PIPPA REID-FOSTER – Driftwood Harp (own label PRF2016CD)

Driftwood HarpThere’s a meditative quality to the sound of the harp, something at once hypnotic and calming. It can be a pleasure to put on the Driftwood Harp CD and simply allow the sounds to wash dreamily away, as a soothing backdrop. But, delightful as that idea is, it would be a pity not to take the time to listen carefully to the development of motifs and figures in the tune sets, all of which are delicately detailed.

Reid-Foster’s interpretive skills are very much to the fore, bringing different moods to the tunes. Whether that’s the seasonal joy of ‘Colours Of Autumn/Pip’s Jig’, with its percolating bubbling rhythm, or the wistful and tender ‘Iona, Sraid Nam Marbh’. This latter honours the street of the dead where coffins would process on their final pilgrimage from the bay to the cemetery of the holy isle. It’s a spare, stark and moving piece.

Some of the tunes are inspired by folklore or history, such as the highly evocative ‘Steam Boats On Crinan/Herring Lassies Of Argyll’, celebrating the steam puffers along the Crinan canal and the women who would prepare the fish catches they brought (also documented in Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys with Timothy West and Prunella Scales). Staccato bursts describe the pace and bustle of the work. Likewise, skittering, tumbling motifs in ‘Kintraw’ depict a small village associated with fairy abductions. Further mythical subjects are to be found in ‘The Selkie’ and ‘The Mermaid Song’, the latter’s delicate watery riffles expanding out into spare soundwashes before returning to complete the musical circle.

The tune sets are often drawn from Scottish airs. The ‘Kilmartin Set’ hops and skips nimbly through three tunes, illustrating Reid-Foster’s skill with combining and arranging both traditional and original music.

Reid-Foster’s own compositions show her evident talent and ability to move beyond the traditional to achieve a much more abstract and modern sound. ‘Elements 1’ overlays and unites the four elements (fire, earth, air, water) while ‘Deirdre In Dreams’ is every bit as dreamlike as its title suggests.

While this CD will undoubtedly make a perfect companion to any form of relaxation, listeners would be well-advised to stay mindful of the subtle details and intelligence of the music.

Su O’Brien

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Artist’s website: pippareidfoster.com

Here’s a snippet from Pippa’s previous album – ‘Wonderwall’: