Kathryn Tickell
Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn Tickell

About Kathryn Tickell

Not many people could make an instrument as localized as the Northumbrian small pipes interesting, but that's exactly what Kathryn Tickell (who's also an accomplished fiddler) has managed to do, as evidenced by the global sales of her finest albums, including 1997's The Gathering, 2002's Back to the Hills, and 2012's Northumbrian Voices. Along the way, in addition to many records under her own name, she's recorded with Sting, Jon Lord, and the Chieftains. Her achievements succeeded in seeing her instrument's profile elevated on the international stage.
Born in 1970 in Northumberland, her family was immersed in local traditional music and it was only natural that she'd become a part of it, taking up the small pipes when she was nine and winning every pipe competition by the time she was 13, in addition to making a name for herself on the fiddle. In 1984, she released her first album, On Kielderside, and was also named official piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and by the time she was 16, she'd become a professional musician, putting out her second release, Borderlands (which included original as well as traditional work), and touring Europe. The following year, she became the subject of a U.K. documentary, but rather than rest on her laurels, she pressed ahead with the album Common Ground. By 1990, she'd formed the Kathryn Tickell Band. In addition to more recording, she composed for local theater, hosted shows on BBC radio, and recorded with the Penguin Café Orchestra, Sting (another Geordie), and the Chieftains -- quite an accomplishment for someone barely out of her teens. The Gathering, her sixth album, was released in 1997 and garnered worldwide acclaim. But again, her head wasn't turned. Instead of using it as a stepping stone to greater fame, she instead issued The Northumberland Collection, which brought in many local musicians, and also began teaching in local schools prior to coming out with Debateable Lands, an album of music from the English-Scottish border, in 1999. 2000 brought a new venture, Ensemble Mystical, which crossed plenty of musical boundaries and resulted in the album Ensemble Mystical. That led to a live collaboration with saxophonist Andy Sheppard on Music for a New Crossing in 2004. The following year saw the Kathryn Tickell Band perform at the prestigious Promenade Concerts in London, the first time a traditional folk band had been invited there, and Tickell also took up a part-time position as a lecturer in folk and traditional music at Newcastle University prior to releasing five albums over the next three years including The Sky Didn't Fall and Strange But True (2006), Instrumental (2007), Durham Concerto (2008, with Deep Purple's Jon Lord), and What We Do (2008, with Peter Tickell). In 2009 she resumed her working relationship with Sting on his If on a Winter's Night.

That same year she was presented with The Queen's Medal for Music, awarded to those who have made outstanding contributions to British music. Tickell spent the next couple of years working on commissions including, a substantial contribution to Alex Wilson's "Compass Suite" for the first Summer Solstice festival at Canary Wharf in June. She also composed a pipes and piano work for Joanna MacGregor. This led to a further commission in 2011: to compose new work and curate a program for Bath International Festival with MacGregor. Later that year, Tickell went on to curate, present, and perform in a BBC Proms Percy Grainger night and developed her music theater show Northumbrian Voices. Following a U.K. tour, she entered the studio and issued the now-classic double-length offering, Northumbrian Voices in 2012.
Tickell formed a new touring ensemble afterward dubbed Kathryn Tickell & the Side with cellist Louisa Tuck, harpist Ruth Wall, accordionist Amy Thatcher, and herself on Northumbrian pipes and fiddle and took them into the studio to cut a self-titled 2013 album. It included their versions of classical works by Henry Purcell and Percy Grainger in addition to traditional and self-penned tunes. This band took to the road for over two years. When Tickell returned to the studio, she enlisted a group of friends as collaborators; these included her father Mike Tickell, Bob Fox, the Unthanks, Superfolkus, and Hannah Rickard. Entitled Water of Tyne, its 13 tracks were thematically based around the River Tyne with the music ranging from faithful interpretations of classic folk songs such as "The Water of Tyne" to jazz-inflected tunes such as "Song for a River at Night." Interestingly, Tickell's insatiable appetite for reinvention and innovation led to the creation of Kathryn Tickell & the Darkening, which included Thatcher on accordion and synth, fiddler and charango player Kate Young, percussionist Cormac Byrne, Kieran Szifris on octave mandolin, and drummer Joe Truswell. They recorded Hollowbone, an electrified collection of songs ranging in production from 21st century post-punk and garage-folk to revisioned traditional material. Embracing a global perspective, Hollowbone brought some of the oldest Northumbrian tunes (including one by the Emperor Hadrian's favorite musician) with new material and bound it all together with contemporary resonance. Hollowbone was issued in March of 2019. ~ Chris Nickson

    Wark, North Tyne Valley, Northumb
  • BORN
    June 8, 1967