REVIEWS

Image 2
The Auld Harp cd cover

Reviews for   

THE auld harp  

by Olov Johansson and 

Catriona McKay

IRISH TIMES

There’s something about the combination of Catriona McKay’s Scottish harp and the Swedish nyckelharpa of Olov Johansson that utterly reshapes our perception of the instruments’ potential. McKay jettisons convention by exploiting not only the harmonic elements of her harp, but its inherent rhythmic qualities, which can be neglected by other musicians. Johansson basks in the fiddle-like qualities of his nyckelharpa, allowing the instrument to fully inhabit each tune, immersing himself deep beneath its skin. 

With a rich mix of Scottish and Swedish tunes, many of them played individually, there’s room for each to trace its own, uncluttered and unfettered by competing set companions. Almost every tune tells its own distinct and compelling tale. A radiant excursion into uncharted terrain. Irish Times, Siobhan Long, Aug 2013 * * * *

THE SCOTSMAN

This second fine album from the unlikely sounding pairing of Scottish harp and Swedish nyckelharpa or keyed fiddle, by two acclaimed exponents with very contemporary takes on their respective traditions, once again produces a beguiling combination of timbres, the crystalline ringing of harp strings contrasting with the grainy, drawn-out singing of the Swedish instrument.

The players fully exploit these tonal contrasts, from the vivaciously percussive harp striking of the opening title track to the suspended stillness of January Lament.

Elsewhere, the old Highland harp tune Rory Dall’s Port (on which Burns based Ae Fond Kiss) is endowed with a shadowy grace and bagpipe echoes by a nyckelharpa drone before breaking into the cheerful trot of a polka, McKay’s tune Going Green, composed on a journey to Ireland, has the expansive measure of an 18th-century O’Carolan air, while O’Carolan’s own, familiar John O’Connor skips along in fresh new garb. The Scotsman Sept 2013 * * * *

Reviews for FOOGY by Olov Johansson and Catriona McKay


" The nyckelharpa and harp combination is fresh, charming and dynamic."

Lars Fahlin Rock'n'reel - Roots, Rock, Blues and Beyond


Catriona and Olov have created something that revels in its pedigree, with traditional polskas, waltzes & reels but, at the same time, embraces the moment and the future with breathtaking and percussive flights of fancy. The result is a very democratic piece of work, with both musicians happy to either take the lime-light with dazzling virtuosity, or provide guidance and support for the other's leading role.

This is a CD that never, for a moment, loses it's sparkle. An absolute joy to listen to from end to end on the first hearing and thoroughly refreshing on every subsequent visit.” Fudged FolkRadio UK

 

Outstanding world class folk music    

Wrong spelled. Olov Johansson spelled wrong on foggy when he sent the tune Foogy to Catriona McKay. That became the title on the duo’s album released last Tuesday.

Minutes before the concert some people are talking about modern and old mobile signals and that feels like a strange contrast to the concert. Both the Nyckelharpa and the Harp leads your thoughts to ancient times and even if the folk music coming from the instruments is a modern variant it’s breathing timelessness. Something that the portraits of the old distinguished gentlemen and the woven coat of arms on the walls suits better with.

The music from the recording Foogy, released at the concert, feels just about as fresh as folk music can be. Catriona McKay’s harp playing , by itself makes all possible folk music moth balls to swirl away and Olov Johansson is a master in composing modern folk music that sounds current/timely and sound without needing to use any drastic moves. Their talent is also showed when the duo brings in older traditional material in their repertoire,  For ex. Byss-Calle vals. Rather close to the original, but still sparkling new. In this tune the musician’s interaction goes into  a new dimension, sometimes changing roles , sometimes colliding.

Catriona McKay tells us that the interest for fishing is wide spread among Scottish fiddlers. Therefore she and Olov Johansson were more or less forced for honors sake to go out fishing while working on the album. No fish was caught, but the trip ended up in the tune Mr Fish instead. And all  in the audience in the crowded hall thinks that was a better catch than the fish that got away. 

