Kathryn Tickell. Northumbrian Voices at the Apex

The voices were a collection of songs, chats and recordings collected by Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell, right back from her teenage years. When Tickell decided to transcribe the archive, which included the sound of long past afternoons with her grandfather’s late friend and farming neighbours who are still alive who taught her how to be a musician, she knew she wanted to share the stories in some form or other.

What emerged was the tale of a remote community, the changes that take place in a generation, of the loss of sheep hefted to the hills, pub and village hall culture, local football, the saga of Kielder Water and most of all – the musical traditions of reels, hornpipes and songs.

The sounds on the battered old cassettes were not high quality. Kathryn picked four wonderful musicians two other fiddlers, a box player and guitarist, and took to the road to bring the stories of Northumbria across Britain, the words as interludes for the music. Picking her dad to narrate the words of the old shepherd musicians and other friends is inspired. This exponent of the Border Ballad, Mike Tickell, is a charismatic speaker and has been described as the Richard Burton of the north east.

We heard about learning to play, hill farming, quad bikes, dances and childhood musical influences. When we got to the latter, Hannah Rickard sung a fantastically gutsy country number ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’.

We all joined in a couple of traditional local songs too. By the end of the show we felt welcomed into a real community where we had met the characters and heard beautiful music.

By heck, they were nice folk.

Review by Catherine Turnbull