Rachel Hair began to learn clarsach at age ten, and graduated with a first class degree from Strathclyde University, her final solo honours recital winning her a prize. With her family hailing from Scotland and Ireland, you begin to appreciate the album’s sub-title, ‘Scottish, Irish and original harp music’. Rachel’s original tunes include the lively, cheerful ‘Starry-Eyed Lads’ and ‘Charmed’, and the very gentle ‘Marie’s Tune’. Rachel has clearly worked hard in arranging and producing the album herself, and she’s certainly succeeded in her desire to ‘show the harp’s strength and strong rhythmic capabilities as a solo instrument’.
Seven of this album’s eleven tracks feature solo harp, and allow Rachel to demonstrate the clarsach’s expansive, voluptuous sound to beautiful and sensitive effect. The bright melodies are always countered by resonant bass notes. She interprets tunes written by other musicians beautifully including Gordon Gunn, Anxo Pintos, and Ishbel MacDonald. Of real note is ‘Da Day Dawn/Gillians Waltz’, just under nine minutes long, the latter tune featuring Douglas Millar’s sensitive contribution on piano. ‘Canco Cru’, by Berrogüetto’s Anxo Pintos, pays attention to rhythm and structure. Peter Webster contributes flute on ‘Chandni Chowk’.
In case you’re wondering, Rachel called her album ‘Hubcaps & Potholes’ after writing a tune to ‘celebrate’ bursting two of the tyres on her mum’s car a week after passing her driving test – it’s a breezy, jaunty sounding tune with more than a hint of menace in the bass notes – so perhaps it’s very aptly named!
This highly accomplished album is a pleasure to listen to, and warmly recommended to those who enjoy hearing the harp beautifully played. I picked up a few clues as to where Rachel’s musical career is heading from the letter accompanying her CD – she appears keen to explore the duo potential of harp and piano with pianists Douglas Millar and Michael Rose.
Debbie Koritsas, The Living Tradition