Ciara Harvie is a musician with an obvious understanding of just how much cinema is lifted by music. It’s something that she barely has to put into words – her phenomenal voice shows off everything you need to know. With an operatic power and an obvious passion for film, Cinema Paradiso is a spellbinding showcase of musical prowess.
Harvie’s concert is the first gig to take place in St Cuthbert’s Church since the pandemic began, and also the first since the church’s renovation. It is fitting then that Cinema Paradiso represents both the old and the new, inspired by the music of films spanning generations. Harvie has an eclectic array of sources, never turning her nose up at anything that doesn’t immediately seem to be her style. The result is a set list full of variety, with everything from The Bodyguard to House of Flying Daggers included in Harvie’s selection (as is a particularly haunting take of a modern James Bond theme). Her takes on the songs are inspired, covering several languages and adapting each song wonderfully for her own distinctive style.
Harvie transitions between tracks without delay, hesitating only when minor technical issues rear their head. She fits numerous, beautiful renditions within a modest show time. There are occasional mentions of how she came to love music and what it was like to find her voice, but Harvie lets her monumental talent do most of the talking. And it is incredible to behold. Harvie’s operatic vocals reverberate around the room and hypnotise you from the very first note, the audience staying deathly silent until breaking out in rapturous applause at the end of each number. Asides the renditions being incredible in themselves, they are also performed with intelligence. They encourage you to think about how music has such a presence in films, how it is used and what reaction it is meant to elicit.
Were it not for social distancing, St Cuthbert’s would have crowd members packed into the aisles and crammed into the rows for what is a heavenly performance. Ciara Harvie commands a venue of this scale and earns it courtesy of her phenomenal voice, a talent that Cinema Paradiso lets you experience to the full.