Mike: 30.7.11

Most men would be delighted to receive “a rather strange” request from Kathryn Tickell and so it proved, when Kathryn contact me in early February of this year, to discuss an idea she had in mind.

She explained that it would involve the music of Percy Grainger….the Wilson Family singing a Traditional Shanty of our choice…. and, what she thought might be the sticking point, singing a section from “What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor” accompanied by an Orchestra…this she hoped would not be perceived as … “too poncey” by the Brothers!

The Wilson Family

So, with a clear remit from KT, I set off for our weekly Wilson Family rehearsal session, which we have, 7.30pm each Thursday evening, prior to our Folk Club kicking off at The Wellington Inn, Wolviston Village, our musical home of many years.

Our get-togethers, generally consisting of a review of the diaries, a run through a couple of songs, in development, and of course, a couple of pints of Draught Bass to focus the vocal chords.

When we reached Any Other Business, I mentioned that Kathryn had been in touch, as outlined above, my eldest brother Tom, immediately pointed out the potential “poncey-ness” of the whole Project, as foretold by the astute K Tickell. However, she had left me with an ace up my sleeve, which I now brought into play. The concert would be at the Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms 2011…..”Oh” says Tom….”we’ll have some of that”! And so the adventure began.

Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn the catalyst, had done her work, the concept was hers and was now up and running: The music of Percy Grainger, interspersed with Traditional music, providing the multi coloured musical backdrop of Grainger’s wonderful world. We were signed up, as was KT’s Band, June Tabor, the Northern Sinfonia and the BBC Singers, illustrious company indeed! For Kathryn, that was job done, she’d laid the foundations and now the big wheels of the BBC and the Sage Gateshead, would carry the Project along.

The Contract arrived from the Beeb, they are very good with Contracts!

We then met a most wonderful man, Alan Fearon, a self confessed “Grainger Fanatic”. KT felt that we should meet him, ahead of starting to fathom out, where we could fit into the music planned for Prom 25. Arriving at the Sage on the afternoon of Monday 6th June, Alan introduced himself and took us to a rehearsal room, where, with the aid of an Upright Piano, introduced us to the delights of Grainger’s “Strathspey and Reel”.

He gave us some ideas, on where we may be able to contribute to this wonderful mayhem of music and, back we headed to Teesside to start the “job”.

A couple of weeks later, Alan was at our Wellington home, listening to what we had come up with. He listened approvingly and then suggested some really awkward amendments! And then left us with those immortal words,” you’ll be fine,.. It’s only the Royal Albert Hall!”

During the 90 minute Percy Grainger Concert, Prom 25, planned for the night of August 2nd , we will contribute one unaccompanied song, “Round The Bay Of Mexico” and a number of lines within the final musical piece, the “Strathspey and Reel”. Around 10 minutes of singing in total, within a 90 minute concert. However, it has managed to generate so much excitement within the Family; I understand we’ve had to book a complete train carriage for the journey South! I’ve been contacted by nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and family pets, not remotely interested in our musical exploits until just very recently, all with the word “Complimentary” on their lips!

When the night is over (it’s likely to be early morning) I will probably have thanked Kathryn several times, or  cursed her depending on how it goes and exclaimed a number of times that “I wished Mam and Dad were here”.

Next day is Wednesday, 3rd August 2011 and only two days left on the clock to the launch of our second Duo Album: “The Old Songs” at Sidmouth Festival.

This is a collection of songs I am immensely proud of and am looking forward to performing with Damien, over the coming months and years. Therefore, once I’ve waved goodbye to Carriage number Ten heading North, on the morning of the 3rd August, it will be back in the car, final mixes of “The Old Songs” in the CD player and a new adventure, on the drive from London to Sidmouth.

I’ll let you know how both these great adventures turn out!

Until next time.


BBC Proms Website