The Berwick Music Series 2023 got off to a flying start with a folk session in front of a capacity crowd at the Radio Rooms. Our special guest was renowned Northumbrian piper, Chris Ormston, and we were delighted to welcome celebrated fiddle player, Darragh Morgan; the band from the Pilot Inn; as well as many performers from the Horncliffe folk session. It was a fantastic night. Special thanks to Chris; Darragh; Jim Smith and everybody from the Pilot Inn; Graham and Keith from Horncliffe; Tom Sykes, who ran the Open Mic; Brian Martin who provided a great venue; Mark Barnard, who took the photos; and all those who came along to join in the fun! Here’s a short clip from the session.
Chris has been a musician from an early age. He was given his first set of pipes on his 15th birthday and nine months later won the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society Junior Class. Within three years he had won every Open competition in the county.
Early in his piping career he acquired a taste for the classic repertoire of the pipes with its associated ‘detached’ fingering style and he has continued to hone his understanding of that approach ever since. In particular, he has held an interest in the music of the Clough Family of Newsham, who were at the forefront of the piping scene for 200 years from the late 18th Century. Tom Clough, known as the ‘Prince of Pipers’ recorded for HMV in 1929, and that recording continues to set the standard for today’s pipers. In 1986 Chris met Tom’s son, ‘Young Tom’, the last of the family to play, and after a lengthy audition was given the ultimate accolade, “Me Fatha would have liked ye!” In 2011 Chris was honoured to take possession of ‘Young’ Tom Clough’s pipes, made by Reid of North Shields. This set was given to Tom by his grandfather Henry Clough and Chris treasures these as his first-choice set of pipes.
Chris has appeared on a number of compilation recordings, and even topped the USA album charts as a session musician on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Us’, playing with Peter and Sinead O’Connor in ‘Come Talk to Me’. Chris has collaborated with the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society in the publication of two collections: ‘The Clough Family of Newsham’ (2000) and ‘The Clough Family Tune Book’ (2012). His 2003 solo CD ‘Time Out of Mind’ was described as “… unprecedented in the history of recorded Northumbrian piping” – FolkMusic.net