MÁIRE NI CHATHASAIGH – The New Strung Harp (Old Bridge Music OBMCD25)

The new Strung HarpWhen this reissue first came to my attention I was convinced that I had a copy of the 1985 original. Alas, that was just wishful thinking and I apologise to Máire for misleading her. The New Strung Harp is an album everybody knows – the cover is immediately recognisable and one glance will tell you what it sounds like, except that it probably doesn’t. We’re used to hearing harp music now and sometimes hear artists straining to be innovative and different. Máire didn’t strain. She played naturally and was innovative and different.

The New Strung Harp isn’t strictly a solo album. With Máire are members of her family: Nollaig Casey, Mairéad Ni Chathasaigh and Greg Casey. Neither is it a straightforward harp album. There are keyboards, fiddle, whistle and songs, including ‘Ó Ho Nighean, É Ho Nigheanan’, ‘Hinderó Hóró’ and an absolutely stunning rendition of ‘The Bantry Girl’s Lament’. I should say before I go any further that the sound is excellent partly thanks to the remastering but mostly, I believe, thanks to Robin Morton’s original production. It still sounds fresh and new and you can only marvel at the clarity and resonance of the music – ‘Carolan’s Farewell To Music’ is superb.

The album concentrates on traditional Irish dance music – traditional allowing for three compositions by Turlough O’Carolan – from the opening jigs, ‘Charles O’Conor/Father Hanly’, and later ‘The Gander In The Pratie Hole/The Queen Of The Rushes’ through hornpipes ‘The Fisherman’s Hornpipe/The Cuckoo’s Nest’, to reels, ‘The Boys Of Malin/The Old Oak Tree’, before closing with the beautiful and elegant ‘Planxty Sudley’.

For an album that is just shy of forty years old, The New Strung Harp bursts through the headphones as fresh now as when it was first recorded. I know that I have said that already but it is worth repeating. Listening again while I polish this piece I am still stunned by what I’m hearing. If you don’t have a copy please do yourself a favour and waste no time in rectifying that situation.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: https://mairenichathasaigh.com/

‘Hinderó Hóró’: