The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, which now spans 25 days with over 3000 shows in more than 300 venues. And this year celebrates it´s 70th anniversary. Elsa Jean McTaggart has been a regular performer at the Fringe since 2011. In 2017 Elsa is taking three shows to the Fringe, “Sounds Of Scotland” “Sings, Strings and Other Things” and her new show “Eva Cassidy The Story” .
Elsa Jean returns to the Fringe with a wonderful collection of folk music to launch her new album, Lassie Will Ye Go.
With music and song, Elsa Jean performs on the fiddle and guitar a mixture of old Scottish tunes, Gaelic song and her own original compositions. Years of playing to audiences around Europe gives her a seasoned confidence which is a joy to watch and listen to.
Her own compositions come from the heart and speak of her experiences and loves, from humorous memories of a phantom fiddler to her return to the country of her birth. Intermingled with these are instrumental numbers which have you dancing in your seat to a true folk rhythm, and ancient Scottish folk songs, brought to life by her art.
Lassie Will Ye Go also sees Jim Archibald perform the title song, a wonderful addition to McTaggart’s evocative collection. The performance is a real labour of love – you can see that folk music is in her bones, and she’ll have you clapping and tapping and singing along. This is folk music at its best.
Elsa Jean McTaggart “Lassie Will Ye Go” at theSpace@ Symposium Hall (Venue 43) is one of those rare breaths of fresh air that you hope that you will find at The Fringe. After years playing her music around the world, Elsa Jean McTaggart has come back home to Scotland and brought with her a love of traditional Scottish music and fused it into her own new music.
Tonight’s set was a mixture of traditional fiddle music that is interestingly for these shows played on an electric fiddle, guitar and vocals. Songs in this set ranged from the traditional “The Birks of Aberfeldy” by Robert Burns, Gaelic walking songs and new material such as “Coming Home”.
Elsa has one of those voices that seems to belong to no particular time or place but somehow part of the very landscape that she is often singing about. If you have come to The Fringe from overseas and have in your mind what a Scottish voice should sound like singing, then chances are it will be something like Elsa’s.
As well as great music and songs, the evening was filled with gentle humour and a warmth for her audience that is rare these days, while Elsa gave a bit of background about the songs she was singing and encouraged the very enthusiastic and appreciative audience to join in.
Traditional music is important, but if it is not to be consigned to history and listened to only as a scholarly exercise then it needs performers like Elsa Jean McTaggart to not only keep the old traditional songs alive but present them in a way acceptable to younger audiences, and of course create new music that still pays homage to its traditional roots.
The show’s title comes from the new album “Lassie Will Ye Go”. There are two shows from Elsa Jean McTaggart this Fringe. This evening one and a morning one called “Elsa Jean McTaggart: Sings, Strings and Other Things”
Review by Tom King and Lisa Sibbald
This was a very pleasing hour in the middle of a bustling, noisy fringe. Elsa Jean McTaggart is back in Edinburgh; indeed, she is back from overseas, with a partner, a new set, and plenty of witty banter inbetween Scottish, Irish and a few other folk tunes, including a bet with the Devil himself.
This family-friendly hour shows a fiddler at the height of her powers, but this performer, accompanied more than competently by her partner keyboardist, can also make us smile, laugh and be drawn into a bit of background to the folk songs she has chosen for us and plays (and yes, there are CDs for sale after the show!).
I would have liked to have seen more of the piano and a sharper percussion (delivered electronically). But that doesn’t in any way spoil a thoroughly enjoyable music set, which contains touching moments of personal story, laced with light-hearted banter about the songs, about Scotland and the reasons why the performer is back home.
There is plenty of clapping along and McTaggart’s playing is a spectacle in itself – she is fast, playful and knows how to rock a folk tune. The repertoire ranges from Scottish to Irish with a hint of Spain thrown in for good measure. This enables the mood of the set to change and adds variety to the hour. The tendency is towards up-beat and up lifting, yet occasonally we are in more atmospheric places and I hope to see more of that variety in the future. Living overseas, and then coming home to your birthplace means you’ve collected stories and a few tunes along the way. This impressive gig hints at more to come. It’s a shortish hour at the Space and just the right medicine for an evening during August’s madness.
The audience clearly wanted more at the end, which is always a good sign! If folk music is your thing, then Scottish fiddler, songster and storyteller, Elsa Jean McTaggart comes warmly recommended.
Published August 27, 2015 by Paul Levy
Three Weeks Editors Award
Our next recipient is a musician, and one who has won the unwavering approbation of a number of members of the ThreeWeeks review team, past and present. They love her anecdotes, her command of the fiddle, her fabulous vocals, and her masterful ability to mix traditional folk with jazz and electronica. Our next winner “ ignites the room with her awe- inspiring mastery and passion for music of all genres.” wrote this year’s reviewer. “she may seem like a normal Scottish woman, but do not be fooled because she is actually a Scottish superwoman of music”. This award goes to Elsa Jean McTaggart.
Fiddler in theSpace
At first glance Elsa Jean McTaggart may seem like a normal Scottish woman, but do not be fooled because she is actually a Scottish superwoman of music. Alternating between four traditional folk instruments (the pennywhistle, Scottish fiddle, silent guitar, and the squeezebox) McTaggart ignites the room with her awe-inspiring mastery and passion for music of all genres. With her all-original pieces, she takes the audience on a phenomenal musical journey through the ups and downs of her life, capturing the simple beauty of each note and magnifying it with such precision and poise, one can’t help but be envious of her endless talent. McTaggart infuses jazz, folk, and even electronica into her traditional folk basis to create an absolutely magnificent show.
tw rating 5/5 | [Ellie Willis] SpaceCabaret @ 54, 5-25 Aug, 3.30pm. 'Three Weeks'
Fiddler in theSpace ****
When folk music is mentioned in conversation, images of rolling hills, heather covered moors and pale skinned damsels are amongst those that spring to mind. Elsa Jean McTaggart evokes not only these pictures but also with her array of instruments and original songs gives a taste of how eclectic folk can sound.
McTaggart started the audience’s journey through folk with the fiddle. Her songs ranged from jaunty jigs that had even the most conservative of the audience tapping their toes to delicate, wistful ballads that bring the bleakness of the highlands to an Edinburgh basement. All this is done with effortless fingering and a smooth bow-work that belies the difficulty of the pieces.
She continued with another classic folk instrument: the penny whistle. These pieces ebbed and flowed with uncommon silkiness, the result of an excellent embrasure, but also had flashes of staccato more akin to tribal flute.
The next instrument in her repertoire was the guitar. Songs varied from the bluesy ‘Black Box’ to the warm Spanish vibes of ‘Where the Bamboo Grows’.
The final instrument on display was her own voice. Well-controlled dynamics and beautiful pitching left the audience in no doubt that Mctaggart’s skills stretched beyond the instrumental.
Interspersing the music were breaks in which McTaggart shared stories about what influenced her music, enabling the audience to gain access into her thoughts. This not only enhanced the listening by providing context and meaning to the music but also helped keep the mood light and cheery.
The songs, performance and skill of McTaggart led to a show which moved and excited the audience in a way that only someone who truly loves what they do can. Her energy and passion led to everyone walking out with a smile on their face even as the heavens opened around them.
< Edinburgh Tonight 2011