DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Kerrin Tatman | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists that we have right here in the North East.

Today we chat with contemporary classical composer, Kerrin Tatman, whose new EP is available now.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?
I’m relatively new to Newcastle, having moved up last January from my home town of Beverley in East Yorkshire, but already feel very much part of this amazing place. I live in a ridiculous house share with a juggler, photographer, fine artist, costume designer, 7-year-old unicyclist, a diva of a cat and far too many instruments. I’m a contemporary classical composer, cellist, accordionist, pianist and arts administrator, and divide my time between teaching music, working at Circus Central as musical director and assistant to the CEO, playing in stage shows, and helping to organise Beverley Puppet Festival.

What inspired you to first start making music?
I think I’ve probably always messed about on the piano making up the odd melody from an early age, but it wasn’t until I had the thinking space as I started a horrific morning paper round that I really got into it. I remember one morning as I was trudging in the snow with 50+ broadsheets slung over my back, a melody for a choral piece suddenly popped into my head and I immediately dumped the papers in a bin and ran home to the piano and manuscript paper. The newsagent or customers probably weren’t too happy, but it seemed very important at the time so I figured they would get over it.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence from the classical music world is definitely Igor Stravinsky. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that what is happening around me is reality and not some twisted figment of my imagination or a dream, but when I listen to The Rite of Spring I know that it couldn’t have come from my own brain – it is so intricate, perfectly crafted and brutal that it helps me make sense of the world.
Growing up in Beverley Minster Choir had a massive impact on the way I think about harmony. I fiercely fought against it at the time, but now look back on it as a fundamental part of my musical training.
But also Evanescence (yes, really), Eastern European folk music, my close friends, and the circus community I have been welcomed into.

How would you describe your sound?
I would say that most of my music is quite dark, atmospheric and ethereal, but it really depends from piece to piece as I rarely write music for the same instrumentation or musicians. I write a lot of music to illustrate visual performance so this can have a large impact on the genre, style and mood of what I end up with. Sometimes it can be very simple and minimalistic, at other times it can be too complicated. I can do happier stuff as well but it’s normally got a creepy twinge!

Where do you see yourself fitting into the local music scene?
This one is a really tough one for me because I really don’t know! I’m not that interested in the etiquette and traditions of classical music performance (don’t get me wrong – I would love an orchestra at my fingertips), but also you wouldn’t find me on a playbill of a band night. There also really isn’t any outlets for young composers – it’s not like I can turn up to auditions like bands and actors, which is why I have ended up self-producing my EP. My circus band at Circus Central – Tatters Catman and the Infinite Broken Sequins – has given me hope though. It feels like the most appropriate outlet to experiment and play a variety of different styles of music. I will be writing quite extensively for the group in the near future. I feel at home at Alphabetti Theatre after recently doing one of their Alphabetti Soup nights – they seem to like things out of the ordinary.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that what is happening around me is reality and not some twisted figment of my imagination or a dream

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by you?
These can also vary depending on what the occasion is. The night I did at Alphabetti was a straight music gig and included a mixture of classical and folk-based compositions, but when writing music for the last Circus Central performance – House of Light – I was accompanying aerial silk artists on cello in The Mining Institute. It is normally very different from gig to gig – be prepared to be surprised!

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?
The circus band will be performing at the next Circus Central cabaret (date not set yet) and I would like to do a devised piece to a new composition at it. I want to do some concerts of my music in the near future in Newcastle and East Yorkshire but this will take some planning with the amount of musicians involved. Details of upcoming gigs will be posted on my Facebook page.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a musician?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been part of some really amazing things. I won the National Centre for Early Music Young Composer’s competition in 2008 for my piece Stabat Mater, which was a pretty surreal experience for an awkward teenage goth to go through, and in 2013 I arranged the score and musical directed Whole Hog Theatre’s adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s production of Princess Mononoke, which toured to London and Tokyo. I’ve just got back from playing in the Georgian Theatre Royal’s circus pantomime Jack in the Beanstalk which was an incredible experience. But I think the most rewarding experience was quite recently when I played my cello piece Mourn to my friends in Newcastle when very, very drunk and they all clapped wildly, which I really didn’t expect at all – that meant a lot.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?
Trying to make anything of yourself in the music industry is very challenging! But even things like self-doubt or writer’s block – I’ve had long periods of writer’s block in the past and it is the most frustrating thing. Moving house a lot has been a big problem in terms of career – I spent a long time flitting from city to city, but now I have settled in Newcastle – things seem to be looking up through making contacts and building a name for myself.

What else have you got planned for the future?
My main plan is to get more of my music performed and to promote myself as a composer in the North East. I’m really interested in approaching choirs and orchestras as there are a lot of my big scale compositions – such as my Viola Concerto – which have never really been heard by anyone. I’m also very passionate about the circus band and finding new ways of merging music with visual art forms.

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