There has been a revival in recent years of harp music. In fact, there is now a National Harp Day, with special recitals and gigs the length and breadth of Ireland. Who’d have known there was such a thing. The harp, you could say, is making a comeback. Hark herewith, a beautiful double album of harp music and song from Claire Roche, and a most interesting and appealing album it is.

Quite unusual, but quite beautiful, ‘From Then To The Here And Now’ is like a stream of consciousness recital, a flow of music and words that somehow move the soul, a blend of literature, music, and artistic endeavour.

We tend to think of harp music as tinkling angelic sounds that add lightness and serenity to any formal occasion. Here in Belfast, we have the Dangerous Harpist in the shape of Ursula Burns, whose sharp, humourous, self-deprecating songs have earned her a following and fan base. Claire Roche is at the other end of that spectrum.

Claire Roche’s tunes are interwoven with her words, which flit from poetry to expressions of heartfelt thought and memory. It’s hardly surprising then to learn that Claire Roche was a student of literature before she became a student of the harp. A degree in English and Literature at University College Dublin, followed by a diploma in Anglo-Irish Literature then an MA indicate that her heart was in the written word first. She played piano and wrote her own songs but there was a strange yearning to learn the harp and it seems she picked it up as second nature. It quickly became the main vessel for her words and music, a clear indication of a pure and fascinating talent.

From Then To The Here And Now’ is both unique and unusual. It’s niche material, not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the sort of album my octogenarian father would have adored, for its rich texture of Irish heritage and the depth of emotions espoused. It resonates with the innate Celt.

Spanning fifteen beautiful melodies across two albums, this is an ideal Christmas gift for those that appreciate the ancient beauty and resonance of harp music. All music and lyrics are by Claire Roche with the exception of the opening lines of ‘Visiting Hour’ by the poet Richard Murphy.

From nature, to family, to lost love and yearning, this double album spans it all. I felt enriched by the experience of becoming acquainted with this album. I expect her live performances are exquisite.

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