so wonderfully executed with
such technical brilliance and beauty, that they
International Harp and Guitar Festival 2003 - Chetham's
"After last night's wonderful guitar recital, an evening of Celtic harp and guitar was always going to be a contrast, but just how much of a one, surprised me completely! Chris Newman is a guitarist who crosses many musical boundaries, but Máire Ní Chathasaigh's electric Irish Harp managed to do things I have never heard a harp do before.
Using a discreet but important sound system, the pairing never outbalanced one another. This was a very well prepared duo, that have been performing together since the mid eighties. Their set consisted of no less than eighteen items, but the accent was one of constant fun for the players and the audience throughout. Obviously the Irish Jigs and Reels were plentiful, as one might expect but the surprise elements were hearing the harp play chromatic melodies as evidenced by James Scott Skinner's The Acrobat. Originally this was a violin piece full of semi -tonal sections in the melody. As the Irish Harp has no 'black' notes but every one of its 36 strings has a lever that can move the string semi-tonally the acrobatics involved were largely those of the player's, as her left hand flew around moving levers up and down frighteningly fast whilst her right hand played the complex melody. The gasps from the audience, particularly from the other harp players, made one realise that here was a very special performer indeed.
Of course Chris Newman was in every way a perfect partner, firstly happy to provide tellingly beautiful accompaniments when required to sit in the background, and yet wonderfully up - front in many of his brilliantly played solo excursions, many of which were written by himself. In this respect mention must be made of the delightful Albatross Waltz, and the cunningly named Stroll On, both evidence of his considerable talents both as player and a writer. However when one thinks of the Irish Harp, one inevitably comes across Turlough O'Carolan, much of whose music has found its way onto the guitar. Here we got a chance to hear it as it should be played on its native instrument. So many times on the guitar it is made to sound too baroque, too classical, owing perhaps to the fact that only the melodies of the pieces were written down, so very often inappropriate harmonies have found their way onto the guitar, added by people who should leave well alone. So it was refreshing to hear them harmonised and performed by a master of her instrument, who has spent all her life following the traditions of this music, and who showed these works in a completely new light. O'Carolan's Farewell to Music in this respect proved a highlight in an evening brim full of highlights.
All I can say in conclusion that I was alternately astonished and delighted with the entire concert. The skills with which they interacted, and the beautiful music they performed left a lasting impression on me and surely anyone else who was privileged to witness this extraordinary event. Full marks to Chetham's for a great weekend and here's hopefully to the next one! "
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