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4 Girls 4 Harps at Christmas
Original Carols, arrangements and transcriptions for four harps
4 Girls 4 Harps (Keziah Thomas (harp); Elizabeth Scorah (harp); Harriet Adie (harp); Eleanor Turner (harp))
Helen Winter (soprano)*
rec. 25-26 April 2013, Barkham, Two Moors Festival, Devon, UK

This is another splendid disc from 4 Girls 4 Harps with fifteen of the twenty arrangements of carols made by the gifted Harriet Adie. The remaining five are by the other members of the quartet.

After months I have only now managed to prise it from the hands of my seven year-old daughter for whom many of the slow carols make perfect bedtime sleep-inducing music. A couple of small gripes, the first that soprano Helen Winter, who sings sensitively with full-bodied tone (on three tracks) from a back placement which is too far away especially in the resonant acoustic in which the recording was made; the other is that for contrast there are not enough carols in a quicker tempi. Those that are, catch fire and are witty, in some cases jazzy (We three Kings).

A personal favourite is Eleanor Turner’s arrangement of I saw three ships, though I wish it were longer. Others I commend include the 16th century carols with their quirky rhythms and shifting modality (will the last chord be major or minor, will it be dissonant or consonant?), See amid the winter’s snow with its attractively cascading accompaniment, Elizabeth Scorah’s arrangement of the Carol of the Bells which sounds just as it says on the tin, Adie’s version of the Holly and the Ivy with the melody cleverly distorted into fragments and finally the gorgeous Sussex Carol.

An earlier 4 Girls 4 Harps disc from 2009 is Fireworks and Fables and includes their arrangements of works by Ravel and Saint-Saens.

These are four talented artists, their playing is technically superb and delivered with a wide range of colours which makes the harp so attractive. There’s still time to buy this disc so that you can play it while decking the halls or the Christmas tree.

Christopher Fifield

Track listing
ANON arr. Harriet Adie (b.1980) Deck the Halls* [2.56]
arr. Harriet Adie Personent Hodie: Piae Contiones (1582) [1.26]
Franz GRUBER (1787-1863) arr. Harriet Adie Silent Night: [3.38]
ANON arr. Keziah Thomas Il est né [1.56]
Edgar PETTMAN (1866-1943) arr. Harriet Adie Gabriel’s Message [2.11]
ANON arr. Eleanor Turner I Saw Three Ships [1.55]
arr. Eleanor TURNER Gaudete: Piae Contiones (1582) [1.28]
Elizabeth POSTON (1905-1987) arr. Harriet Adie Jesus Christ the Apple Tree [3.14]
Edward CASWALL (1814-1878) arr. Harriet Adie See Amid the Winter’s Snow: 12.00]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) arr. Eleanor Turner In the Bleak Midwinter* [8.09]
ANON arr. Harriet Adie In Dulce Jubilo [1.26]
ANON arr. Harriet Adie What Child is this? [4.15]
Jacob NILES (1892-1980) arr. Harriet Adie I Wonder as I Wander [3.39]
John Henry HOPKINS Jnr arr. Harriet Adie We Three Kings [2.49]
Jean de BRÉBEUF (1593-1649) arr. Harriet Adie Huron Carol [1.49]
Mykola LEONTOVYCH (1877-1921) arr. Elizabeth Scorah Carol of the Bells [2.33]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856) arr. Harriet Adie O Holy Night* [4.58]
Cecil SHARP (1859-1924) arr. Harriet Adie The Holly and the Ivy [1.18]
ANON arr. Harriet Adie Sussex Carol [1.33]
H MARTIN (1914-2011) arr. Harriet Adie Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas [5.15]