Catrin Finch And Seckou Keita. Howard Assembly Room.
Elaine Annable, Music Correspondent
This month has seen a series of outstanding concerts at the Howard Assembly Room, and the latest was no exception.
Classically trained Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita, who first collaborated back in 2013 on their highly regarded album 'Clychau Dibon', are currently touring the UK promoting their latest album 'Soar', which has recently been chosen by 'Songlines' as one of their top ten best albums of 2018.
A total joy from start to finish, this concert was a magical coming together of two musical cultures and two outstanding musicians.
'Clarach', the first piece from their album 'Soar', was the name of the first Dyfi osprey in modern times to be born in Wales and subsequently return from Africa as an adult to rear her own chicks in the UK.
“I like the bird's freedom to migrate to different places”. Seckou says, “ They soar their way, and nothing stops them, but they know where they are heading, where they'll find peace and be happy”.
'Clarach' exquisitely evokes feelings of flight and freedom, and set the mood for the rest of the evening - of joyful, uplifting music.
The seamless interplay between the two harps in 'Teranga ba' had a spontaneous, improvisatory quality, and Keita's distinctive vocals added another evocative layer of sound.
Les Bras de Mer from their first album was simply hypnotic. I particularly enjoyed the way that this piece gradually built from a simple Senegalese melody on the kora, and ended with echoes of English church bells gradually dying away on the harp.
There is a genuine rapport between these two performers - they share the same gentle sense of humour and interact easily with their audience. They were also responsible for some of the most tuneful tuning up, of any concert I have ever attended.
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One of the highlights of the evening was 'Bach to Baïsso', in which the harp introduces Bach's sublime aria from his 'Goldberg Variations' then the kora segues seamlessly into the Baïsso which is one of the oldest tunes in the Senegambian kora repertoire.
Catrin Finch admits that, “ there may be some people from the classical world who might have an issue with this.... I'm fully prepared for that. Bach himself was someone who was always experimenting. That's the reason he's respected in the way he is ”.
For me, the fusion of these two pieces from two very different cultures works brilliantly, taking the best from both musical worlds, and all credit to both musicians for pushing the boundaries in this way.
All-in-all, a very memorable evening.
Catrin Finch And Seckou Keita. Howard Assembly Room., 29th November 2018, 10:32 AM