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News > Alumni News > Finn Collinson (OI 2009-16) Talks Folk and BBC Radio 2

Finn Collinson (OI 2009-16) Talks Folk and BBC Radio 2

Finn Collinson (OI 2009-16) is considered one of the foremost recorder players on the English folk circuit.
29 Jan 2024
Alumni News
Photograph by Rowan Collinson (OI 2010-20)
Photograph by Rowan Collinson (OI 2010-20)

We caught up with Finn just before he started his February tour with his band, The Finn Collinson Band.

Editor:  Hi Finn, congratulations on having an extract from the title track of your second album The Threshold played on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show in January. It must take a lot of planning to put a tour together. Have you known your fellow musicians for very long?
 
Finn: Thank you very much! It was a lovely recognition to have the track played on Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show on Radio 2, ahead of our February tour. A tour certainly doesn't come together easily, and at the moment I’m acting as the booking agent and tour manager for this band as well as performing, so it’s a long process that begins upwards of a year before we hit the stage! I’ve known my current band members (Evan Carson and Archie Churchill-Moss) for around six or seven years, but they both joined the band in 2021, so it’s been lovely to work more closely with them in the last few years. We’re all very busy with various different projects which makes the time we are together very special.
 
Editor:. You grew up in Suffolk and have lived in London, where are you living now?
 
Finn: I’m back living in Suffolk now, and have been out of London for a little while! I’m immensely grateful to London for the opportunities it gave me, but the draw of Suffolk was too strong to resist. There’s a really strong sense of community in this part of the world, particularly in the rural parts of the county. I feel very comfortable here plus a large proportion of my work takes place in this area, so on
a practical level it’s a necessity!
 
Editor:. What or who piqued your interest in music and playing the recorder?
 
Finn: Music was a huge part of my family life when I was growing up and my parents took me to loads of really inspiring concerts and festivals, right from when I was very young. Recorder lessons started for me in the same way they did for so many – group classes at primary school – but very quickly I became fascinated with the instrument and started to figure out how to play the folk music I’d been listening to at home on my recorder. It all spiralled from there…
 
Editor: After leaving Ipswich School, what did you do next and was there anyone in particular who helped or inspired you?
 
Finn: After a year out of education, I was very lucky to study for four years at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. It’s one of the most intense environments I’ve ever found myself in, but I learned so much from everyone I encountered there – teachers and students alike – and it was a super way to immerse myself in a large range of different music. It’s impossible to pick out one person who inspired me more than the others. The tiniest things people discuss can stick with you for years; as an example, in my first year I had a lesson with a visiting professor who spent an entire hour talking about two notes. It was mind-blowing and I think about it most times I
pick up an instrument even now.
 
Editor: You released your first album, Call To Mind in 2019 and I see your solo performances since include working with the London International Orchestra at Cadogan Hall and with English National Opera. In the folk music world you've also shared the stage with multi-award-winner groups Bellowhead and The Younguns. What is it like crossing music genres and what do you gain most from this mix?
 
Finn: I often think it’s best to consider music as a living thing. It has to breathe, evolve and move around in the same way that humans and animals do. Crossing musical genres is a really rewarding thing and enables you to create something really individual and meaningful which relates to a particular place, group or event. I did a thing recently where I was teaching folk music to some young players who play
mostly jazz music. They knew so much more about chord theory than I did, so I felt like I was learning from them, but my approach to learning and embellishing melodies was new to them. So the process worked both ways, and everyone contributed valuable ideas. That’s when really exciting fusions start to happen.
 
Editor: The music you compose, what are you trying to tell or portray to your audiences and how would you describe your tune style?
 
Finn: Most of the music I write refers to a very personal memory of a person or place in my life, or a story I’ve read which has moved me in some way. While I do share those stories on stage, I often feel like they might not translate especially well for the listener. I really like to leave things open for the audience to figure out what the music means to them. Most of my band’s set is instrumental, so without words to
steer the story, one person’s reaction can be totally different to the next. I find that really exciting. I slightly resist putting genre labels onto music, but I guess you would broadly describe my style as ‘contemporary folk’. I work with traditional material quite a bit, including some very ancient melodies, and my own compositions usually relate to some kind of traditional dance form. That said, I try to make the overall sound quite fresh and modern too; in my band we all have pedalboards with subtle effects and layered sounds, so it’s not exclusively acoustic folk.
 
Editor: As well as your band and solo work you enjoy teaching I believe? Why do you find it so rewarding and who do you work with and why?
 
Finn: I do a lot of education work and it’s something which is really important to me. One of the big projects I’m working on at the moment is the Youth Moot programme for FolkEast, which is a beautiful festival that takes place in Suffolk every August. I’ve been running their youth workshops for a few years now but we’re starting to roll it out into schools and other youth groups, which is great fun. I particularly love sharing music with young people which is local to where they live; there’s a huge amount of historical and social context that can worm its way into those workshops.

Editor: It must be great sharing music from a particular location with young people from that area and really personal to them. Looking back at your seven years at Ipswich School, what are your stand out memories?
 
Finn: I owe a lot to the music department at Ipswich School. It’s where I spent most of my time, so much so that former head of music Sion Parry used to jokingly refer to the music listening suite in the old department as “Finn’s office”!  Several of the visiting performances we did with the choir and chamber orchestra still stand out to me; in particular, a lovely choir tour in Tuscany and Umbria in (I think) 2013. Such amazing architecture and some of the most incredible acoustics I’ve ever performed in – there was one cathedral in particular where I played a recorder piece with Andrew Leach accompanying on the organ. I think we were hearing each other about 20 seconds apart… challenging but amazing! Several members of Ipswich School staff were an incredible support to me through some very personally trying times, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

Editor: It's great to know you received such great support during your teenage years at the School. If you were to give your younger self a piece of advice what would it be?
 
Finn: In all honesty, there’s not a lot that I would want to change in my life so far – not because I’ve lived a perfect life (far from it at times), but because all the things I’ve experienced have shaped me in some way. In a moment of turmoil, I was once reminded by a wise friend who promotes gigs on the folk circuit, that “everything in life leads you to where you are today”. I was so struck by those simple words and
I’ve come back to them many times since. Therefore, I’d tell myself  'a career in music is challenging but immensely rewarding, so continue doing what you’re doing, remember to enjoy it, and find the courage and determination to keep pursuing it.'
 
Editor: Thank you so much for your time Finn. Good luck with the tour which starts in Norwich and Sudbury (in Suffolk) before going to Gloucester, Winchester and Sheffield (to name but a few locations). Maybe you will come back to the School at some point and share your music knowledge and career to date with both students and OIs!
 
Finn: I’d be delighted to come back to the School sometime. Sadly there’s no Ipswich gig on the current tour but Norwich and Sudbury may be within reach for some Suffolk-based readers! 


Note: More information and tour tickets are available from www.finncollinson.com and follow on Instagram @finncollinson

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