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Only two years after leaving the brilliant and loud Breabach, Patsy Reid has become the most in-demand traditional fiddle player in the UK. She hasn’t stopped working.
On any given day in the last couple of years you could’ve seen Patsy performing as part of The Cecil Sharp Project or Kathryn Tickell’s Northumbrian Voices, or at the London 2012 celebrations with Zakir Hussain’s Pulse of the World. She played with The Unusual Suspects and The True North Orchestra, accompanied Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman on tour, as well as forming a new string trio called VAMM. There were numerous Celtic Connections commissions and a residency in Kolkata, India. And in the studio Patsy is a one woman string quartet, contributing cello, viola and violin to albums by Duncan Chisholm, Bella Hardy, Treacherous Orchestra, Tim Edey and… There are almost certainly more we’ve missed out.
But after all that collaboration it’s time for Patsy herself to take centre stage. Some might say it’s not before time. But not Patsy.
“I’ve never wanted to be The Patsy Reid Band, but I reached a stage where I could see myself only working on other people’s amazing projects and never having enough time to do something of my own. So I’m taking the risk that I might have to say no to something exciting, and I’m investing in my own music. I wouldn’t want to regret not giving myself the chance to do that.”
Asked to describe what makes her such a unique and admired musician and composer, Patsy shrugs and says: “I just play like Patsy.”
But just playing like Patsy means combining skills and techniques from both traditional and classical backgrounds. As a child she first learnt to play tunes by ear at the Alasdair Fraser fiddle camp on Skye. As a teen she made the trip to Alasdair’s sister camp in California, where she learned her trademark percussive chopping style – a technique she introduced to Scotland. On top of that she has a Post Grad Diploma in Classical Violin Performance from the Royal Northern College of Music. And it’s these disciplines that give Patsy ultimate control over the bow – allowing her to virtually sing through the instrument.
Fellow fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke from the band Lau says: “She has an accuracy and tone that many fiddlers only dream of. She has truly mastered her instrument and has developed a unique style which seems to grow in depth and maturity each time I hear her.”
English folk singer Jim Moray reckons: “Patsy transcends simply being a folk musician. She has an understanding of what to play and when and how to play it that rivals the best of any genre. And her morris dancing is coming on – in a few years she’ll be quite competent.”
And the celebrated Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell says of Patsy: “She’s a fantastic musician, a lovely fiddle player and a joy to be with. No wonder everybody wants to work with her.”
But for now, everybody will have to wait. Patsy has begun work on her first solo album since 2008’s Bridging The Gap – a recording of her rapturously received Celtic Connections commission that joined folk and classical through a self-penned set of tunes that explored the seven modes of modern music. Her latest album marks the start of a new chapter in Patsy Reid’s remarkable musical story.
“I’m now in a position where I can call the musical shots – and not feel guilty about it!”