At the end of the hour long concert, when the sun falls through the narrow windows, everything is just so perfect that it almost feels good when Catriona show off so much that Olov Johansson gets lost in the music. That gives perspective to the degree of difficulty the cross bar is set to and reminds you of how much you would have missed if it wouldn’t have been two musicians of outstanding world class playing.

Av: Andreas Jakobsson


Harpspel som i himmelen - Harp playing as in heaven

Änglaspel. Logen var sprängfylld när Olav Johansson och Catriona McKay slog an sina harpor.

Angelic playing, The barn was packed when Olov and Catriona struck their harps.

Korröfestivalen, 26/7 Olov Johansson & Catriona McKay (LIVE GIG)

Olov Johansson, till vardags nyckelharpist i Väsen, tillika en av rikets främsta spelmän, träffade Catriona McKay från skotska Fiddlers Bid under en gemensam konsert i Stockholm. Hon spelade Eric Sahlströms Spelmansglädje (som även avslutar denna konsert) på sin keltiska harpa för honom, och ett spännande musikalist samarbete tog sin början.
Catriona McKay frambringar ljud jag inte visste var möjliga på en harpa. Det är alltid lite nervöst när instrumentalister lärt sig skojiga gimmickar på sina instrument – det riskerar bli mer kul än bra – men McKay gör det med bravur.
Det är svårt att dra gränsen mellan det svenska och det skotska, men förmodligen är det bara snitsiga musikrecensenter som funderar på sånt. Det låter så vansinnigt bra att det enda man tänker på är att de inte får sluta riktigt än.

Olov, usually nyckelharpist in Väsen, also one of the foremost "fiddlers" in the kingdom, met Catriona McKay from scottish Fiddlers Bid at a concert they shared in Stockholm. She played Eric Sahlström's Spelmansglädje ( that also finish this concert) on her celtic harp to Olov and an exciting musical collaboration started.

Catriona McKay create sounds that I didn't know were possible to make on a harp. It's always a bit nervous when instrumentalists learned funny gimmicks on their instruments- it might be more fun than good- but McKay does it with bravura. It's hard to find the boundary between the Scottich and the Swedish, but it's probably only reviewers who thinks about that. It sounds so awfully ( insanely) good  that the only thought you have is it must not stop just now.

Daniel Blanck


"Olov Johansson and Catriona McKay have teamed up to create an album that is big, bold and bursting with amazing sound. Johansson’s nyckelharpa and McKay’s harp complement each other perfectly on this thirteen-track collection of primarily original compositions. Fresh, inventive arrangements give both artists the opportunity to show the full character of their instruments.

Though I was impressed with the wonderful melody lines, I was more impressed by the supporting roles each was able to play. It is here that the full range of the instruments can truly be appreciated, from soulful droning to bold, percussive rhythms. Whether playing lead or support, McKay and Johansson’s mastery never lets the listener forget that there are two instruments present. The opening track “1st Class to Glasgow” is delightfully upbeat and gives a good taste of the overall feel of Foogy.

Both artists excel on rapid-fire runs and there are plenty found throughout, especially on “Rain/Ekoln,” “In The Castle,” and “The Foogy Set.” Equally capable at the other end of the spectrum, McKay and Johansson deliver an achingly beautiful performance on “The Harper’s Dismissal.”

Foogy is exciting, contemporary and a definite breath of fresh air. I sincerely hope Johansson and McKay continue to collaborate on future projects."

Lori Gordon, Folking


"Sensitive and low-voiced – but still with huge dynamics and melodic beauty if you give yourself the time to lean back and really listen. Because this isn’t the music calling for attention but music very rewarding if it’s allowed to grow after a number of listenings.

Olov Johansson (Väsen) is world champion on Nyckelharpa, McKay belong to the best players of the Scottish harp. Here the two instruments and players are playing together in a splendid way. Their own compositions is mixed with traditional Brittish and Swedish folk music.

Totally untrendy, but timeless, very striking and inventive, in the unpretentious format."

Sune Liljevall, Arbetarbladet


"The Uppland Nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson and Scottish Harpist Catriona McKay are both master instrumentalists. Ulf Gustavsson is impressed by their sensitive ears and atunement.

