Rachel Newton

Mitchell Library, Glasgow

2 February 2014

It was a Sunday lunchtime concert as part of the Celtic Connections festival. I could get an early train from Newcastle, see the concert, and get back all in one day. Lunchtime concerts are such a civilized idea! Buying train tickets during a sale made the whole trip remarkably cheap—travel to Glasgow plus the concert ticket has still cost me less than I've paid to see Rick Wakeman in Newcastle next month!

Plus, the concert was a one-off show of all new music especially composed by Rachel as a Celtic Connections commission, and something I'm pretty sure won't ever be repeated, so how could I miss it?

For those who don't know, Rachel Newton plays harp and fiddle (but actually viola today) and sings (in Gaelic and English). She composed all the music for the concert set, though the words are all from traditional Scots ballads. Backing her are a band of a second harp, fiddle, cello, percussion, musical saw (cool!) and two more voices.

And the songs are ... well, probably exactly what you are imagining it is like. But also more than you're imagining. Among the ballads and instrumental jigs are some surprises, like a piece composed for just the strings (cello, violin, viola) that's truly beautiful.

Rachel's harp music is often insanely complex, but today it seemed quite restrained, as she was focused more on songs than just showing off her technical skill I think. Which is fine, I can watch her being ridiculously virtuosic another time.

Despite being a professional musician who must have played hundreds of gigs in the last few years, she still always seems quite nervous and hesitant when she introduces songs, and then happily surprised when we applaud them, which is kind of endearing.

But the main thing is that she's a beautiful singer and harpist, and a composer of beautiful music.

That's all I ask for :-)

[Site Home Page] Home
[Review Index Page] Review Index