Elsa Jean McTaggart Presents McTaggart Sisters theSpace @ Surgeons Hall Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 Review Tuesday 6th August

With Edinburgh Entertainment & Arts


Elsa Jean McTaggart Presents McTaggart Sisters, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall is a show with completely new song material from Fringe favourites Elsa Jean McTaggart and Miss Irenie Rose.  The inspiration for this show is the paintings of one of Scotland’s best loved and most famous of painters - William McTaggart (1835–1910).  What makes this show, and these very personal interpretations of songs inspired by these paintings is that both Elsa Jean and Irenie are great-grand-daughters of William McTaggart.  That family connection running through the lyrics and music of the songs in this show give us a continuity that the artistic legacy of William McTaggart is still very much alive and creative today.

This show is very much an ongoing development as William McTaggart painted many works which are at one end of the scale of major national importance whilst at the other end, very personal paintings perhaps only kept within the family over the years.  The room that we are in for this show unfortunately does not easily lend itself to images of the artwork behind these songs being displayed at the same time as the music, but that is still a plan for future shows as this project develops.  Taking the title of the paintings as their theme for the music, the combination of both still, with careful writing gives us all our own “mind’s eye” of the stories created from the paintings.

Elsa Jean and sister Irenie have two very different but complementary styles on vocals and guitar which work so well in this show of musical arrangements ranging from traditional folk song to more contemporary in feel, but whatever the style, Elsa and Irenie bring to life in music their artistic family legacy.

By its very personal nature, this project really could only have been created by members of William McTaggart’s family and here paintings inspire memories of growing up in the countryside that have not changed since the days of the paintings and hard and laborious jobs like “tattie picking”.  Other paintings inspire an almost religious hymn feel to them (The Old Pathway).  Fate at times works in curious ways and it is interesting to see “Dora” which was inspired by Tennyson’s poem from 1842 now combining together to give new inspiration nearly 180 years later.  Another work, Stepping Stones has inspired a song that moves along at a pace of a stone skimming across the water’s surface.  The days of smuggling along a shoreline also serve as lyrical and musical ideas from the “Where The Smugglers Come Ashore” painting.

If you have a liking for the work of William McTaggart and want a little personal insight into how his work continues to inspire his family down through the years then this is a show not to miss.  If like many of us you have over Fringe shows of the past few years been captivated by Elsa Jean McTaggart’s voice, and now sister Irenie Rose’s then that is as good a reason as any to catch this show too.


Elsa Jean McTaggart Presents McTaggart Sisters

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Aug 2-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24


45 minutes

Country: United Kingdom - Scotland

Group: Elsa Jean McTaggart


Review by Tom King




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"We were both of us, so beautiful together
For just that one glorious, fleeting moment
Two shining souls, looking for a mate
Two glorious lovers trying to hold back the morning"


Words from "We Were Never Going To be Allowed To Keep This Moment - Were We?"
copyright © Tom King 2019


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