There is no doubt that Mary McCarthy is a talented pianist whose style of play reflects years of expertise. Her show comprises of her playing renditions of several composers, many of whom are Serbian, with McCarthy’s only companions being the ten skilful fingers manipulating the keys in front of her. The act is aimed mainly at the elderly and children, and it is definitely not something I imagine many younger aged Fringe-goers would enjoy. And whilst her music is certainly enjoyable, it doesn’t appeal to a broad audience.
What little stage presence she has she makes up for with musical ability, demonstrating years of refinement and expertise.
McCarthy’s repertoire is founded upon music from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, predominantly that from Serbia. Her introductory piece is a take on a traditional ‘milking song’, emulating the toils of an agricultural life. She then performs a composition by Scot Eddie McGuire before returning to the Balkans with a short and dramatic tune made tense by excellent arpeggio technique. At the halfway mark she plays A Scot In China, a celebration of the pentatonic scale which flings together instrumental characteristics of Chinse music with some traditional Scots songs such as Auld Lang Syne. Finally she ends with some plain chant, Gregorian styled pieces.
The evening was somewhat therapeutic in that is offered a change from fast tempo, upbeat music common to the Jazz Bar, and by extension the Fringe. This music is the kind one falls asleep to. Not because it is boring, but because of how relaxing it is since McCarthy goes at her own pace. The information she provides before what she plays is certainly helpful in making the music feel more authentic.
She apologised profusely for her piano being out of tune, not that many in the audience cared or noticed. This perfectionism may well be McCarthy’s weakness as her teacher persona shines through when she feels the need to correct every minor error. For instance, she asked the music technician to help change a bass note in the middle of the show. Not that is was a noticeable fault, but drawing attention to it on stage reduced the professionalism of the act in its entirety.
This was a let-down, but when you consider the vast number of performers who have graced stages at the Fringe this year, many of whom have stage presence but little musical talent, you can forgive her lack of personality and pernickety attitude. What little stage presence she has she makes up for with musical ability, demonstrating years of refinement and expertise.