Kathryn Tickell is the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes, a composer, performer and successful recording artist whose work is deeply rooted in the landscape and people of Northumbria. Landscape, weather and the stories of the people that lived and worked in rural Northumberland were part of her childhood. Kathryn’s personal evocation of this is heard through the traditional tunes and songs that she brings to audiences all over the world. She has released 15 of her own albums to date and has also recorded and performed with Sting, The Chieftains, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Andy Sheppard and many others.
Kathryn received funding earlier this year through our Individuals scheme for her new ensemble – Kathryn Tickell & The Side. She told us:
“Two of us are from a folk music background and two are classically trained players and I’m really excited by the music that we are creating together. Both sides of the quartet are being challenged to explore new ways of working and we are all loving it!
Our current repertoire includes pieces by Purcell and Percy Grainger as well as traditional Northumbrian folk tunes and new compositions by myself. It is early days for this band though, and we are looking forward to expanding and exploring that area between the classical and folk traditions. The funding we have received from PRSF has enabled us to commission three composers (one folk, one classical and one jazz!) to write short pieces for us. Very exciting! Thank you!!”
What other music has been exciting Kathryn recently?
Song for Everyone – L Shankar with Jan Garbarek, Trilok Gurtu and Zakir Hussain
This album completely blew me away when I first heard it. I was 18, on my first tour outside the UK, in a seedy bar somewhere in Italy and this came over the speakers – I’d never heard anything like it.
Stokowski Conducts Percy Grainger Favourites – Shepherd’s Hey
Oh I love this! Which is strange – because it’s not a folk tune that I ever particularly liked …it always seemed so foursquare and kind of…’rumpty-tumpty’. However, in the hands of Percy Grainger it is transformed into something so brash, exuberant and outrageous that it just makes me want to cheer every time I hear it.
I Scare Myself – Dan Hicks & his Hot Licks
This has been a favourite of mine for about 20 years – it has the best fiddle solo ever (probably).
Sting ‘The Last Ship’ (Cherrytree/A&M Records)
It has been a privilege to be involved in this project and to watch the songs come into being, evolve, be recorded and, eventually, performed. This is a collection of new material based in and around the shipyards of Wallsend. These are songs about people and communities that I know and they are full of meaning for me. There are so many that I could pick out; So to Speak (with beautifully haunting additional vocals by Becky Unthank) Language of Birds, Dead Man’s Boots, Practical Arrangement etc. etc. It has been particularly inspiring to see how a change of focus has enabled Sting to smash through his writers block with an avalanche of new songs.
Corn Fiddler/Coquet Sight, Kathryn Tickell ‘The Best Of…’ (PRKCD107)
It’s not very cool to choose one of your own tracks, but this one doesn’t really focus on me – it’s all about the words and the voice of Northumbrian dialect poet Alan Wood who used to live just up the road from me. His accent is just superb, and I love the musicality of it. I got him to record the poem and then I multitracked myself playing along with it in my living room – starting off with just a drone and building up from there. Each track was improvised and done in one take, whilst looking out of the window at the beautiful Northumbrian countryide. A corn fiddle is an old agricultural implement for sowing corn or seed. My grandparents used to use one.