Helen Webby & Davy Stuart

String wizardry extraordinaire. Take the top Celtic harpist in NZ (who also happens to be Principal harp with the Christchurch Symphony), add one of NZ's most versatile Celtic accompanists on guitar and bouzouki and you have a glorious instrumental combination, equally at home in a woolshed or a concert hall.

Their repertoire ranges from the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland to newly composed material from NZ and elsewhere. In concert you can expect a varied selection of music - reels to polkas, airs to waltzes and, where appropriate, a few songs of definite Scottish accent.

With the easy rapport that comes from 10 years playing together, they have enthralled audiences all round NZ and Australia and toured nationwide for Chamber Music NZ in 2008.

2011 brought a return visit to the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra as a featured overseas act, where they also tutored harp and bouzouki at the National Folk School.
 
 
 
 

CD review: The Golden Strand, March 2010 NZ Harp Society Journal

This CD is a gem. These two musicians have worked together for years and it shows. The synthesis of their sounds and styles is wonderful to hear.
 
One of the most beguiling effects in music is when the timbres of two instruments weave together until they almost can't be distinguished from one another -- and this is one of my favourite things about this album. The guitar and the harp come together beautifully in these lovely celtic tunes, some familiar, and some less so. There is a joyous sense of originality even in the well known melodies, with crisp and lively ornamentation and lilting phrases.
 
Any lover of Celtic music will enjoy many listenings to this delightful CD.
-- Carolyn Mills, New Zealand Symphony

Ed's note: 'The beautiful crystal clear sound of harp (made by Kim Webby) and guitar (made by Davy Stuart) was recorded and produced by Davy, with a tune or two written by Davy and fellow Kiwi musicians.
 
This album turned into the backing music for our summer holidays... with the waves crashing outside and children racing around -- a calming salve in these mad times -- very easy to have on all day repeat! -- Anna Dunwoodie, Editor New Zealand Harp Society Journal.

Concert review: The Great Hall, Arts Centre of Christchurch, April 2.

"The range of colour and expression that this combination of instruments produced took me quite by surprise. A sound that threatened to be distinctly two-dimensional blossomed into a strong and fully rounded performance.
 
I assume Irish harp purists would not approve of the addition of a modern guitar accompaniment, but in Davy Stuart's careful hands it added depth without overwhelming the harp itself.
 
The names of the composers and their compositions are themselves close to poetry: who could resist the charms of Lady Athenry's Planxty by blind Turlough O"Carolan, or Contempt for Fiddlers by Rory Dall Morrison?
 
And so we heard lively reels with memorable melodies and slow elusive laments, all tinged with that beautiful Irish melancholy. In less skilful hands this music would not have been half so persuasive, but crisply articulated and with generally brisk speeds, Helen Webby provided compelling listening. With able, though gentle, support from the guitar, here was a concert guaranteed to put a spring in your step for the rest of the day."
Reviewed by Timothy Jones, The Press.

“ The pair weave their way through a selection of airs and dances with relaxed skill and taste. Beautifully arranged and paced, with delicate interplay between the musicians, a treat for the ears”.
NZ Musician, Apr/May 2002

“The album is extremely listenable as a work of beautiful cooperative playing”.
- Sing Out! USA

Helen Webby & Davy Stuart at the Mayfair

Aug 18 2003 reviewed by Andrew Bicknell

I have just arrived home after attending one of the most special concerts I have seen in a long while, being "Celtic Music for Harp & Guitar", featuring Helen Webby and Davy Stuart, opening with a bracket of "hits" from 1650-1750. Davy’s dry humour prevailed throughout the evening, and at one stage offering an interpretation for anyone who couldn’t understand him. Helen’s bright personality shone through, and together with their virtuosity they entertained all through a thoroughly wonderful performance.

They performed with instruments that had a close connection – Davy having only 4 days previously just completed the guitar he was using, and also used one of his own hand crafted bouzoukis. Helen had the loan of a harp made by her brother, Kim Webby of Whangarei. All instruments produced lovely tones, equally matched by Helen and Davy’s tight mastery of their respective instruments.

It takes a special combination of person, talent, and on the spot ability to entertain when presenting tunes, and Helen and Davy were right there. And as for the Catholic Nun who accepted a conditional kiss from a taxi driver....

Often we overlook the wealth of talent that we have in this country. Helen and Davy are fine examples of the high standard of talent that exists in NZ – a class where the performers draw upon all of their talents, stepping outside of performance and into the realm of entertainment. They deserve a far wider audience, having filled the ambience of the Mayfair Cafe with wonderful music.

Helen and Davy are featured international guests for the Australian National Folk Festival 2011 in Canberra.
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