Strathearn Music Society – The Bardic Trio, Wed 18 Jan

“Celtic Music Re-imagined” was the title of last Wednesday’s SMS concert in St Andrew’s Hall, Crieff, and the line-up of performers,  as so often on these occasions, was slightly wide of the mainstream, including the varied and contrasting talents of tenor Jamie MacDougall, harpist Sharron Griffiths and guitarist Matthew McAllister. Each one an accomplished and established soloist, together they presented an intriguing programme which explored the music and verse of the Scots, Irish and Welsh in a manner which was novel yet preserved just the right blend of “tradition” to balance the less familiar.

Jamie McDougall is rightly known for his versatility and he has, quite simply, a lovely voice which seems just as much at home with Robert Schumann as with Robert Burns, half a dozen of whose songs featured in this concert in arrangements by Scottish composer Eddie McGuire. Indeed there was much of the spirit and sound of McGuire evident throughout the evening, highlighting all the benefits and strengths that can derive from crossing the boundaries between “classical” and “folk” music.

And the harp, in the hands of Sharron Griffiths, proved a true powerhouse of expression  across a similar range of idioms – as the quintessential Celtic soloist, as the perfect singer-sensitive accompanist and, more unusually, as duettist with classical guitar (the latter partnership made possible by tasteful and subtle amplification which produced some ravishing sounds). 

On his own account Matthew McAllister offered a convincing harp impersonation of his own (“My Gentle Harp” by Irishman Thomas Moore, arranged by Gerald Garcia) as well as holding the audience spellbound with Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Farewell to Stromness”.

Sometimes a good deal of imagination goes into creating the idea and realisation of a concert, and this event came over as a thoroughly bespoke, well-proportioned and thoughtfully considered entertainment. The natural charm of the entertainers themselves served only to enhance the enjoyment they gave.

Next concert: Wednesday, 15 February,  Piatti Quartet

Howard Duthie