As expert exponent of the Scottish harp (clarsach), Elinor graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2014, shortly afterward releasing a first book of original tunes as well as her debut CD Kaleidoscope, which I had the pleasure of reviewing here. Its charming demeanour and sparkling playing reflected Elinor's musical personality - bright, alert, nimble and deftly expressive. Qualities that are present again in abundance, if even more persuasively, on this followup, a lovely 25-minute EP that once again takes full account of Elinor's personal mission in life, her driving single-minded determination that the clarsach should be regarded as an instrument in its own right (and consequently to be taken seriously).
Usefully too, it enshrines for posterity the nine-and-a-half-minute Lorient Set (ingeniously bringing together Breton, Welsh and Manx tunes and a composition by Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson) with which she won the prestigious Interceltique Trophée de Camac Harpe in Lorient (Brittany) last year.
She's currently studying composition and performance at the RWCMD, and these studies clearly inform her assured playing, which has a deep sense of involvement and a presence that really communicates to the listener, whatever the origin of the music she chooses to play. Elinor reflects her dual heritage (born in Scotland of Welsh parents) in her repertoire, and here we encounter a beautiful arrangement of J. Scott Skinner's Cradle Song, a reflective Welsh air, the impressionistic Tree Of Strings (based on a Scottish traditional tune) and a spirited set of pipe tunes (Drummond Castle paired with Crossing The Minch).
Elinor is a really excellent musician - not for her the rarefied dusty corridors of harp-academe or the oft-received prissy image of harpistry, but her music is alive and passionate and accessible, its inventiveness and communicative power rising above the hard-won stage of mere (!) technical ability. She ably - and memorably - sustains listener concentration, which in itself is a considerable achievement for a purely solo record by just one instrumentalist.
|Graham Dawson: Another Year||Bouche: So Long Solemn|
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