Traditional Christmas Carols arranged for Harp

Harriet Adie 


Here is a Christmas disc that is just that little bit different. True, it is the sort of thing you can put on in the background whilst having your Christmas morning breakfast, but it also contains arrangements to which it is well worth paying attention.

As Harriet Adie says of her 16 arrangements in the colourful booklet ‘There is always a question of whether the arrangement has anything new to say, musically speaking’. This concurs with my own personal composing experience, and each of these arrangements is subtly different. She adds that ‘each….. draws on my personal musical influences’. Typically, there is an eight-bar introduction (or something similar) preceding a fairly straight presentation of the main theme followed by a couple more verses varied by a modulation, chromatic harmonies or a varied accompaniment. The whole is rounded off by a Coda.

In addition, Adie has not just chosen to record all of the usual suspects. If you feel that Advent is musically always ambushed by Christmas, she has recorded the Advent hymns O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and The truth from above. Adding further variety, we hear Canada’s oldest known carol The Huron Carol and the French melody Noel Nouvelet. And it Is interesting to realise how many of these carol tunes do come from outside the British Isles; Infant Holy is Polish in origin In Dulci Jubilo is originally German, as is of course Silent Night. Of the best-known tunes, the disc begins with Ding, Dong Merrily on high which is a French 16th century melody. The disc though includes The Sussex Carol, The Holly and the Ivy, Once in Royal and I saw three Ships and these are, of course, native carols from differing periods.

Another happy characteristic of this disc is the booklet; for each of the pieces Adie explains the locale and history of the carol giving the derivation of the words and music. There are also several colour photographs and her general essay as well as her biography which tells us that she is part of the group called 4 Girls 4 Harps, and that her compositions have been performed by other ensembles. She is a beautiful player and it is a delight to spend the 47 minutes that this CD offers.

The recording, which is close but atmospheric, was made in the ‘Musical Museum’ in Brentford, London which, from its given description sounds definitely worth a visit.

Review by Gary Higginson