An occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott - James Tait.
Everyone in Rothbury knows James Tait. His Coquetdale ancestry stretches from Rothbury back through the Cheviots over 100 years and more.
His is a family filled with creativity, all at ease with the rolling Rs of the North Northumbrian dialect found in James’ poetry and in the stories told by his father, Ian, of the hill farming characters and times had at Barrowburn, where the family farmed for many generations, and more recently, had a tearoom.
Born in 1981, James showed exceptional musical promise from the age of three, sitting on his Nana’s lap as she taught him to play Thornbirds by Henry Mancini. It is no surprise that the family sent him at seven for formal lessons and he learned to play classical piano. He also plays the guitar.
A natural musician, James has been writing his own material since a young teenager. He now teaches youngsters and adults to play the guitar and piano.
Although he is in great demand to play and teach classical pieces, James’ musical taste is eclectic, and he particularly loves the music of ABBA, especially Benny and Bjorn. One of his favourite pieces is the Birthday Waltz for Mona.
He says: “It moves me, it is inspired, both uplifting and, ironically, slightly melancholy.”
I ask him to play it for me. It is a pleasure to watch and listen to James perform. When he plays the piano, you feel a physical and emotional connection with the composition as his fingers effortlessly find the keys. His talent is graceful and is a joy to observe.
Besides teaching music and performing at functions and events, James is involved, via the Rothbury Music Festival and Northumbrian Language Society, in encouraging children in Coquetdale to learn about the Northumbrian dialect.
He does this through dialect poetry, which the children find amusing and are eager to learn. Having qualified as a teacher, James is popular as a tutor, having great rapport with the youngsters.
A major project just about to come to fruition is his work with three Coquetdale first schools on a mini-musical, written by James in dialect, based on the infamous Duergar, the little people of Simonside. This is in association with Baliffgate Museum. Working on this project has led to James writing a story for children, which he hopes to get published this year.
Besides music, James enjoys playing pool, He is very good too, as the trophies on top of the piano testify. He also has a purple belt in karate and enjoys practising each week.
But it is his music and poetry that James is known for throughout Coquetdale. Although he is too modest to admit it, he really is The Music Man of the Valley.
Why I Like the Country
I like tae see the pinks and whites
And greens of every shade
Tae feel the summer stillness faal
On every fresh-grown blade
Tae hear the ripple in the night
Of the watter’s lullaby
‘Gin the bleating’ in the meadow
And the barn owl’s lonely cry
Tae breathe an air far richer, deeper
Where ancient hills stand proud and taal
That’s why I like the country,
For it will not crumble,
Will not faal!
There are two staged performances of The World of Lightness, dialect musical, for which entry is free. The first is at Thropton Memorial Hall on Wednesday, at 6pm; the other is at Harbottle Village Hall on Monday, April 1, also at 6pm.
If you would like to read the dialect poems of James Tait, his book, Coquetdale Ramblings: A Book Of Northumbrian Dialect Poetry, is available via his website alonngside his CDs, at www.jamestait.co.uk