An Interview with Kirsty Abbots
Kirsty Abbots, along with the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band have dominated the Top 3 in All Brass Band’s Top 20 for well over a year with the tune "You Raise Me Up". During any given month, the playlist on All Brass Radio is around 400 - 425 tracks. No track in the 16-year history of All Brass Radio has come close to having this kind of staying power at the top.
I, Dr. Jim Fox, the owner of All Brass Radio, thought it would be great for the listeners to hear from Ms. Abbots. She was gracious enough to give an email interview. First a little background on the tune.
"You Raise Me Up" is a song originally composed by Irish-Norwegian duo Secret Garden. The music was written by Secret Garden's Rolf Løvland and the lyrics by Brendan Graham. After the song was performed early in 2002 by the Secret Garden and their invited lead singer, Brian Kennedy, the song only became a minor UK hit. The song has been recorded by more than a hundred other artists including Josh Groban, who popularized the song in 2003; his rendition became a smash hit in the United States that really launched the song. The Irish band Westlife then popularized the song in the UK two years later. (Wikipedia)
INTERVIEW (Red, All Brass Radio, Green, Kirsty Abbots)
When did you start playing the cornet?
I started playing the cornet when I was 9 years old. My Dad played trombone with Shipston Town Band in Warwickshire and also ran the Junior Band and Beginners Group.
I eventually played principal cornet with the Junior Band (they used to compete as a Junior Band) and the with the Senior Band by the age of 15. At that time the Senior Band were 2nd Section (in the days of no 1st section)
When did you first start playing at a "championship" level?
I joined Sellers Engineering Band on the front row when I was 18 and have played at championship level ever since.
How did you come about to choosing You Raise Me Up to play as a solo?
It's a gorgeous melody and the words are meaningful so together it is the perfect package.
Who arranged it?
I think it was Andrew Duncan.
What do you think of the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band's playing in the background of the tune?
The Frickley are now so used to accompanying me and know exactly what I will do with my interpretations, it makes solo playing very comfortable. Also when the band takes over the melody line they naturally play in the same style as me and adopt the same phrasing and articulations. Although I think there is one timpani note that does come through quite loud!
With the lyrics by Brendon Graham and the tremendous popularity of the song — especially in Christian circles, did you want to play a Christian piece or was it basically just a wonderful melody for you?
It mainly was because it's a beautiful melody.
Your pitches are always centered and your tone, timbre, and technique are wonderfully smooth and beautifully unique. As with any top player that comes with a lot of practice. Have there been any special exercises or exercises you favor?
Over the years I have spent a lot of time practising long notes across the full range, varying the sound and dynamics within these to develop being totally in the control of every note from start to finish. I also practise many slurring exercises, mainly octave slurs.
Several people have said You Raise Me Up sounds a lot like Danny Boy. The composer admits some similarity in style, but no plagiarism. Do you have any thoughts about this?
You can very easily slip into the wrong melody halfway through!
When developing your playing style, did you have anyone teacher that made a large impact on you? I ask this question because your tone and timbre are unique. Or did your tone just develop as you practiced?
I was taught by Phillip McCann who definitely turned me into the player I am today. I must have had some natural talent to start with but he taught me the control and gave me the belief that I can do it.
However, I have always played from the heart which I think initially came from my Dad's influence. My Dad always knew how he wanted music to sound but didn't necessarily know how to do so, then Phillip came along and showed me how.
Did you start on the cornet? Were you ever tempted to play a different instrument?
I started on the cornet and stayed on it! Its never crossed my mind to choose anything else over the cornet.
My great thanks go out to Kirsty Abbots for taking the time to answer questions and send some photos. It is well appreciated!
Dr. Jim Fox
Composer and Arranger
Owner and Proprietor of
24/7/365 Brass Band Radio