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Cambridge Conversations:Twelfth Day

One of the acts which made a lasting impression on the audience on the final day of the Cambridge Folk Festival was the Scottish duo Twelfth Day. Fatea writer Nic Rigby caught up with them to talk Bach, Bjork and ballet.

Twelfth Day is made up of Orcadian fiddler Catriona Price and Peebles harpist Esther Swift - an exciting mix of instruments for a group whose gift for contemporary song made a lasting impression the audience.

The pair told me the group started about 10 years ago when they met at Saint Mary's Music School in Edinburgh where the friendship began, and then later at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
"We were at college together, so we started jamming," said Catriona.
"We realised we had similar musical tastes and we talked about music constantly," Esther added.
"Our mission is to make music that defies genre," said Catriona.

They had been influenced by a wide variety of music with Catriona growing up with the strong folk tradition in Orkney, while Esther was in a number of choirs when she was young singing the classical works of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and English composer Benjamin Britten.
"I grew up in the Scottish borders and was involved in community singing," said Esther.
"We've been listening to everything from Bach to Bjork, all the Bs," said Catriona.

Their new album Cracks in the Room was produced by acclaimed songwriter Chris Wood (who they describe as "just wonderful") and is awash with songs finely crafted by the duo.

There is a great theatricality to their work and their playful rhymes - I'm thinking Kurt Weill and The Threepenny Opera, Belgium songwriter Jacques Brel and English political folk singer Leon Rosselson.
Catriona said: "More and more of our songs are political or driven by our beliefs. We want to push this as much as we can. One of our songs (on the new album) Great Green was inspired by Nina Simone and cuts to the disability allowance.
"In the present day it is very important for artists to think about politics."

Another strident song on the album is title track Cracks, which comes with a wonderfully bizarre video, is "tongue in cheek song about a woman who digs herself into a hole because of social conventions", said Esther.
"We wanted to make it feel a bit hysterical."

The duo are embarking on a small tour of UK towns and cities in September and October and aim to record a new album next summer.
I asked if they had thought of writing for the stage?

"I thought it would be cool to work with a dancer on a piece," said Esther.

Catriona said: "I think it would be great to write a ballet or some type of opera. We've never spoken about this before. We should definitely write a ballet. You heard it here first."

Nic Rigby @nicrigby1 pics Neil King


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