OUT TO LUNCH: Rachel Hair

Anne-Marie Marquess discovers the lilting charms of the harp

Out to LunchAppearing at Belfast's Black Box as part of the Out To Lunch festival, Rachel Hair brings the harp into the modern day with pieces that draw from various genres including jazz, rock, folk and classical.

Perhaps the most enchanting of musical instruments, the harp conjures up ancient celtic melodies and images of magical medieval times. It has a strong presence and unique feminine quality absent in most other instruments. 

I have never sat through a dedicated harp performance, more often hearing the instrument relegated to the background of events, or as an accompaniment to folk storytelling. Hair’s performance is unlike my previous exposure - rather than plucking at strings, she clearly explores the instrument and plays fast, intricate melodies rather than soft, slow tunes.

Hair's mother hails from Scotland and her father from Ireland. She was introduced to the harp aged 10 at a gaelic festival in Scotland. Embracing her Irish and Scottish roots, Hair's harp of choice is the Clarsach; the traditional harp, sometimes known as the Celtic Harp.

The show begins with a march, followed by the title track from Hair’s Hubcaps and Potholes album - an unlikely title for a collection of harp music, but the singer reveals it's origin.

Hair is joined on-stage by guitarist Paul Tracey for the remainder of the show. The guitar and the harp blend well in the following songs. 'The Alamo' is upbeat and funky, and is followed by jovial tunes, jigs and jazzy numbers.

'Marie's Tune' was written in memory of Hair’s grandmother, a Co Antrim resident, and is a slow, soft song - interrupted, unfortunately, by the intermittent wailing of a crying baby. The show ends on a charming note, the song 'Charmed' flowing cheerfully around the audience. A dynamic performance from an engaging talent.