Kathryn Tickell

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Kathryn Tickell
Tickell 2004.jpg
Background information
Born (1967-06-08) 8 June 1967 (age 53)
Walsall, West Midlands, England
GenresTraditional, folk, Celtic
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instruments Northumbrian smallpipes, fiddle
Years active1986–present
Labels Black Crow, Park, Resilient
Associated acts Sting
Website www.kathryntickell.com

Kathryn Tickell, OBE, DL (born 8 June 1967) is an English musician, noted for her mastery of the Northumbrian smallpipes and fiddle. [1]


Music career

Early life

Kathryn Tickell was born in Walsall, in the West Midlands, to parents who originated from Northumberland and who moved back there with the family when Kathryn was seven. [2] Her paternal grandfather played accordion, fiddle, and organ. Her father, Mike Tickell, [3] sang and her mother played the concertina. Her first instrument was piano when she was six. [4] A year later, she picked up a set of Northumbrian smallpipes brought home by her father, who intended them for someone else. Frustrated by fiddle and piano, she learned that the pipes rewarded her effort. [5] She was inspired by older musicians such as Willy Taylor, Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton, and Billy Pigg. [6]

Performing and recording

At thirteen, she had gained a reputation from performing in festivals and winning pipe contests. [4] [7] When she was seventeen, she released her first album, On Kielder Side (Saydisc, 1984), which she recorded at her parents' house. During the same year, she was named Official Piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, an office that had been vacant for 150 years. [4] [7] She formed the Kathryn Tickell Band, with Karen Tweed on accordion, bass, and guitar, and released the band's first album in 1991 on Black Crow Records. [4] Later, the band comprised Peter Tickell on fiddle, Julian Sutton on melodeon, and Joss Clapp on guitar. [7] In 2001, the Kathryn Tickell Band was the first band to play traditional folk music at the Promenade Concerts in London. [7] [8]

She formed Kathyrn Tickell and the Side, with Ruth Wall on Celtic harp, Louisa Tuck on cello, and Amy Thatcher on accordion. The group plays a combination of folk and classical music. [9]

She recorded with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra when it was led by Simon Jeffes. She met Jeffes while she was in her teens, and he wrote the song "Organum" for her. After Jeffes's death, she played with the Orchestra again over a decade later when it was run by his son, Arthur. [5]

Tickell has also recorded with The Chieftains, The Boys of the Lough, Jimmy Nail, Linda Thompson, Alan Parsons, and Andy Sheppard. [8] She has performed live with Sting, who is also from Newcastle upon Tyne, and has recorded with him on his albums The Soul Cages (1991), Ten Summoner's Tales (1993), Mercury Falling (1996), Brand New Day , (1999), If on a Winter's Night (2009), and The Last Ship (2013).

Two ex-members of the North East England traditional music group the High Level Ranters have appeared on her albums: Tom Gilfellon on On Kielder Side and Alistair Anderson on Borderlands (1986). The latter album included to a tribute to the Wark football team. Several other pipers have appeared on her albums: Troy Donockley on Debatable Lands, Patrick Molard on The Gathering and Martyn Bennett on Borderlands. Debatable Lands included "Our Kate", a composition by Kathryn Tickell dedicated to Catherine Cookson.

In 2011, she took part in the Sunderland A.F.C. charity Foundation of Light event. [10]

In 2018 Tickell established a new band, Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening, with whom she released the album Hollowbone in 2019. This project signals a different approach, with new material. There is a semi-imaginary incursion into the prehistory of Northumbrian music in the track "Nemesis" based on Roman-era texts and a melody by Emperor Hadrian’s court musician Mesomedes. There is a foray into a world of ancestral shamanism in "O-u-t Spells Out". The album was greeted with critical acclaim, with four-star reviews in The Observer and the Financial Times, as were the band’s various national tours in its first two years of existence.[ citation needed ]

Other projects

In 1987, the early part of her career was chronicled in The Long Tradition, a TV documentary. Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria, another documentary, appeared in 2006. In 1997, Tickell founded the Young Musicians Fund of the Tyne and Wear Foundation to provide money to young people in northeastern England who wanted to learn music. She founded the Festival of the North East and from 2009–2013 was the artistic director of Folkworks. [6]

Awards and honors


Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn Tickell & Corrina Hewat

Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical

Kathryn Tickell & Friends

Kathryn Tickell & Peter Tickell

Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening

Kathryn Tickell & the Side

The Kathryn Tickell Band

With Sting

With others

Related Research Articles

Northumbrian smallpipes

The Northumbrian smallpipes are bellows-blown bagpipes from North East England, where they have been an important factor in the local musical culture for more than 200 years. The family of the Duke of Northumberland have had an official piper for over 250 years, and in more recent times the Mayor of Gateshead and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle have both re-established the tradition by appointing official Northumbrian pipers.

Kielder Water

Kielder Water is a large man-made reservoir in Northumberland in North East England. It is the largest artificial lake in the United Kingdom by capacity of water and it is surrounded by Kielder Forest, one of the biggest man-made woodlands in Europe. The scheme was planned in the late 1960s to satisfy an expected rise in demand for water to support a booming UK industrial economy.

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra (PCO) was an avant-pop band led by English guitarist Simon Jeffes. Co-founded with cellist Helen Liebmann, it toured extensively during the 1980s and 1990s. The band's sound is not easily categorized, having elements of exuberant folk music and a minimalist aesthetic occasionally reminiscent of composers such as Philip Glass.

The Boys of the Lough is a Scottish-Irish Celtic music band active since the 1970s.

