Friday, May 29, 2009

Máire Ní Chathasaig & Chris Newman

Ok - question one. How on earth does she pronounce her surname? Helpfully, on Máire Ní Chathasaig and Chris Newman's latest CD "Fire Wire", there is a phonetic translation.

So - ready to rehearse? Jolly good. Hear we go: "Moira Nee Ha-ha-sig".

So why am I wittering on about this pair? Because Mrs The Millbrooker, Dong, Shazzerooneypoos and I went to see them last night at the Sterts Theatre at Upton Cross, near Liskeard, and they were simply marvellous.
Unexpectedly our lovely neighbour, Gay, was also in the audience (accompanied by Dave Mashford, no mean musician himself) and had brought along some sweeties (L-R below Shazzerooneypoos, Dong, Gay and Mrs The Millbrooker):
I'll give over a couple of words first of all to the Sterts Theatre volunteers and staff before I start on about the performance. When I booked the tickets some weeks ago, I asked if it would possible to reserve seats at the front because, with my eyesight, it does greatly enhance enjoyment if I can get a decent view from as close as possible.

As I walked towards the box office, white cane swishing in front of me, a lady called Joy bounded up to me, introduced herself and let me know that they'd reserved seats and that I'd be guided to my place. Our tickets were at the box office and the lady within didn't even ask my name; she already knew there would be a white cane user arriving and she handed me an envelope complete with tickets straight away.
At the theatre entrance I was met by another lady who made sure that I safely negotiated the steps inside the amphitheatre-like space and then showed me where our seating had been reserved. An unqualified thank you and "well done" for your communications and your thoughtful assistance to everyone involved. (Sterts Theatre shown below).
On to the performance. Máire Ní Chathasaig and Chris Newman have no need of a review from the likes of me, but I'll put in my tuppence worth anyway.
Simply put, musicianship doesn't get any higher calibre than this, and their way of blending genres and styles using incredible virtuosity creates a unique experience. I've certainly never heard the like from anyone else. Mrs The Millbrooker and I have been the proud owners of an early album by this pair called "Out of Court" for years and years so we had an idea of what to expect and we got it in bucketloads.
Chris Newman referred with tongue firmly in cheek to the great "1930s swing jazz Irish harp tradition"; swing jazz certainly influences some of their pieces (to outstanding effect) but they have their feet firmly planted in traditional sounds. Traditional sounds which they then play with, bend around a bit, improvise through and finally bring together into a delightful mix of jigs, reels, airs and good old fashioned fun.Like many of the best at their game whom we've been privileged to see in concert, Máire Ní Chathasaig and Chris Newman create not only great music but a gentle bonhomie with their audience. The between-tune patter raises many a smile and allows us hoi-polloi a glimpse into their world and conveys the duo's love of the music they play and collect. Something a wee bit special happened last night at Sterts as well, the theatre is open sided and canvas roofed, allowing birdsong to punctuate the music. A dunnock, a robin and a great tit all added to the performance, giving it their best in impromptu accompaniment to the lovely 17th century air "Molly St George"; no matter how well the musicians play it, they'll never be able to recreate that little bit of natural magic. What a moment.

And what a concert. Máire Ní Chathasaig and Chris Newman are touring at the moment; dates are on this link (go if you can, it's something special).

The new CD "Fire Wire" is a cracker and is available on Amazon (I'd appreciate it if you used the link - I get about thre'pence ha'penny if you buy from Amazon through this blog) and also from Old Bridge Music.


Some of the photos above have been shamelessly nicked from Máire Ní Chathasaig and Chris Newman's website because we only took two ourselves. Humble apologies for my knavery to the superb guitarist and wonderful harpist.

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