FringeReview UK 2018
Three soloists have just combined to form and then expand HEARD – it was founded as a duo: Cerian the stratospheric vocalist guitarist, harpist and pianist. Blending with her is folk-inflected Daisy Chute almost as high-voiced and playing the same instruments save for the banjo substituting for the harp. They’re joined by Midori Jaeger primarily a cellist though a guitarist and another soprano.
Three superb soloists have just combined to form and then expand HEARD – it was founded as a duo: Cerian the stratospheric vocalist guitarist, harpist and pianist, getting as high as a top E flat and a description of her as somewhere between Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell isn’t far-fetched. Blending with her is Daisy Chute almost as high-voiced and playing the same instruments save for the banjo substituting for the harp – she’s half-American, Cerian Welsh.
They’re joined by Midori Jaeger primarily a cellist though a guitarist and another fine soprano. They’re stunningly individual solo and combined There’s nobody else who sounds quite like them, nor plays such an array of instruments whilst also singing. There’s hints of the crystalline soprano range of Pentangle, Kate Bush and Mitchell too. But this doesn’t do justice to the straopsheric harmonizing of Cerian and chute, with Jaeger’s new contribution very happily making this a trio.
And it isn’t a wholly vocal programme by an means – Jaeger’s two cello solos are welcome half-way through but each of these players takes a turn at a different instrument, often singing.
Formerly of the Decca-recorded All Angels band, now working with songwriter Tim Baxter. Chute specializes if anything in the banjo, but that’s just the start. Chute’s own lyricism and sharpness first presented itself in ‘Who Knew’ and ‘Puddletown’ with her wry satiric edge. She’s particularly attuned to a variety of acoustic and other instruments exploring esoteric electronic ones of the 1980s. Her voice in its lower range is husky and intimate and a powerful middle and upper folk-inflected soprano. You can imagine her singing ballads and longer narrative pieces.
Cerian’s ‘Our Love Is’ and ‘Wasteland’ show off her capacity for word-painting and wit as well as the same astonishing vocal highs blent with the group. Certainly the trio add something ethereal and plangent to Cerian’s own work. It’s a different one to her solos. Cerian’s use of harp – she’s classically trained on voice and all instruments – adds to the lustrous sonance that ‘s at the heart of her own and (differently) the group’s special quality.
Jaeger’s cello playing came next and I’m reminded of Erollyn Wallen, though Jaeger’s a more straightforward lyric voice in her compositions, evocative and memorable. ‘Familiar Faces’ and ‘Forest’ have witty rhymes and lyric turns that show she’s as much a singer-songwriter as her companions. There’s an almost British early-20th century pastoralism not entirelyscreened out in this 21std century mix. Jaeger possesses as she puts it, a city-dweller’s fascination with forest and wilder spaces.
Chute’s ‘Give Thanks’ is a more straightforward anthem, more emphatically folk-inflected, with her American roots given free rein in the banjo playing. The sheer variety of timbres instruments and vocal colour on display here means that there’s not a remote chance of sameiness or inattention slipping in. Cerian’s ‘Let’s Sing’ similarly was another fine collective piece. Finally Jaeger’s ‘You’re Like Breeze’ gusted in with her tonally darker and less folk-inflected idiom.
There was a built-in encore, this time by Tracey Chapman, celebrating the centenary of the partial womens’ suffrage in June 1918 (only for women who’d reached thirty). ‘Talk ‘Vout a Revolution’ certainly gave the audience something to talk about, rather wonderingly. One of recent curator and organizer Norman Jacobs’ inspired choices from what’s still loosely referred to as cross-over, it was simply exceptional music-making. It’s good he could be present. The CD on sale – of Cerian only at this stage – was snapped up.