We continue with our series of guest posts from The Shee who over the coming weeks will introduce us to their nominated collaborators for their tenth anniversary Continuum project. This week, it’s the turn of Shona Mooney who chose composer, Northumbrian Smallpipes and fiddle player Kathryn Tickell.
Shona Mooney Talks About Kathryn Tickell
I’m Shona Mooney from the Scottish Borders and I play the fiddle in The Shee. I was born into a musical family steeped in the traditions of the Borders and Northumberland.
I have chosen Kathryn Tickell to create a new piece of music for The Shee. Besides being the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian smallpipes today, Kathryn is also a fine singer, fiddle player and composer. She has been one of the biggest influences on my fiddle playing, having listened to her wonderful recordings at home, in the car on my way to school and hearing her play at local festivals. Her melodies are imbued with a sense of tradition that has been passed down through many generations and what I find interesting about her as a musician is that she plays within what she regards ‘a living tradition’. One of the most important things I remember learning from Kathryn whilst at Newcastle University is that a musician should ‘do what moves you’. Her tunes are both evocative of the landscape around her and deeply connected to the community she has grown up within. I’m very pleased Kathryn will be creating a new piece for The Shee’s tenth anniversary.
Kathryn also says that ‘to get out of your comfort zone is scary but important.’
As we push ourselves out of our comfort zones challenges become easier and in fact our ‘comfort zones’ expand. Scary, but rewarding! My hope is that Kathryn will write us a challenging piece of music that will push us out of our normal musical habits. It’s so easy to become comfortable with what you know how to do and although it may seem frightening to try something your aren’t accustomed to, I firmly believe that the challenge will show us what we can achieve. Kathryn’s own tunes are exploratory and very wild at times, so I’m sure she will develop a piece that will be technical, thought-provoking yet beautiful to perform.
‘Hareshaw Burn’ is one of my favourite compositions by Kathryn Tickell, which can be found on Instrumental, released in 2007. It is a beautiful descriptive piece that evokes the burn flowing near Bellingham in Northumberland. She uses two different time signatures to paint this picture of the water and its movement through the landscape. Starting in the 6/8 time signature (a jig), a sudden short 4/4 time signature interjection comes from the accompaniment section and then she returns to the 6/8 tune to indicate the changing direction of the water as it winds its way through the environment. Smooth melodeon and fiddle chords create a sense of calm and, at this point, I almost see the water sparkling.
Then suddenly I can hear water rushing over stones and splashing violently as we hear another rhythmical change. This time the tune becomes a reel (a dance tune in 4/4 time signature). Kathryn creates a rich dense texture by harmonising the tune and I imagine the water frothing and bubbling around the stones. Her pipes have a sonic quality reminiscent of water droplets. She switches back into the 6/8 time signature but this time it’s even more rhythmically heavy with guitar strumming syncopations and I start to hear the waterfall in the distance. I find it quite incredible the pictures we can create in our minds from listening to musical sounds and textures!
I love playing in The Shee for many reasons: we are all great friends and playing music together allows us the chance to travel to perform in some amazing places; having a large group of different instruments allows for plenty of experimentation with harmony, texture and arrangements of traditional music and new compositions; and I particularly enjoy our combination of instruments, voices and dancing which allows at times for the fiddles to be lead instruments, but they can also swap roles to support the songs by holding long notes or creating rhythmical drive for another instrument to play over the top.
Since 2006, when The Shee was formed in Newcastle, our musical partnership has produced three albums and has toured extensively in UK, Europe and even over to Canada. The strangest place I’ve ever played with The Shee has to be on our way home from Italy on a Ryan Air flight. The flight attendants even amplified us over the speakers so that the whole plane could hear the music. It’s definitely the highest place I’ve ever played my fiddle!
I’m very pleased with our accomplishments over these past 10 years and I’m very much looking forward to working on our new project where we will be treading into new territory with six new pieces of music by some of the most respected, accomplished folk and traditional musicians on the music scene today.
For more information about the Celtic Connections Continuum launch event, where these original compositions will be performed by The Shee for the very first time, and to book tickets, please click here.
Photo Credit (main image) Louise Bichan