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Catherine Ashcroft – self-taught Uilleann Pipes player from Northern England

Catherine Ashcroft is a talented young musician from the north of England. She grew up listening to Irish music and taught herself the Uilleann Pipes from an early age.

When she was still in her teens, she joined a number of Irish bands and started performing in clubs and bars in England and Ireland.

Mochara - Catherine Ashcroft and Maurice Dickson

She has also recorded plenty of material and released four albums – Take Flight and Follow in 2008 – and three albums with her musical partner Maurice Dickson – In Your Blood in 2010, Spirits and Dreamers in 2013 and Live At The Island in 2015.

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We caught up with Catherine to and asked her to tell us a bit more about her music.

Irish Music Daily: What kind of music you play?

Catherine Ashcroft: I play Irish traditional tunes on the Uilleann Pipes and Whistles. I love the purity of Irish music, from haunting slow airs to jaunty hornpipes and energetic jigs and reels.

I learn the tunes in the traditional way and then add my own feeling and variations to the music. I also like to write my own pieces which are strongly influenced by the tradition.

As well as a solo player I am also part of a duo called Mochara with Belfast singer songwriter/guitarist Maurice Dickson. We have a great musical chemistry and I enjoy writing solo’s and tunes on the whistle and pipes to add another dimension to Maurice’s songs.

Maurice also gives a great accompaniment to my tunes on various instruments including Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin and Bodhran.

Cartherine Ashcroft playing Uilleann Pipes

Catherine Ashcroft

IMD: Which bands or singers influenced you?

CA: Growing up in Cumbria there weren’t any other pipers in the area and there was very little in the way of Irish music. My parents listened to bands such as Planxty and The Bothy Band and I was always drawn to the sound of the pipes.

At a young age I started to learn tunes from the Planxty CD on my recorder and whistle before I ordered my first practice set when I was 14 and started to teach myself to play from books and recordings.

I consider my main influences to be Liam O flynn (Planxty), Paddy Keenan, Lunasa, Dervish, Jonny Doran, Finbar Fury, Matt Molloy and the Chieftains.

IMD: Tell us about your music and live shows

CA: In my mid-teens, I started performing around the pubs and clubs of the north west of England as part of various Irish bands. I also made regular trips to Ireland when I could, joining sessions and playing with other musicians.

In 2008 I recorded my first CD “Take Flight and Follow” at Stenkrith studio’s in Cumbria. It was here I met singer songwriter Maurice Dickson and he invited me to guest on his European tour.

This was a great success and we went on to form the duo Mochara. We have since performed at various festivals, folk clubs, small theatres and music venues throughout the UK, Ireland, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Norway.

Thanks very much to Catherine for answering our questions. Take a look at some of her videos below.

For more information about her career check out her Facebook page.

Catherine Ashcroft & Maurice Dickson (Mochara) – Táimse im’ Chodladh/King of the Pipers

Catherine Ashcroft & Maurice Dickson (Mochara) – The Chesil Reels

Maurice Dickson & Catherine Ashcroft (Mochara) – The Dreamer

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