Tradition Now: The Unthanks & Louise Mulcahy
The Unthanks return to live touring after two years off the road, showcasing forthcoming new album, Sorrows Away, alongside favourites such as Magpie, The King Of Rome and Mount The Air. Since the release of BBC Folk Album of the Year, Mount The Air in 2015, The Unthanks have both scaled up to symphonic levels with Charles Hazelwood and the BBC Proms, and stripped down to the unaccompanied singing they grew up with, for Diversions Vol 5. They’ve written six scarecrow soundtracks for Mackenzie Crook’s beautiful adaptation of Worzel Gummidge, while finding time to interpret the work of female writers including Emily Bronte, Molly Drake and Maxine Peake.
But projects and diversions aside, Sorrows Away is the long-anticipated follow-up to Mount The Air, and as the title suggests, promises to be a blues-buster and a step into the light for a band known more for melancholy and well, sorrow!
At the nucleus of a constantly evolving unit is the traditional upbringing of Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank and the arrangements and writing of composer, pianist, producer and Yorkshireman, Adrian McNally. Descriptions of The Unthanks range variously from “music that asks you to consider everything you know and un-think it”, to “a take on tradition that flips so effortlessly between jazz, classical, ambient and post-rock, it makes any attempt to put a label on them a waste of time”.
Using the traditional music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits can be heard in the band’s 14 records to date, earning them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and international acclaim along the way.
Folk music can commonly and affectionately be defined as low culture, but The Unthanks aspire to prove that the beauty and truth of people, is anything but common. Their approach to storytelling makes easy bedfellows of tradition and adventure, direct social commentary and sophisticated harmony, heart-breaking empathy, and glacial minimalism.
As recipient of the 2022 Liam O’ Flynn Award, renowned uilleann piper and flute player Louise Mulcahy opens this concert with an exciting collaboration from the uilleann piping, harping, and singing traditions of Ireland. In 2017 and 2019 the uilleann pipes & harp were inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, a touchstone of instrumental sonorities dating back centuries. Louise explores their unique sonic possibilities together with Ireland’s leading exponents of the harping and singing tradition. Louise will be joined by wire-strung harper Paul Dooley, neo-Irish harper, and multi-instrumentalist Michelle Mulcahy.
This special project takes inspiration from Liam O’Flynn’s incredible legacy and his mastery at evoking soul-stirring music.
Tradition Now explores innovation in traditional music today. This Autumn’s edition celebrates the voice from sean-nós to folk from the North East of England as well as instrumental innovations from Ireland to Brittany
Presented by NCH in partnership with The Arts Council and in association with Singular Artists