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Kathryn Tickell: Lichfield Review

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
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Beautiful folk sounds fill magnificent Lichfield Cathedral
Instrumental diversity was the order of the day as Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening filled the vast open space of Lichfield Cathedral with beautiful sounds. Kathryn is the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes but, combined with her new band, the range of instruments on show was very impressive throughout this concert which formed part of the annual Lichfield Festival. The Darkening joined forces with Kathryn last year, and the union has resulted in a debut album - Hollowbone - which received a pretty good airing during the two-hour concert on July 10. The five-piece band collectively contributed drums (Joe Truswell), fiddles (Kathryn and Kate Young), accordion (Amy Thatcher), octave mandolin (Kieran Szifris), and bodhran (Cormac Byrne, who also played the spoons), as well as Kathryn's incredible display on the pipes.

Kathryn Tickell
Kathryn Tickell in great form on the pipes. Credit Tony McAnaney


Kathryn, who lives between Hadrian's Wall and the Scottish border, first took up the Northumbrian smallpipes at the age of nine and went on to receive the OBE in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours List in recognition of a career which began with learning tunes from old shepherd friends and culminated in 15 of her own albums to date. Together with The Darkening, they opened with a couple of lively instrumentals, including "Cockle Bridge" from this year's Hollowbone album, and followed it with "Colliers" - an old Durham mining song in Geordie dialect - from the same new release. Kathryn had switched to the fiddle for this tune, and the one that followed, but was back on the pipes for "Holy Island", a couple of tunes, the first really mournful, that were separated by a poem about an 18th century piper called Jamie Allan who died in Durham Jail.

Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening
Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening. Credit Georgia Claire


Other offerings that followed included "Hymn to Nemesis", written during the Romans' occupation of England 2,000 years ago, and "Holywell Pool", also from the new album, which involved Kathryn putting music to a poem written by her father. Following the interval, the three female members of the band combined acapella style at the start of "Land of Three Rivers" to kick the second half off. And there was no sign of the high standard dropping off as Kathryn and the band continued with "Snowy Monday", a jig featuring Amy on accordion and Kathryn on fiddle, and old tune "A New Way to Morpeth". The excellent concert then drew to a close with the likes of "Kieran's Challenge", a set of three tunes named after band member Kieran, and "O-U-T spells Out", a song about children's games which is the opening track on Hollowbone.

Kathryn Tickell
Concert formed part of Lichfield Festival. Credit Tony McAnaney


Rating: 9 out of 10
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Why? Great exponent of Northumbrian pipes leads concert
When: 10 July
Phone: 01543 306150
Where: Lichfield Cathedral, 19A The Close, Lichfield WS13 7LD
Cost: Tickets up to 22 each
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