Review Folk music: The Uppland Nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson and Scottish Harpist Catriona McKay have a record of making music together. On stage and as guests in each others musical projects as well as tour in Sweden last summer. Now they have made a duo recording where they share the space and unite Swedish folk tunes, polska and Byss-Calle tradition with the Celtic inheritage.

And even more, their instruments seems to liberate themselves from their original traditions and improvise a fine threaded, personal web of sound – a giving and taking where also the old melodies are given totally new dimensions. It might be a Scottish harp piece from the 18th century , or a polska after Gabriel Höök. Several of the tracks are composed by themselves.

Johansson and McKay are both masterful instrumentalists, but it’s the way they listen to each other and play together that is the big reward, the ability to exchange solo-space and to vary the playing from the most ethereal and lyrical to the driving dance rhythms in the Foogy Set."

Ulf Gustavsson, Upsala Nya Tidningen


Olov Johansson usually plays his nyckelharpa with Swedish folk stars Väsen, but here he's joined by innovative harper Catriona McKay for an album of big, earthy, Nordic music.

The mood is more Scandinavian than Celtic, but not unlike the darker moments of Liz Doherty, Mary Custy, or Aly Bain's forays into Swedish folk. A generous dozen tracks at around five minutes each means there's plenty to enjoy on Foogy, from Olov's First Class to Glasgow to Catriona's Stolen Watch Reel. Among a dozen or so of their own compositions, Olov and Catriona play traditional tunes from Sweden, Shetland and Scotland. There's a lovely version of Da Shaalds o' Foula a classic Shetland tune which Catriona learnt from fiddler Chris Stout. A charming old polska from Småland sits well with Catriona's Early Sun Polska.

Olov's composition Astrids Vals and the traditional Swedish Byss-Calle Vals show the range and power of the nyckelharpa, not to mention Ms McKay's taste for way-out harmonies. Catriona's modern harping comes to the fore in The Harper's Dismissal, a tune from legendary Gaelic harper Rory Morrison. The two instruments complement each other beautifully throughout this album, producing a full and rich sound which is as ancient as the tradition with the freshness of today's young virtuoso musicians.

The CD packaging is also striking, with colourful graphics and informative notes. Shame about the title, but hey, nobody's perfect! Online info is available from www.olovjohansson.se or www.catrionamckay.co.uk - no dot com nonsense here.

Alex Monaghan


Scotland meets Sweden in Foogy, the new album from Catriona McKay and Olov Johansson, which features traditional and new music. McKay, well-known as harpist in the band Fiddlers’ Bid, here plays her instrument to create a dynamic sound with Johansson, who plays the Swedish nyckelharpa. This instrument, literally key harp, dates back to the 14th century Gotland and is related to the hurdy gurdy.

The harp and nyckleharpa combination sound is “fresh, charming and dynamic”, according to the music magazine Roots, Rock, Blues and Beyond. Fast-paced and rhythmical or slower and lyrical, their musical collaboration displays virtuoso performances from the young pair which demand to be heard again and again.

 Although the music may initially sound unfamiliar to anyone not used to the genre, repeated listening will reveal their artistry. They conjure sounds from their instruments reminiscent of the violin or harpischord in an incredible fashion. Foogy features stories penned by both players. Johansson reveals his talent for composition in pieces such as 1st class to Glasgow, a celebration of a train trip to Glasgow when he and McKay were upgraded to first class by a ticket inspector who loved their playing, the plaintive Rain, composed on a rainy day in Zurich, and Mr Fish, about a mythical fish swimming in a Swedish lake. Like several of the compositions, Mr Fish features a change of tempo showing the versatility of the instruments. Johansson has also turned his hand to dance music, with Astrids Vals, a waltz for his youngest daughter.

McKay has done likewise, with Olov’s Polska, specially for Johansson. She has used the dance form again in Early Sun Polska, about an early morning or a late night, “both of which have their challenges”. Three new reels written by Johansson and McKay are featured on the The Foogy Set, which demon¬strate fast and furious fingerwork. The pairing of instruments works extremely well, blending into a uni¬form sound, and has been developed since they both played at the Celtic Connections concert in 2007, although they met for the first time in 2002.

