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Interview: Mediaeval Baebes

PUBLISHED: 08:39 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 29 October 2010

Abigail Saltmarsh

Their songs top the classical music charts. Now the glamorous Mediaeval Baebes are returning to Norwich Cathedral for a special festive performance. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to founder babe-turned-mother Katharine Blake.

AUDIO: Listen to Mediaeval Baebes
VIDEO: Watch Mediaeval Baebes

Their songs top the classical music charts. Now the glamorous Mediaeval Baebes are returning to Norwich Cathedral for a special festive performance. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to founder babe-turned-mother Katharine Blake.

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Performing a series of concerts at the busiest time of year is no easy task when you have a one year-old daughter in tow, but Katharine Blake wouldn't change it for the world.

The founder of glamorous classical chart-topping group The Mediaeval Baebes is still as enthusiastic about her music as she was when she first brought the group together 12 years ago.

And she said she can't wait to perform in Norwich Cathedral tomorrow - and for little Ava to be there to enjoy it too.

“We have performed in Norwich Cathedral before and it was just wonderful,” she said. “The acoustics are amazing and it just looks fabulous. It really is awe-inspiring.”

Formed in 1996, The Mediaeval Baebes are an all female group made up of Claire Rabbitt, Emily Ovenden, Bev Lee Harling, Esther Dee and Melpomeni Kermanidou, as well as Katharine.

They create their unique sound by drawing inspiration from medieval texts and setting this to original scores with the use of both classical and medieval musical instruments.

They also sing in an array of long forgotten languages.

“I have always been into mediaeval and renaissance music,” said Blake. “But when I first started The Mediaeval Baebes there was never any plan to go professional with it.

“It was purely recreational. I just got a few friends together and asked them if they wanted to come round to mine and sing a few songs for fun.

“Everyone really enjoyed it and I realised these raw, untrained voices made a simplistic sound that was just wonderful.

“The next thing we knew, we had recorded an album and it went to number one in the UK classical charts!”

Over the course of the past 12 years, the line-up of The Mediaeval Baebes has changed from time to time.

But the group has performed all over the world and has sold more than 450,000 records.

The women also contributed to the music for the BBC production of The Virgin Queen (composed by Martin Phipps), which resulted in an Ivor Novello Award in 2007 for best television soundtrack.

The performance at Norwich Cathedral tomorrow night coincides with their very first single release Miracle. This has been remixed by Dave Francolinni, who has recently worked with Glasvegas and MGMT.

The Baebes have also recently completed their sixth studio album, Illumination, with producer KK who has previously worked with Bjork, Kylie, Britney Spears, KT Tunstall and Dido. This is due to be released early next year.

“This performance will be much more than us just singing - more than simply a classical music concert” said Blake. “There are lots of costume changes and the whole show will be very glamorous.”

The one off concert at the cathedral is part of a nine date, nationwide tour.

The tour follows two months of performing throughout Europe and the US for the Baebes, including appearances at The Mystic Fair in The Netherlands and The Maryland Renaissance Festival in the US.

“It has been incredibly busy for us and will continue to be like this right up until Christmas,” said Blake. “It is a juggle but my partner will be bringing my daughter to Norwich to watch me perform and, to be honest ,it is the same for many of the other members of the group.

“But we all love singing and we have a real commitment to perform. It can be testing at times but we wouldn't do it if we didn't really enjoy it.”

t The Mediaeval Baebes will perform in Norwich Cathedral at 8pm on December 13. Tickets £17.50 (under-14s, £10) on the door. More details: 01603 218320

AUDIO: Listen to Mediaeval Baebes
VIDEO: Watch Mediaeval Baebes

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