The Scottish Harp

Wendy Stewart

Standing Wave (Greentrax CD TRAX242)

This is quite a sombre selection of Scottish harp music with the occasional equally sombre vocal track. The opening tune, Flowres O The Forrest, sets the mood, spare and melancholy, which the traditional, All Things Are Quite Silent, continues. A tale 0f press-ganging and break up of domestic life it has a memorable melody delivered with clarity by Stewart.

If the lamentation of the opening track needed further depths of melancholy then there is a track about the terrible foot and mouth crisis which devastated lands and lives in the UK recently. Rather than use words to convey some of the suffering Stewart lets Fires At Midnight tell its tale through musical imagery.This is perhaps even more effective.The leaving of a homeland has long been part of any nation’s lyrical tradition and her rendition of a clearance song, Now Draw Up Close And Hear My Song, draws on Gaelic words which in translation describe some of the feeling of loss:

From croft and glen down to the sea, those that I love are going.

The homes they leave are cold and cleared and under sheep run lying.

Notwithstanding the mournful nature of many tracks her various harps are also put to good use on traditional tunes and dances where there is both restraint and robustness in her playing. Try Down The Hill/Annan Polka or the final track which employs the delicate bohemian harp to good effect. She also uses the gut harp which has a slightly more powerful tone on her own composition, Jean Stewart Of Moniaive.

Overall, it is an attractive set of songs and tunes, encouraging reflective listening, which ought still to appeal to a wide audience.

Author: Paul Donnelly