What do two professional musicians do when Covid 19 lockdown starts and they watch everywhere closing down around them, including all the venues that they were booked to play for months ahead? Add into that the problem of somehow making your way home to the Isle of Lewis where you have a house you purchased a few years ago that is
basically a shell of walls that needs pretty much everything done to it to make it habitable. Panic is one word that comes to mind, and I am sure that Elsa Jean McTaggart and her husband Gary did that, but they also did something else, find through their music new ways of communicating via social media with their audience who, like them, could no longer get out to venues.
As the months turned to over a year, and then some, Elsa and Gary not only renovated their home (well re-built it from the ground up), but Elsa began a daily series of Scottish tunes, twice weekly live streamed concerts and a new album written and recorded. That 19 track instrumental album “When The World Stood Still” was created with the innovative approach of letting people sponsor a piece of music to be written not only to their requirements, but on the instrument of their choice. This show of the same name is not only multi-instrumentalist Elsa Jean McTaggart playing a selection of music from the album, but also telling her story and the stories behind these songs.
I have to admit to being a fan of Elsa’s as I was just captivated by her voice the first time I heard her sing at the Edinburgh Fringe some years ago, and this multi-instrumental show without any song vocals is perhaps the oddest and riskiest show that I have seen Elsa bring to the Edinburgh Fringe stage. Of course, like every other show of Elsa’s that I have reviewed it works well, and only someone with that instant likability and connection with an audience that Elsa has could pull this show off. Tell me of any other vocalist/instrumentalist that could get away with being dressed in a red boiler suit whilst playing banjo standing in a wheelbarrow?
During the making of this album, Elsa also made a photographic record of the outstanding scenery on Lewis that inspired much of this music and that is also available as a companion book to the CD.
I mentioned the amazing singing voice of Elsa Jean McTaggart earlier in this review, and sadly that is not to be heard in this show, but you can experience that at her other Fringe show, based on a love of the songs and music of Eva Cassidy. The show is called, not surprisingly, Eva Cassidy and Me.
Elsa Jean McTaggart is one of the constant stars of the Edinburgh Fringe for some very simple reasons – huge talent and the fact that Elsa enjoys being with her audience every bit as much as they enjoy being with her.
Review by Tom Kinng (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH