The county of Northumberland is only a few miles from my house. It is extremely beautiful and I enjoy regular trips there to experience the sense of space and serenity that its sparse population and ruggedly magnificent countryside gives rise to. It has a rich history and vibrant cultural tradition including many types of folk music.
A good friend, and fine musician, Jim Hornsby, let us stay in his holiday home in the village of Alwinton in the summer of 2012. Long walks and bike rides were the order of the day with plenty of time for unwinding, relaxing and reflecting – the perfect’getting away from it all’ experience.That was where the idea for this piece first appeared.
In my late teens the only Northumbrian folk music I remember listening to was an album called ‘On Kielder Side’ by Kathryn Tickell which I borrowed on cassette from the local library and would listen to on my Sony walkman. Although I never knew her, Kathryn was about two years ahead of me at the same school in Gosforth and when I think about it now, I suppose her success at an early age may well have sown the seed that it may be possible to earn a living as a musician, even if I never remotely considered that prospect at the time. Sometimes you need role models in your community to help you to see what is possible.
The music of Northumberland betrays a lot of Celtic influences. Some use of the five notes that make up the pentatonic scale, relatively simple harmonies and the triple time signature contribute a lilting cascading feel to this piece which has its roots in Northumberland. Sometimes it feels like the music of the local area gets into your bones without you even being aware of it.