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HILARY DE VRIES - Cherry Blossom After Rain 

HILARY DE VRIES - Cherry Blossom After Rain 
Boarstone Publishing BPCD001 

I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion into the world of the wire strung harp or clarsach. The more so because it works on so many levels. For a long time I have been interested in the subject of ‘Just Intonation’ so I was intrigued to find that Hilary tunes her harp in the Pythagorean mode. For those who don’t know, this means that the harp is tuned in a system of stacked perfect fifths which occasionally backs itself into a corner, resulting in what are called ‘Wolf Tones’. If you can handle the math there is plenty of information out there to explain more. If you are not interested in the detail you just need to know that this results in music that can sometimes sound a little strange to the ear but where the mathematically correct overtones and harmonics create an extra dimension to the music that I find intriguing and delightful.

There are 24 short pieces here (some very short) which take the form of what seem to be meditations upon the poems of Canadian Robert MacLean which are all set in Japan. Hilary plays these deceptively simple melodies in what I would describe as a ‘campanella’ (bell-like) style with lots of sustain that creates a hypnotic atmosphere while listening. You can listen to some examples on her website to see what I mean. Leaf Fall is a good example of what is on offer here. I enjoyed it all very much. If I have a complaint it is that there seems to be little information about Hilary herself; no pictures; I would have liked to see some examples of the poetry that inspired these compositions. It seems unlikely that we will have opportunities to hear Hilary play live any time soon, but this CD will keep me going in the meantime. I encourage you to check it out.

Philip Thomas


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine