mon 04/03/2024

Album: Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain - Double You | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain - Double You

Album: Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain - Double You

Divine harp-and-violin duets focused on the folklore of bees

Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain

Two weeks ago, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Irish fiddler, violinist and Hardanger fiddle player Aoife Ni Bhriain entranced their audience at the Union Chapel in North London, playing from their new album, Double You, as part of the London Jazz Festival, with guest singer Angeline Morrison joining them at the end of a glorious 90-minute set of dazzling instrumental duets.

Double You clocks in at a more compact 45 minutes, its recordings the template upon which they build and soar on stage as a duo, and as soloists, opening up each tune to the epic end of the scale, improvising in the moment on their deep classical music backgrounds, and immersion in folk and world music.

Finch is renowned for her albums with the Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita – their most recent, Echoes, appeared last year – while Bhriain has performed with the likes of The Gloaming’s Martin Hayes.

The theme that binds Double You is its focus on the folklore of bees, those hive-building, pollen-hunting, honeycombing, waggle-dancing marvels of nature. Chief among them is the story that one St Modomnoc, an Irish bee keeper and monk in Wales, brought them back to Ireland from his monastery in Pembrokeshire. The idea was enough to pollinate the compositions and inventions these two master musicians bring to Double You.

They got together musically during lockdown, their starting point was a Bach Prelude, which transmogrified into “Wonder”, the third track here, following the opening “Whispers”, an original tune featuring harp and Hardanger, and “Why”, drawing on Breton and Prince Edward Island tunes.

The airy, gossamer-light “Wings” is a new version taking off from Finch’s “Listen to the Grass Grow” from her 2018 album with Seckou Keita, Soar, while the mellifluous “Wandering” is inspired by the image of a lost bee, flitting apparently aimlessly through the medium of air – the medium that carries this music, too, extending it deep into our consciousness.

On each of the album’s nine pieces – each beginning with a W word – their musical invention, collaboration, sensitivity and extrapolation carries listeners up up and away, through the intricacies of “Woven”, a Caprice of Baroque composer Locatelli’s, transferred to the Hardanger fiddle and Finch’s harp. Its beauty is almost otherworldly, like much of this set, which captivates from beginning to end, to the point where you really don’t want an end to come. When it does, don’t fight the urge is to play it all again.

@CummingTim

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