Kathryn Tickell & Amy Thatcher – 24th March 2022

Concert Review by Toby Wood

Crikey! It’s exactly five years and one day since Kathryn and Amy performed at Baston so their welcome return seems like some sort of Wood anniversary. Get it? Now that the Covid-19 situation is hopefully easing, Kathryn and Amy are back on the road, gradually heading south, tonight in Lincolnshire, tomorrow Guildford and then darting down to Dartington in Devon.

Kathryn is THE foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes. In short, nobody does it better. Amy is what the Guardian describes as the ‘accordion star’ and the paper also describes a live performance as “a sophisticated, unexpectedly emotional set.”

Tonight’s two sets are interesting and varied – some old tunes, some new, even some not yet tried out before a live audience until tonight. Kathryn and Amy are expert at connecting with an audience and serving up a balanced diet of everything from toe-tappers to lilting waltzes. From the moment the concert begins we are firmly rooted in Northumberland and the north-east, the openers setting the mood being Between the Piers and Millennium Bridge.

As the set progresses it’s evident that Kathryn and Amy work increasingly well as a duo. Five years on their partnership appears to have matured. Amy is no longer the junior member but an equal. And, as with five years ago, Amy puts on her best Dolcis clog shoes in both sets – last time she was at Baston she was heavily pregnant and the yet-to-be-born bairn was kept wide awake by her public jigging. Presumably this time the little ‘un was tucked up in bed at home, oblivious to Mum’s stage thumping.

I was particularly taken with one of their latest projects, investigating, collecting and showcasing women composers and musicians. As Kathryn pointed out, nearly all of her repertoire has hitherto been composed by men. Recently she has accumulated a thousand pieces by women and tonight they performed some, including by Heather Woodbridge (Lurand) and Martha Wooding.

Kathryn and Amy’s musicianship is exemplary. They are dancers, not in the Strictly way – no, it’s not their feet that move (apart from Amy’s dancing), it’s their fingers, Watching both perform in our tight, intimate Baston space it is easy to become mesmerised by their lightning-fingered skill and dexterity. We are so fortunate to see such skill up close.

The evening included tunes with titles worthy of obscure craft beers – Too Cute To Correct, Emergency of the Female Kind and The Wild Hills of Wannie. They even played a Ukrainian tune, not only as a timely nod to the dreadful situation in that country, but also as acknowledgment of that universal sense of place. Walksburn Waltz, Shepherd’s Hey, The Rothbury Hills and many others followed, a particular favourite of mine being Kathryn’s recitation and interpretation of Jackie Kay’s poem Margaret’s Moon. In fact, so much varied material was packed into the two sets.

At Baston we are regularly treated to musicians and singers of the highest calibre. Tonight was no exception. Kathryn and Amy, our friends in/from the north, would be welcome back tomorrow, let alone another five years and one day’s time – 25th March 2027. As Kathryn herself noted, it was great to be back in front of live audiences, something that she and Amy do not take for granted. The feeling and sentiment is mutual!

One last thought – if there were to be a queen of the north-east, a modern musical Boudicca, it would surely be Queen Kathryn Tickell of Tectoverdi. Now there’s a thought!