Austrian harpist Monika Stadler has visited Scotland many times, twice taking part in the world-renowned Edinburgh Harp Festival. I bought a ticket to see her perform in Nairn, and was delighted by her skill, range and love of the instrument she has made her own.
Monika appreciates the space and quietness of the Scottish Highlands, the raw beauty of the landscape and the places where earth, sea and sky meet. The west coast of Scotland inspired Earth, Sea and Sky - the title track for one of her CDs. When performing Monika mixes her own compositions with personal arrangements of old and new favourites - her encore at the concert that I attended in Nairn tonight was a beautifully rich, percussion accompanied version of “Summertime”.
Monika comes from a land-bound country of mountains and lakes. Beaches and the creatures that inhabit them are rare and joyous to her. Her programme started with Dance Of The Sandpiper, music inspired by walking on Nairn Beach, seeing sandpipers for the first time, observing the way they occupy space and the sounds they create, weaving their speed and movement into a harpist’s dance.
Monika’s Snow Falls Silently In My Imaginary Garden takes her back to her homeland and the stillness of freshly falling snow. She captures snowflakes in voice and strings, playing notes together and apart, ripples of rising melody expressing the joy, the coolness, the softness of snow. At the end she comments that “snow is not always that bad” bringing a laugh from an appreciative audience who have come through a hard Scottish winter.
In Invocation To Water Monika is joined by a friend who takes what looks like a light drumstick to a string of her harp. He plays the string loud and soft, up and down. Above this the harpist’s music echoes the sound of water swelling, rising, gathering force, falling away. She sings above the music of two players on one harp, high and free. At the ending of this piece the eyes of the two musicians meet with the satisfaction of music known yet born in the moment, each performance a new beginning.
In Oblivion Monika and the harp move as one body. She tilts and sways with her harp, her hands and arms moving and stretching, feet working pedals, head moving in to reach far strings, to merge with her instrument. Monika has explored movement and its relationship to music, stillness and creativity and this interest permeates her work.
Monika has published a book of Celtic (lever) harp music “New Shoots – Old Roots”; both this book and the CD of the music are available through her website.
Should you wish to sample Monika's music I would recommend Between Earth Sea & Sky.