Thursday, May 01, 2008


at the Civic Theatre


This two-hour, no-nonsense set was packed with good tunes played with affection and enthusiasm.

It was a friendly, family affair. Joining Kathryn on stage was her young brother Peter, composer and fiddle-player, and her father's influence was often mentioned. The first of a sequence of waltzes, for instance, was written by the pair of them for the old man's birthday, and it was her dad who persuaded her to write Our Kate, for the millionaire writer and philanthropist Catherine Cookson. It was a plaintive piece, gentle and strong.

Peter Man was written for her brother – a hard, fast duet for fiddles. Another enjoyable fiddle sequence started with Ossian's St Kilda Wedding, and included Snowy Monday and Rocket Dog, Kathryn's tribute to her energetic Fluffy.

Tricky, rhythmic reels, a number for the New Crossing [Gateshead's Millennium Bridge], and, by request, Rothbury Hills, with the Northumbrian pipes accompanied by Julian Sutton's melodeon.

There were a couple of numbers from “Instrumental”, her 2007 album, but we had to wait till the encore to hear any vocals – a County Durham miners' song, with Kathryn joined by guitarist Joss Clapp.

A happy, upbeat gig, but, to my taste, too brashly loud. Not for the first time I am wondering at what point it is felt that four traditional acoustic instruments need stadium amplification, monitors and stacks of reverb. This is music born in rooms behind pubs, after all. Is it because the punters want the sound from the CD ? Or because balance is thought more important than immediacy ?

It's not just folk - I've had the same misgivings listening to Indian classical in the Cramphorn.

What next - the Maggini wired up like Bond ?

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