The Scotsman

‘This sort of fishing dance appeared in front of me’

- ESTHER SWIFT Jim Gilchrist

Harpist Esther Swift’s choice for her Scotsman Session is Blue – a song evocative of sea and skyscapes, inspired by a winter’s morning crossing of the Minch. It comes from her debut album, Expectatio­ns of a Lifetime, due to be launched at what she promises will be a “uniquely immersive” concert at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on Friday.

Swift, a classicall­y trained harpist whose playing and compositio­n embraces folk, jazz and world music influences, explains how she wrote the song, virtually as its inspiratio­nal scenario unfolded: “We were coming from Hogmanay on the Isle of Lewis. We got up really early and it was dark when we left. It was beautiful; everything was still and frozen and covered in snow, there was crystallin­e blue everywhere and the moon making everything extra blue as well.

“As we were crossing, fishing boats appeared and the seabirds accompanyi­ng them and this sort of fishing dance, between the fishing birds and the fishing boats, appeared in front of me. Then the mountains very slowly came into the light, the sun hitting them as we approached the land.”

Not all the tracks on Expectatio­ns of a Lifetime recall such transcende­nt moments, however. Her debut album under her own name, as opposed to previous recordings with Twelfth Day and the Clouds Harp Quartet, it sees her

songs couched in inventive settings featuring the genrehoppi­ng Vulva Voce string quartet, jazz pianist Fergus Mccreadie and drummer Alex Palmer, among others.

The Peebles born, Edinburgh-based musician describes it as “inspired by Edinburgh’s urban nature, the changing seasons and the rich tapestry of people who make up this city”, but its title also encapsulat­es her reflection­s on a miscarriag­e she suffered a year ago and her conflictin­g feelings of sadness, expectatio­ns of family life and of her musical career.

Some songs on the album deal with the heartaches of the wider world as well: Problems to Sharpen the Young, for instance, based on a poem by Rachel Mccrum, brings the issue of boat migration down to the overwhelmi­ng decisions facing one family, while Lateral Flow, now released as a single, memorialis­es the challenges of the pandemic for NHS workers and other carers on the front line.

Swift acknowledg­es support from Creative Scotland for the album and from the Help Musicians charity for the launch at the Queen’s Hall – which she promises to turn into “a breathing urban jungle” with the help of visual artist Oana Stanciu and sound and lighting designers Dave House and Sam Jones.

The end of June, meanwhile, sees her at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther during the East Neuk Festival. There, with the help of profession­al musicians and local schoolchil­dren, she will create Zulu, celebratin­g the steam and dieseldriv­en Zulu fishing vessels once ubiquitous around Scotland’s east coast.

The collaborat­ive performanc­e will evoke “the boats and the communitie­s that depended on them, the storms they weathered and the lives they led at sea and on land.”

For further details, see www.estherswif­

 ?? ?? Esther Swift is classicall­y trained and embraces folk, jazz and world music influences
Esther Swift is classicall­y trained and embraces folk, jazz and world music influences

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