Celtic Music (and Musicians) from Across the Centuries


The seeds of what was to become Head North were sown after a chance encounter at a Highland Wedding. As a consequence, a brace of exiled Scots, Roddy Watt (accordion) and Hamilton Gross (fiddle), met over a dram in Hampshire with Mike Holgate (banjo/mandolin), an Englishman steeped in the Scottish tradition through years of living in the North Isles and Orkney. A lively jamming session ensued and the band was born! From this unlikely start, Head North were joined by Andrew Rose (guitar) and Rob Sword (piano), who became Musical Director and arranger to take the music to more uncharted territory. Three talented singers then completed the line-up in the form of sibling-duo Rachel and Simon Thomas and Rachel Reed. With a base in Hampshire but strong roots trailing back 'North Of The Border', Head North is a quirky mixture of old and new (and ageing and youthful!) Our repertoire comprises an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary Celtic music. Traditional reels, jigs, marches, airs and songs are given a new twist and are complemented by original compositions as well as some Scandinavian and Transatlantic numbers. Our early journey has been very exciting and, above all, great fun. From early rehearsals in 2012 crammed into Roddy's sitting room to packed-out gigs on the Hampshire pub circuit (with dancing on tables advised but not compulsory!) to our appearances at Larmer Tree Festival 2013, Limewood's Smoked and Uncut, two sell-out charity gigs and a tour to Courcheval in December 2013- Head North are gaining a loyal and passionate local following and generating whispers further afield. Head North invigorates the Celtic music tradition with great energy and on-stage charisma, infectious rhythms, ethereal harmonies and innovative arrangements. We hope you will enjoy our music.

The Line-Up

HAMILTON GROSS Fiddle Ham is the man who drives the pace! A virtuoso fiddler schooled in Scotland who spent his teenage summers busking, Ham brings his precise, lilting violin tones to a variety of traditional tunes. He has a wonderful ear for beautiful, ethereal accompaniments to the slower vocal numbers, helping to create an immersive sound-world.

MIKE HOLGATE Mandolin, Banjo and Percussion At 62, Mike is the senior member of the band and displays a strong paternal instinct to his fellow musicians, as well as a surprising turn of speed when the jigs pick up pace! Based in the North Isles and Orkney for much of his life, Mike is responsible for the occasional Nordic tune that slips into the mix. An environmental engineer by background, Mike is the band's ever practical source of wisdom and bears the cross of age very elegantly!

ANDREW ROSE Acoustic Guitar and Harmonica A Finance Director by trade, Andrew is Head North's financial guru! When he's not working on his abacus, he's drawing up chord charts and laying down a gentle guitar accompaniment to the band's music. He also lends a Dylan-esque mouth organ from time to time – and occasionally has been known to burst into song!

RACHAEL REED Rachel, (known as 'Reedy' to the band for administrative reasons!) has a pure and distinctive voice which brings the best out of any traditional or contemporary folk number. She also adds flute and bodhran to some of the instrumental numbers, infusing the music with extra lyricism and rhythmic drive.

ROB SWORD Piano, Guitar and 5-String Banjo The 'Piano Man', 'Robs' is our Musical Director and keeps our tunes sounding fresh. A graduate of Music and Literature from Cardiff and a professional film/stage composer, Rob crafts the unique Head North arrangements and also transcribes new repertoire by ear. Started 'vamping' on the piano for the band a few months after it was first formed and has not looked back since! Cooks a mean Chilli too!

RACHEL THOMAS Vocals, Whistle, Oboe and Bass Brought up in Scotland, educated at Cardiff University and a keen traveller in Ireland, Rachel has been well steeped in all things Celtic from an early age! With an alarming tendency to learn new instruments in a matter of months, Rachel brings her rich vocal clarity, multi-instrumentalism and keen ear for spellbinding harmonies to Head North.

SIMON THOMAS Simon's mellifluous tenor voice and quirky percussion lines are characteristic elements of the Head North sound. His teenage years were spent playing bass for a Hampshire-based punk band, which explains his rhythmic vitality and impassioned vocal delivery! Now studying Oceanography at University, Simon continues to bring his enthusiasm and innate musicality to the band's live shows.

RODDY WATT, Accordion. 'Highland' to the core, Roddy traces his musical roots back to the West Coast and an upbringing fired by the odd dram in Ballachulish where his parents ran the hotel for many years. A great lover of traditional Scottish music, Roddy's plays his accordion at breakneck speed, (and breakback too, due to the extreme weight of the instrument!) Living the dream (and trying to re-live his youth...) Samples of our music Wild Mountain Thyme- recorded and filmed at Dangstein Studio Kid On The Mountain- traditional jig set Shetland Reels- traditional reels set For further information: Please contact Roddy Watt +44 (0)1420 562090 +44 (0)7880 633336 info@headnorth.org.uk Catch up on our latest news at: www.headnorth.org.uk


About us

Now in its sixth year, the West Meon Music Festival

brings world-class chamber music performances to rural Hampshire.The West Meon Music Festival is run by the Primrose Piano Quartet, Susanne Stanzeleit, Dorathea Vogel, Andrew Fuller & John Thwaites

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  • Phone:
    01424 893598
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  • Address:
    Hill House, Coombe Hill, Ninfield, East Sussex, TN33 9NH
  • Postal Box Office:
    Walnut Cottage, Hampton Hill, Swanmore, SO32 2QN