Love and light, Gav
GAVIN MARWICK - Quarterdays: Candlemas
The first in a planned series of four short albums, Quarterdays: Candlemas presents fifteen tunes by this highly-regarded Edinburgh fiddler and prolific composer. The fiddle is backed by Aaron Jones on cittern, giving a rounded sound which focuses on the melody but hits the rhythm when needed. Marwick opens with a slow 9/8 piece, the dramatic Midpoint of Winter, and breaks into the dark minor Candlelight Reel with jagged edges and crooked endings. The pair of jigs which follow are more light-hearted, fine dance tunes to lift the spirits, still with that wintry edge.
A Scandinavian-sounding hornpipe leads to a big set of reels, smooth confident fiddling and again the dark crooked feel of ancient places - a theme is emerging! The names are a giveaway too: Dry and Fair and Wet and Foul, The Burnt Candlemas, The Birch Wand and Jig St Bride all evoke old winter customs. The February Jig is a lovely slow thaw of a tune, leading to three more jigs increasing in energy and flow. The final pair of tunes is both optimistic and cautious: A Flame of Gold gently welcomes the return of the sun, while Prayer for Protection suggests that it may bring more than just warmth and light. Quarterdays: Candlemas tells a story in tunes, and stands as a fine body of new music from the edge of northern Europe.
GAVIN MARWICK & WENDY STEWART - Quarterdays: Whitsun
GAVIN MARWICK & RUTH MORRIS - Quarterdays: Lammas
The next two have now been released either side of midsummer. Like Quarterdays: Candlemas, each serving presents a dozen or more compositions by fiddler Gavin Marwick, aided and abetted by a chosen musical companion. Harpist Wendy Stewart joins him on Quarterdays: Whitsun for an eclectic mix of Celtic contemporary and traditional-sounding airs and jigs, Scandinavian and Balkan moods, a delightfully varied medley of strathspeys and reels, and a pair of almost oldtimey melodies which see Gavin switch to mandolin. Wendy's trademark glissandos and grips provide accompaniment and additional melody lines, allowing the duo to experiment with a range of different textures. I particularly enjoyed the dreamy title air, very much in keeping with contemporary Scots fiddle.
Quarterdays: Lammas combines fiddle with nyckelharpa from Ruth Morris who has worked closely with Marwick in many settings. The character of this selection is more Scandinavian. Gavin's supperb fiddle still shines in both smooth and spiky styles, but Ruth's contribution on keyed Swedish fiddle brings a clear Nordic feel to many tracks: the stately dance Hats and Ribbons, the low ground and aching sweetness of Those who Seek the High Places, and the gentle march Lammas Towers. There's joy here too, in the Scottish 7/8 Time of Plenty and the reel Lùnastal, but the approach of autumn has perhaps taken some of the spring out of dancers' steps. The final August Breeze brings an almost formal note, with churchlike resonances from the nyckelharpa underpinning the rich fiddle tones. I'm looking forward to the final portion of this musical pizza, adding winter's bite to the beautiful music shared so far.
Photo Credits: (1) Celtic Connections, (2)-(6) Gavin Marwick, (8) Ruth Morris, (9) Phil Alexander, (10) Wendy Stewart, (unknown/website); (7) Aaron Jones (by Walkin' Tom).