Hilary de Vries has been making music for most of her life and composing for well over 20 years, taking her inspiration from the landscape and people around her. Her music is full of melody, with strong rhythmic patterns and uncommon time signatures adding extra depth. The tunes are quintessentially Scottish, but always with a twist; timeless, yet also new and contemporary.
There is a lot of imagery and feeling in the music, and it is not uncommon for people who listen to it to find themselves transported to a different place or time. She mainly composes for Scottish bagpipes and smallpipes, recorder, voice and wire-strung clarsach/harp, although her tunes are easily adapted for other instruments, including guitar and fiddle.
Over the years Hilary has been involved in various collaborative projects with poets and other musicians, including Bill Taylor, Aonghas MacNeacail, Donald S. Murray and Kenneth Steven. Together with harpist Bill Taylor she brought out a book of her harp tunes ‘Heartstone’, arranged by Bill, and described by Folk Harp Journal as ‘a great addition to the repertoire of a wire-strung harpist’. She was invited to write music as part of a poetry performance of ‘Deirdre of the Sorrows’, a sequence of poems by Kenneth Steven based on the Celtic legend. The combination of the music, also arranged by Bill Taylor, and the poetry makes for an emotional experience for audiences and has been much praised.
Other publications of her music include a book of bagpipe tunes ‘The Barley Skimmers’, with a foreword by renowned piper and scholar Allan MacDonald, and ‘A Song Among the Stones’, music composed in response to another collection of poetry by Kenneth Steven. Her most recent publication is a collection of her Orkney inspired tunes called ‘An Orkney Sampler’. The tunes cover many moods, rhythms and places, bringing with them the feel of Orkney. Ivan Drever, the Orcadian singer/songwriter and musician said about the book 'It always pleases me greatly to see music coming from or inspired by Orkney... there are some great wee tunes in this book of Hilary`s'.
Poetry has been a great source of inspiration for her music, and this includes the cd ‘Cherry Blossom After Rain’, where an unpublished collection of poetry by Canadian poet Robert MacLean set in Japan acted as a catalyst for a new set of tunes. Recorded on wire-strung harp, the cd, released earlier this year, has been described by harpist Alison Kinnaird as having ‘a lovely musical flow…an Oriental minimalism about it’.
She plays wire-strung harps from Ardival Harps, tuning them in Pythagorean, which gives beautiful harmonious chords. Her D smallpipes are from Philip Gruar and have Northumbrian style tuning beads, allowing the drones to be tuned to a different key and opening up greater compositional possibilities.
With more recordings and publications in the pipeline, Hilary continues to be inspired and create new music for others to play, listen to and enjoy.
© Hilary de Vries 2020
Hilary de Vries