Fiddle player Catriona Price and harpist Esther Swift have been making waves in music circles as Twelfth Day since the release of their first album, Northern Quarter, in 2010. The duo combine elements of classical and folk music to weave a sound that’s unique and defies genre descriptions. They came to St, Andrews in the Square for a Celtic Connections audience who, having just enjoyed an impressive set from Wildings, were ready for something special – and they weren’t disappointed.
The astonishing range Twelfth Day explore even in just one track was in evidence from the very start, as the soft opening of Too Late To Find gave way to Led Zepplin grooves from Esther’s harp and vocal harmonies to match the wild voice of Catriona’s fiddle. With the fire alternately stoked and softened it was a dynamic opening.
Catriona hails from Orkney and Esther from the Scottish Borders, this mix of northern and southern influences is enhanced by a friendship that began when Esther and Catriona met at St Mary’s Music School, Edinburgh and continued as they enrolled in their classical training together at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. In planning a set comprised mainly of tracks from their soon to be released third full album, Cracks in the Room, Twelfth Day took a step that’s every bit as bold as the music itself; digging deeper than ever into their combined creativity to bring new and exciting material to their audience. The elements of pop, jazz and Latin dance swirling around in the lyrically superb Stop Talking About It are every bit as indicative of their adaptive approach, and it’s one that’s seen them expand their sound with addition of a rhythm section to their live sets (Stewart Wilson on bass and Jim Molyneux [4Square] on percussion). This particular set also included special guests. Chris Wood (read the review of his new album ‘So Much to Defend’ here), who produced Cracks in the Room, joined the duo for some memorable harmonies between his vocal and Catriona’s fiddle and the new album’s darkly comic title track.
Also joining this enthralling set was virtuoso Syrian Kanun player Maya Youssef, who the girls met at Bath Festival and have stayed in contact with ever since. Explaining how Catriona was unfazed by the prospect of the complex 1/4 tones that are a feature of Syrian folk music, the trio went on to prove the point in style.
Catriona, Esther and guests continued to present a programme that was filled with excitement and innovation, ranged from soothing to gutsy and just seemed to flow from one thrilling highlight to another – such as Esther somehow managing to evoke a gentle peel of church bells from her harp during Chris Wood‘s Darwin inspired You May Stand Mute.
More familiar Twelfth Day territory was their singular interpretation of The Devil Makes Three; taken from the well-known spiritual, Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby. The song never sounded like this in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, but then, Twelfth Day are true originals who tend to sound like nothing you’ve ever heard. A truly remarkable performance.
Cracks In The Room, the new album from Twelfth Day, will be released on April 7th. UK Tour in March.
Photo Credit: Mike Guest