03.13.06 Sting is featured in a new documentary about the music of Kathryn Tickell - broadcasts in the UK on March 14...


Kathryn Tickell has performed on a number of Sting tracks and on stage with Sting on several occasions. The sound of her Northumbrian Pipes on 1991's 'The Soul Cages' album helped give that album an eerie and ethereal flavour and she also contributed to two tracks on 1996's 'Mercury Falling' album. As part of the Fivearts Cities series, influential folk musician Kathryn Tickell examines the influences on her music as she travels through her native Northumberland, contrasting the incredible scenery with the grit and urban edge of Newcastle and Gateshead. Fellow musician and collaborator Sting gives an insight to the influences of the area on the pairs music - a music that is now influencing a new generation.

The following interview by Ian Robson appeared in The Sunday Sun newspaper.

In tune with her history...

Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell talks about her music and the people and places which influence it in a new documentary.

Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria, on five, sees the musician travelling around the region commenting on her history and heritage. And she reveals how she took up the instrument at the age of nine because her dad told her not to play a set of pipes he had bought for a friend.

She said: "They were a pure accident. It's a fantastic instrument for a child to make the most ridiculous awful noises on and I was squeaking and squarking and having a great time. Dad came in and told me to stick to the piano. I'm afraid there is no beautiful story about how wonderful they are. They were there, I was told not to play them, so I did."

Throughout the programme Kathryn talks about her sense of identity and how it is rooted to the countryside.

She said: "Although Northumberland is in England I don't see what I am playing as English music. I see it as Northumbrian music. There's a real sense of history about this area and the Borders. I am more aware of it because of playing this sort of music. If you drive through the Borders every village you go through, every signpost, is the name of a tune or is something mentioned in a song my dad or my grandad used to tell me about."

Film makers accompany Kathryn to Rothbury Middle School where she regularly teaches the pipes to pupils as part of a scheme to pass traditional music to youngsters.

She said: "We learn lots of tunes from Northumberland, and particularly from Rothbury or this valley. I love the fact I'm teaching tunes that might have been written by someone they know or their grandparents might know. The people who influenced me were a piper called Joe Hutton, a mouth organist called Will Atkinson, a fiddle player called Vic Moscrop and another fiddle player called Willie Taylor. They were people I saw a lot of in childhood and some of them had family connections. They were great characters, they were my friends. I felt very much like they were my pals and we played tunes together."

Kathryn is an acknowledged virtuoso on the Northumbrian pipes and fiddle with a 20-year background on the folk circuit.

She has recorded as a solo artist, with a group or backing band, and famously contributed to several tracks on Sting's album 'The Soul Cages'. The programme talks to the former Police frontman about his admiration for Kathryn and the music she plays.

And, rather than being rooted in the past, Kathryn is always looking for ways to expand her considerable knowledge. She was recently asked to write a tune to celebrate Norway's centenary on the local Hardanger fiddle. The instrument's unusual set-up of four main and four underlying strings give it a sound with similarities to the Northumbrian Pipes and she thrived on the challenge.

'Kathryn Tickell's Northumbria' will be broadcast on Channel Five in the UK, at 7.15pm, Tuesday March 14.
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