About

I play traditional music on the melodeon and harmonica. My musical education took place largely in the pubs of Suffolk as a young adult, where I learned much from an older generation of musicians. Since then I have spent most of my life either playing traditional music or passing it on to others in one way or another.

Until October 2017 I was Artistic Director of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust.

Seventeen years of work is summed up in a presentation I did for the EFDSS Folk Educators’ Group in June 2017, which you can see here (but there are only a few words of explanation as it was designed as an aide-memoire for me to talk over!):  FEG 2017

I am now a freelance performer, tutor, researcher and animateur.

Musical background

I started playing the melodeon whilst at university, teaching myself to play through listening to others. This was at a time when English traditional music was experiencing a renaissance and there was no shortage of exciting recordings and events to inspire me.

After moving to Suffolk in 1978, I spent many hours in pubs playing alongside traditional musicians and in 2000, with the founding of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, the music of my adopted locality became a huge focus for research and performance.

I play and learn by ear. I love the fact that learning by ear opens up music-making to people from all walks of life and I have taught many people to play instruments and express themselves musically in this way.

You can find out more about tuition opportunities, my music and bands on the relevant pages. There’s also a detailed CV on the biography page.

EFDSS Gold Badge Award

In 2010, my husband John Howson and I were awarded the prestigious Gold Badge by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. You can read the EFDSS Gold Badge Citation here.

Here we are at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, on our Gold Badge day, singing a chorus with the Copper Family. Cecil Sharp House is the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and home of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

News

Page updated on 14th August 2020

Here’s some occasional short blog posts, followed by some other news items at the end.

August 2020

One way or another, July and August are usually full of festivals, and so they have been this year, but virtually of course. As well as my own band bookings, running the Veteran CD stall and attending as a ‘punter,’ this summer’s festival activities should also have included two appearances by Irish legends Jackie Daly and Matt Cranitch, for whom I had  recently become UK agent. Hopefully these appearances will be rescheduled for 2021 when we all trust that more live music will be possible. In the meantime, if you would like to buy any CDs (mine, or Jackie & Matt’s, or any number of other wonderful traditional singers and musicians!) do head over to the Veteran CD website which has a new browsing section designed to replicate a real festival stall. The photo below is us at the Dartmoor Folk Festival, and you can see how long our involvement is there from the ticket here! Click on the image below to browse the CD stall – orders within the UK are post free at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 2020

As with most of us now, music revolves around recordings and virtual performances at the moment. As well as playing for a couple of Zoom “clubs”, I am doing a short presentation for the Traditional Song Forum ( a research group of which I have been a member for many years).

My contribution is called “Will the real Paddy O’Rafferty please stand up!” and is about my investigations into the music and songs on a barrel-organ taken by Sir William Edward Parry on his polar expeditions in 1819-1825.

This will go out live on Sunday 14th June at 4pm. Here’s a link to find out more about the Traditional Song Forum and how to join their Zoom meetings.

Click here to see my gig list.

Old news is now archived here: News Archive.

April 2020

Like everyone else involved in music, life has just got unexpectedly un-busy in terms of gigs, sessions and festivals. A time to get on further with research projects instead.

I have taken the opportunity to upload the photographic exhibition I created for last year’s ‘I Looked East and I Looked West’ festival celebrating the life and music of Irish fiddler Julia Clifford: please visit The Julia Clifford Project section of this website. If you have any comments, information or further photos, please do get in touch.

Coincidentally, at the same time, the RTÉ radio programme ‘The Rolling Wave’ is broadcasting two programmes dedicated to Julia Clifford. The first of the two programmes, about ‘The Star Above the Garter’ album  is archived here and the second, focussing on Julia herself, is scheduled to be broadcast at 9pm on Sunday 3rd May and will be available on ‘The Rolling Wave’ archive after that. The second programme includes an interview with me, carried out at the 2019 Willie Clancy Summer School – here’s the link to that programme.

 

February 2020

The writing and research continue. I’ve been following the adventures of a well-known tune, Paddy Carey which will eventually be posted here, and I’ve revised two other tune histories I wrote some years ago – about The Perfect Cure and Starry Night for a Ramble – these two are now available on my new Tune Histories page. I’ve also added some brief descriptions of my current research projects – you see, they are real, not just something I mention on here every now and again! Have a browse through the Projects /  Research drop down menu at the top of any page to read about Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe, barrel organs on Polar explorations and stepdancing competitions in Somerset.