Foogy is played by past masters of their instruments – Olov is the first nyckelharpa world champion and founder member of Väsen, Sweden’s top traditional group and Catriona’s last album, Starfish, was nominated for Album of the Year ar 2008’s Scottish Trad Music Awards and named Classic Album at Celtic Connections 2009.

Rosalind Griffiths, Shetland Times


A Translation -

Angelic playing, the barn was packed when Olov and Catriona struck their harps.

Olov Johansson & Catriona McKay - Korröfestivalen, 26/07/08

Olov, usually nyckelharpist in Väsen, also one of the foremost "fiddlers" in the kingdom, met Catriona McKay from Scottish band Fiddlers’ Bid at a concert they shared in Stockholm. She played Eric Sahlström's Spelmansglädje ( that also finished this concert) on her celtic harp to Olov and an exciting musical collaboration started.

Catriona McKay creates sounds that I didn't know were possible to make on a harp. It's always a bit unnerving when instrumentalists learn funny gimmicks on their instruments- it might be more fun than good- but McKay does it with bravura. It's hard to find the boundary between the Scottish and the Swedish, but it's probably only reviewers who think about that. It sounds so awfully (insanely) good that the only thought you have is it must not stop just now.

Daniel Blanck - Smålandspostenoll


This mesmeric music is a fusion of Olov's Swedish Nyckelharpa (key harp) and Catriona's Scottish harp. Both have contributed traditional music from their homelands and composed fresh material for this project.

Clearly revelling in the partnership the duo are constantly inventive. Highlights include 'The Dundee Law Set', two tunes from Shetland taught to them by Fiddlers Bid member, Chris Stout, and the all new trio of reels 'The Foogy Set'. Deserves to be heard far beyond the confines of any niche audience.

www.spiralearth.co.uk


SOME engaging misnomers and misprints at this excellent Edinburgh International Harp Festival concert. There was the nyckelharpa, played with great panache by Olov Johansson but not a harp. Sweden's traditional keyed fiddle sounded mighty fine in idiosyncratic but inspired partnership with Catriona McKay's vivacious harping.

There were some lovely moments, nyckelharpa shrilling plaintively over McKay's delicate harmonics in a Swedish polska, wheedling gently in a melancholy waltz, or working up a headlong torrent alongside McKay's percussive playing in Johansson's own Mr Fish. A brisk set of reels included the title tune from the pair's new album, Foogy – which turned out to be Johansson's misspelling of "foggy", which stuck. Musically, however, nothing was lost in translation.

www.living.scotsman.com 2009


Arbetarbladet - folkmusik 

Sensibelt och lågmält – men ändå med stor dynamik och melodisk skönhet om man ger sig tid att luta sig tillbaka och verkligen lyssna. För det här är musik som inte pockar på uppmärksamhet men som ger mycket om den tillåts växa efter ett antal lyssningar.

Olov Johansson (Väsen) är världsmästare på nyckelharpa, McKay hör till världseliten på skotsk harpa. Här samspelar de två instrumenten och musikanterna på ett utmärkt sätt. Egna kompositioner blandas med traditionell brittisk och svensk folkmusik. Helt otrendigt, men tidlöst och mycket slagkraftigt, smått innovativt, i det anspråkslösa formatet.

Sune Liljevall

Translation:

Sensitive and low-voiced – but still with huge dynamics and melodic beauty if you give yourself the time to lean back and really listen. Because this isn’t the music calling for attention but music very rewarding if it’s allowed to grow after a number of listenings.

Olov Johansson (Väsen) is world champion on Nyckelharpa, McKay belong to the best players of the Scottish harp. Here the two instruments and players are playing together in a splendid way. Their own compositions is mixed with traditional Brittish and Swedish folk music. Totally untrendy, but timeless, very striking and inventive, in the unpretentious format.


© Catriona McKay 2015