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Kissan CD023

The latest project from venturesome virtuouso harpist Catrin Finch is a boldly enterprising reinterpretation of ten traditional Welsh tunes. Annwn is the Welsh form of the Celtic paradisal “Otherworld” and a suitably evocative thematic metaphor for the work. Her past recordings have been either classical, although always widely eclectic and internationalist in selection, orexploratory of other genres, such as the CF47 Big Band and the 2003 release Crossing The Stone, which brilliantly fuses contemporary, classical and jazz influences. The latter, said to be Catrin’s favourite release, includes work by Karl Jenkins, Dave Grusin, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and Steve Reich.

Annwn is perhaps closest to this in its musical content. Supported by keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and percussion, there is a strong contemporary jazz feel to the arrangements which were recorded at “Acapela”, Catrin and husband (and joint arranger) Hywel Wigley’s studio and concert venue near Cardiff. The characteristically distinctive sound palette of Pat Metheny and his regular accompanists is perhaps the most useful reference to the species of jazz most evoked. Clear exceptions are songs Ar Lan Y Mor, classically sung by soprano Rhian Lois, and a lullaby (see below)sung by Catrin.

The harp playing is, as ever, dynamically varied and interesting; at times arrestingly beautiful and tranquil, then bestriding more jazz standard semi-acoustic guitar, then embracing contemporary classical soundscapes such as typified the more enterprising offerings from the former Omusic TV channel – the very atmospheric renditions of the lullaby Beth Yw’r Haf I Mi and Llongau Caernarfon for example.

Anyone charmed by other adventurous exponents of contemporary harp music – such as Catriona McKay, Savourna Stevenson, and Corrina Hewat – will find much to please.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.