I’ve also been digitising some superb quality photos we were given. Some of these and others from our personal archive have been making there way into the public domain through the new Facebook page for Veteran Records – I have recently written a piece about fiddle-player Lucy Farr for the page.

Here’s one of my personal favourites from the collection, of The Rakes (minus Lucy Farr on this occasion) – Paul Gross, Michael Plunkett and Reg Hall with Derek Schofield, far left. This was taken at the National Folk Festival at Sutton Bonington in the 1990s.

 

And I do get out from behind the computer and sit behind a melodeon sometimes too! …

PolkaWorks are playing in London this month! We’re at the Knees Up Cecil Sharp ceilidh at Cecil Sharp House, Camden on Friday 21st February with Mary Panton calling.

January 2020

A quiet month ahead with writing and preparations for later events, and recuperating from a New Year holiday in Co. Clare with music till the early hours every night for a week!

 

Several gigs with PolkaWorks coming up in the Spring – details listed here.

Looking further ahead , I am tutoring and performing at  Melodeons on Sea  in Harwich, 18th-19th April.  A new event, wishing them lots of luck, the location, programme and venues all look great.

 

 

 

December 2019

STOP PRESS!!!  UK tour dates announced for Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch. More details about Jackie and Matt’s wonderful music here: Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch

You may have read earlier posts about my involvement in this superb film about the life of composer and folksong collector George Butterworth. It has been shown at a number of public screenings and it’s now available to buy on DVD or Blu-Ray. All My Life’s Buried Here  includes an informative booklet with a series of specially-commissioned essays as well as extra filmic material.

 

Bring on the great choons and frocks: PolkaWorks bring some seasonal cheer to a gloomy season at the Meltdown Ceilidhs in Hayward’s Heath, west Sussex on Saturday 7th December. We promise there will be no cheesy carols, but there may possibly be mince pies or baubles and there will certainly be red frocks, shoes and great uplifting dance music.

 

 

 

November 2019

After our wonderful “I Looked East and I Looked West” event in April, I gaily said to Matt Cranitch, “If I can do anything to bring you over to the UK more often, just let me know …” So, I am pleased to tell you, that as of 1st November I am acting as UK agent for Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch! I look forward to bringing them to more British audiences.

Early announcement: UK tour dates for August 2020 and October 2020. More details here: Jackie Daly & Matt Cranitch

 

A really interesting event coming up on November 16th-17th.

“Britain and Ireland have a rich history of step dancing in many forms and contexts,  linking with traditions across the world. This conference aims to further knowledge and understanding in these traditions and to stimulate debate. Two days of presentations, discussion, insight and exploration into step dancing.”

Subjects include “Street” clog dancing; stepping in Irish set and English ceilidh; Devon, Cape Breton, Australian and Welsh traditions; modes of transmission and the influence of competitions, and a panel discussion on Revival and Continuity, to which I am contributing my experiences in East Anglia.

Tickets and further information here and a Facebook page here.

September/October 2019

Good news and sad news.

I’m absolutely thrilled that the book I co-wrote with Pat Pickles was short-listed by The Folklore Society for the Katharine Briggs Award 2019.

I am very sad to say that Pat Pickles died earlier this month, in fact I had just heard about the award and was in the middle of writing to her about it when I received this news. Pat had suffered from dementia for the past couple of years, but will be fondly remembered by all whose paths she crossed over the previous decades, particularly through her many interests in folklore.

Buy the book here:  East Anglian Traditional Music Trust’s shop.

 

We’ve got two lovely Valiant Dance Band public dances coming up:

Godalming Borough Ceilidhs in Surrey, with Gareth Kiddier calling on Saturday 5th October

and

Unicorn Ceilidhs in Baldock, Herts, with Sheena  Masson calling, on Friday 11th October.

 


Other News

There’s some events I wouldn’t miss each year, even when I’m not officially booked at them, here’s some recommendations:

Dartmoor Folk Festival, South Zeal, Devon. Went to the first one in 1978 and although I’ve missed a few, it’s a fixture in the diary, especially for the stepdancing and the Orchard family’s sessions.

Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Been going to Miltown for donkey’s years, but only to the ‘Willie Week’ in more recent years, when I have been honoured to take part in the harmonica recital on several occasions.

Gallery

 

Click on the thumbnail to see the whole image.

Contact

You can email me at katie.howsonatgmail.com (just change the word at for the symbol @).