Here Northumbria is defined as Northumberland, the northernmost county of England, and County Durham. According to 'World Music: The Rough Guide', "nowhere is the English living tradition more in evidence than the border lands of Northumbria, the one part of England to rival the counties of the west of Ireland for a rich unbroken tradition. The region is particularly noted for its tradition of border ballads, the Northumbrian smallpipe and also a strong fiddle tradition in the region that was already well established in the 1690s. Northumbrian music is characterised by considerable influence from other regions, particularly southern Scotland and other parts of the north of England, as well as Irish immigrants.

Folkestra, formerly known as FolkESTRA North is The Sage Gateshead’s youth folk ensemble, formed in 2001. It is led by their Musical Director Ian Stevenson, a multi-instrumentalist playing folk and traditional music from Northumbria and Scandinavia. The former Musical Director was Kathryn Tickell, one of England's premiere folk musicians.

<i>Acoustic Live in Newcastle</i> 1991 live album by Sting

Acoustic Live in Newcastle is the second live album released by Sting. It was recorded and released shortly after the studio album The Soul Cages, at the Buddle Arts Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, on 20 April 1991. The album includes four tracks from The Soul Cages, as well as a cover of the Bill Withers song "Ain't No Sunshine".

Rod Clements

Roderick Parry Clements is a British guitarist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He formed the folk-rock band Lindisfarne with Alan Hull in 1970, and wrote "Meet Me on the Corner", a UK Top 5 hit in March 1972, which won Clements an Ivor Novello Award. Lindisfarne broke up in 1973 and Clements became a founding member of Jack the Lad, also working with Ralph McTell and Bert Jansch. Lindisfarne reformed in 1977 and Clements continued to be part of the line-up until 2003. Rod rejoined Lindisfarne in 2015 and is currently touring and performing with the band.

Will Atkinson was a noted traditional musician from northern Northumberland. He started off as a player of the English diatonic accordion, but was best known as a harmonica or moothie player. His playing was distinguished by a very clear sense of rhythm, with a definite lilt. He was a major figure in Northumbrian music. He was also the composer of several tunes that have entered the tradition and are played at gatherings and sessions.

Katie Doherty, born 1983, is a singer-songwriter based in the North East of England. In 2007 she won the Journal Culture Award for Newcomer of the Year.

Catriona MacDonald is a musician and teacher from Shetland and is considered to be one of the world's leading traditional fiddle players.

Jack Armstrong was an authoritative and influential performer on the Northumbrian smallpipes.

Geoff Heslop is an English record producer and musician

Colin Ross was an English folk musician who played fiddle and Northumbrian smallpipes. He was a noted maker of Northumbrian smallpipes, border pipes and Scottish smallpipes, and one of the inventors of the modern Scottish smallpipes.

From 1770-2 a man called William Vickers made a manuscript collection of dance tunes, of which some 580 survive, including both pipe and fiddle tunes. The manuscript is incomplete - 31 pages have not survived, though their contents are listed at the beginning of the book. In the mid-19th century, it belonged to the pipemaker John Baty, of Wark, Northumberland, and it now belongs to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is kept in the Northumberland County Record Office at Woodhorn, Ashington.

Joe Hutton (1923–1995) was born in Halton Lea Gate, near Haltwhistle in the west of Northumberland. Like his father, Jake, he was a shepherd, and a musician - he started on the fiddle, but took up the Northumbrian smallpipes after hearing P.J. Liddell and G.G. Armstrong playing at a concert in 1936. He started on a James Reid set from Halton Lea Gate, refurbished by G.G. Armstrong, a noted piper from Hexham, and he took lessons in the instrument from Armstrong. He made rapid progress, and won a competition as a novice, the following year. Armstrong made him a new set of pipes in January 1938, and Joe was photographed, standing at the left, with other competitors at the Bellingham Show piping competition in 1938. He continued to play the fiddle at dances during the war years, but he continued piping, upgrading to a 17-keyed chanter, again by Armstrong, in 1943. In 1950 he began piping in competitions again, winning all the Open competitions for two years. He was very isolated living out on the border with Cumberland, and to play with Tommy Breckons, a noted piper from Bellingham, he recalled "it meant walking 8 miles to Gilsland, bus to Hexham, another bus to Bellingham....Man, it was a day's work getting there". On another such piping trip, to Carrawbrough on the Roman Wall, he met his future wife, Hannah, whose brother John was also a piper.

The High Level Ranters are a Northumbian traditional musical group founded in 1964, best known for being one of the first bands in the revival of the Northumbrian smallpipes.

Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell were a contemporary English folk duo. Although they played some traditional songs, most of the songs they sang were their own compositions influenced by the folk tradition, but also songs by other artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Cole Porter, Brian Wilson and The Beatles.

Archie Dagg was a shepherd and traditional fiddler, piper and composer from central Northumberland. He was born at Linbriggs, in Upper Coquetdale, and except for his time in the Army at the end of the First World War, lived all his life in that region. In the late 1930s, he was a member of the English Sheepdog Trials Team; when competing with them in Scotland, he would play Scottish tunes on the Northumbrian smallpipes, and found he would get a steady supply of free drams.

George Hepple (1904–1997) was an influential traditional Northumbrian fiddler. He was born at Sook Hill Farm, Haltwhistle, West Northumberland. He went to a nearby school in Melkridge. He began his working life as an apprentice blacksmith at Cawfield's Quarry at the age of fourteen, before moving to Ventners Hall Colliery where he remained until its closure in the 1950s. He then worked at Bardon Mill Colliery. He later worked in a plastics factory in Plenmellor, South of Haltwistle, until his retirement. In the last years of his life, he lived with his wife Edna in sheltered housing in Haltwhistle. At this time, he also had a pacemaker implanted and when the doctor said he should return to have the battery replaced, in 10 years, he replied "I don't need to worry about that then!".


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