Kathryn Tickell, virtuoso of the Northumbrian pipes and a pretty mean fiddler, has brought together a folk-classical ensemble "The Side", comprising Louisa Tuck (cello), Ruth Wall (harp) and Amy Thatcher (accordion, clog dancing). Rooted in traditional folk music but with new writing by Tickell, Thatcher, and Wall this is a quartet presenting contemporary music building on their musical heritage.
All four have strong pedigrees in their own right and this is an ensemble, not simply a band brought together to support Tickell, although she is arguably the most well-known. Tickell recorded her first album back in 1984 and is a performer of international renown, 2013 winner of "Musician of the Year" in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and a composer and curator of music - so it was no wonder that the North Wall performance of this new band was sold out. We were a very appreciative, if quiet audience, although there was some foot stamping on the livelier numbers such as the Tulloch Gorn reel and Lads of Alnwick – both traditional tunes.
The show was a lovely mixture of old and new and Tickell is a charming raconteur, telling funny and poignant stories of her life and the history of the pipes and their music. At times the running order felt better suited to a room above a pub with beer on tap and the opportunity to jig about to Molly on the Shore, but other pieces were much more contemplative and demanded attention, evoking as they did the wildness of Northumbria (Yeavering), sheep grass and a bicycle ride (Wall’s Peninsula Run), the history of working the land, lost traditions and new beginnings (Music for a new crossing). Amy Thatcher’s clog dancing was a joy, those sturdy lace-up shoes with wooden soles created a percussive accompaniment to the fiddle and the pipes.
The Side is a famous street in Newcastle and so the band has taken it for their name. But it also hints of being a side, a team, and all in this together. These are four very talented musicians who have come together to forge a whole; they are also four women and there is certainly a celebration of that in their playing. They finished with a new reel that Tickell had written for them, as yet without a title but it will get one on the way.
There are three more gigs in over the coming days in Blackheath, Manchester and Berwick and maybe a CD in 2014. For more details go online to http://www.kathryntickell.com
Kathryn Tickell and The Side were promoted by Oxford Contemporary Music as part of the autumn programme http://www.ocmevents.org