by Brenda Dor-Groot / iJHF
Originally written for the Dutch folk harp magazine 'Folk Harp Folks!', November 2007
A pretty common view amongst many harpists is still that, at some point, one outgrows the lever harp and needs to move on to a pedal harp.
But how about moving on with the lever harp? The possibilities are endless, when your name is Maeve Gilchrist…
It all started with a talk with Felice Pomeranz, Advisory Board member of the International Jazz Harp Foundation, and harp teacher at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. Maeve had been attending this world renown jazz college as a voice major, and Felice told us we HAD to check her out. So we checked in, received her cd, and were hooked right away!
Last summer, we met Maeve at the Lyon&Healy International Jazz & Pop Harpfest, heard her live, and she totally fulfilled that first impression. Her wonderful performance won her, to no one’s surprise, first prize in the lever harp division of the Jazz Harp Competition.
(Listen to her music while you’re reading on? Go to www.maevegilchristmusic.com or www.myspace.com/maevegilchristtrio).
Maeve Gilchrist was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to an Irish mother and a Scottish father (what better combination to bring forth such a gifted harpist!). Surrounded by traditional music from an early age, Maeve began playing piano at seven, and picked up the clarsach (celtic harp) a couple of years later. At the age of ten, Maeve enrolled in the City of Edinburgh Music school where she studied classical piano while continuing to nurture her traditional roots. Towards the end of her school years, Maeve was an in-demand member of the traditional music scene in Scotland, balancing schoolwork with rehearsals and gigs around the country. Around this time, Maeve became intrigued by her music critique-father’s record collection, which ranged from Ravi Shankar to Joni Mitchell and Ray Charles. This exposure to jazz and world music quickly became obvious in her playing and she started studying jazz vocals. The director of her music school had told her about the Berklee College of Music, and at seventeen, with the help of the Donald Dewar Award and the Berklee world scholarship tour, she enrolled at the college as a voice major. During her time at Berklee, Maeve was awarded the ‘outstanding performer of the year ’04 award’ and the ‘norm nate scholarship’. She performed regularly in the prestigious performance center in shows such as Singers Showcase, the International Folk Festival, the Commencement concerts and the Stevie Wonder Tribute Show. She has played and recorded with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Ashley Macisaac, Tapeire, Matt Glaser, Kathy Mattea, Meshell Ndegio Cello, Jamey Haddad, Martyn Bennett, Frank Ferrell, The Unusual Suspects and Skatash. Maeve has performed in Spain, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Canada, USA and all over the British Isles. She is currently performing with her quartet and trio which is fusing her Scottish roots with the colors of jazz and the freedom of improvisation. Definitely ‘global’ jazz!
As a person, Maeve has no starlike airs whatsoever. She is an incredibly kind, cheerful, calm, and almost fragile 22-year old. But when she starts playing and singing, strong and mature are the first words that come to mind. She masters her harp with a dazzling lever-technique, presents free and virtuoso improvisations, while easily changing into pure intimacy. She is able to combine her harp playing with controlled singing and even scat, which is truly not such an easy thing to do (often, when harpists combine the two, we hear either the singing or the playing slip away into boring sounds and standard patterns).
In reviews we find the following, not at all surprising, appreciations: “the amazingly multi-talented Maeve Gilchrist “, “an atmosphere of friendliness and genuine affection”, “truly a concert of excellence”, “delightyfully multitalented bouquet” en “a rich and smoky voice”.
Oh, and here’s a good and cool way to typecast her music: funky clarsach.
Well, enough words, time for music now: her cd ‘Reaching Me’ is available through CD Baby at www.cdbaby.com. And don’t forget to check www.jazzharp.org for her performing schedule. You might want to catch her (and many others) at the World Harp Congress in Amsterdam in July, 2008!
*bio information from maevegilchristmusic.com