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Private Label SLEEP001

Scottish harpist/composer Fiona Rutherford’s thematic suite “inspired by the structure of a night’s sleep” was originally composed and arranged for a New Voices commission for Celtic Connections 2012. Losing its narrative element for CD release, it showcases the harp within a contemporary chamber ensemble involving accompanists Mairi Campbell (viola), Amy Duncan (double bass), Su-a Lee (cello), Lauren Mackie (piano), Shona Mooney (violin), Rachel Newton (harp) and Anna-Wendy Stevenson (violin) in various combinations.

The 12 pieces are said to represent “the way we always take our hopes and worries to bed with us, the different stages of sleep and the strange and vivid nature of dreams”. They certainly skilfully evoke the several facets of sleep - the desirable stillness and calm of settling down for quiescence (a pleasing piano solo), the soothing comfort of lullaby, rhapsodic musical reverie for the angst and indecision of being “trapped somewhere between two days” at the threshold of sleep (projecting the twisting torment of worry with a dynamic trajectory culminating in absorbing layered interplay, using shifting time signatures to emote the restless unease of insomnia) and a short vocalised monitorial piece for (moderate, I think) nightmare!

For anyone seeking somnolence and sleeping soundly, in addition to opener The Evening Settle, I suggest Deep Sleep (charmingly combining harp with the warmth of double bass in melodic and rhyhmic certainties), The Flying Dream with its soaring strings and soothing airy harmonies and finally (ironically perhaps) the serenely reflective and intimate quality of matutinal duet piece New Day (Brittany Ferries for good reason awaken overnight crossing passengers with Breton harp music!) Overall, thoughtfully conceived, eclectic and entrancing modern music.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.