Saskia
Tomkins

About

Biography

Violin was my first love, then Fiddle (same instrument, different approach), followed by Viola, Cello and Nyckelharpa. Music is my passion – if it’s good, then it’s good, whatever genre it stems from, and I enjoy figuring out how to get the strings to fit in.

I am classically trained with a folk background and a B.A. hons. in Music (Jazz) from Middlesex University in London. I am an All Britain Champion Irish Fiddler and I actually enjoy sight-reading, improvising, composing tunes, playing with others, and performing…I LOVE to perform!

Musicians I have worked with include:
Jimmy Bowskill, The Chieftains, Kim Doolittle, Tim Edey, Tim Garland, “Jabbour”, Robb Johnson, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Ron Korb, James McKenty, Crispian Mills (Kula Shaker), David Newland, Donald Quan, “Sin E”  Ted Staunton , “Sultans of String”, Miranda Sykes, “Uriah Heep”, Lotus Wight (Sam Allison), Ken Whiteley, “Al-pha-X”,  Astrid Young, my husband Steáfán Hannigan, my son Oisín Hannigan, and a plethora of other amazing musicians, actors and dancers!

Theatre includes:
Originating the “Celtic-ifying” of the Broadway hit “Come From Away”; The English Shakespeare Company with the director Michael Bogdanov; 4th Line Theatre, Ontario;  Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London UK;

My current personal projects include Steáfán & Saskia with Steáfán Hannigan, the instrumental jazz/roots duo 2ish, with Brandon Scott Besharah; the Celtic crossover group Cáirdeas, and the jazz trio Marsala and the Imports. I also frequently play in the Maple Leaf Jug Band.

I am principal 2nd violin for Quinte Symphony Orchestra and resting principle viola in the Northumberland Orchestra (NOC).

In between gigs, I spend time teaching mostly violin and viola, reading books, watching too many movies and the birds in my butterfly garden, and getting annoyed with a needy cat. I’m still waiting for a Nyckelharpa student, just sayin’…

My Instruments

VIOLIN – l have a lovely instrument made by Christopher Rowe from the Isle-of-White in 1997. I went on a walking holiday with my dad, found Christopher’s number in the phone book in an old red telephone box, and found my lifelong companion. My pickup for this and the other instruments I also use a dark red 5 string electric violin made by Bridge Violins from the UK. The extra string is a low C. I use Coda bows.

VIOLA – My viola has a lovely deep, sonorous tone and it may be Russian. I used to borrow it from my first fiddle teacher Larry Klatzko, when I had a session that was in need of a viola. Eventually he sold it to me and for that I am grateful as it is my companion.

CELLO – I had the opportunity to learn cello whilst on a 6 month ‘Beowulf” tour with the “English Shakespeare Company” borrowed from my University teacher, and jazz + ethno-musician extraordinaire – Stuart Hall. I found MY cello in a shop in Belgium for €400 – bargain. All bruised and tattered – had it fixed – and its beautiful.

I also use an electric 5 string cello by NS Designs, from Canada. The extra string is a low F.

NYCKELHARPA – I have coveted these instruments since discovering them at the festival St. Chartiere in France age 18, and was fortunate to have one bought as a present in 2005 by Steáfán Hannigan, who was going to use it first for one piece on a Loreena McKennett tour. A Nyckelharpa is a Swedish 16 string keyed fiddle that uses sympathetic strings that resonate when the 4 main strings are played. These instruments have a wow factor and are used a lot in film scores, so if you don’t know them – check it out. FYI Steafan is currently building me a new one. I’ll put photos up which it’s finished.

The 3rd person biography

Saskia Tomkins is a master musician of Violin/Fiddle Viola, Cello and Nyckelharpa. She is classically trained with a folk background and a B.A.hons. in Music (Jazz), and she won All Britain Champion Irish Fiddler.

Over the years, Saskia has worked with many musicians, including:  Jimmy Bowskill, The Chieftains, Kim Doolittle, Tim Edey, Tim Garland, “Jabbour”, Robb Johnson, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), Ron Korb, James McKenty, Crispian Mills (Kula Shaker), David Newland, Donald Quan, “Sin E”  Ted Staunton , “Sultans of String”, Miranda Sykes, “Uriah Heep”, Lotus Wight (Sam Allison), Ken Whiteley, “Al-pha-X” and Astrid Young, her husband Steáfán Hannigan and son Oisín Hannigan, and a plethora of other amazing musicians, actors and dancers!

Her theatre work includes: Originating the “Celtic-ifying” of the broadway hit “Come From Away”; The English Shakespeare Company and Michael Bogdanov; 4th Line Theatre, Ontario;  Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London UK;

Saskia’s current personal projects include Steáfán & Saskia with Steáfán Hannigan, the instrumental jazz/roots duo 2ish, with Brandon Scott Besharah; the Celtic crossover group Cáirdeas and the jazz trio Marsala and the Imports. She also plays in the Maple Leaf Jug Band. She is currently principle 2nd violin for Quinte Symphony Orchestra and resting principle viola in the Northumberland Orchestra. Saskia also teaches privately from her home near Cobourg, Ontario, and runs workshops at festivals.

50 word biography

Saskia moved to Canada from the UK in 2007. Her musical abilities on bowed strings are wide ranging: classical to Celtic, jazz to songwriter accompaniment.

Saskia’s current groups: Celtic duo Steafan & Saskia: Celtic trio Cairdeas: Jazz trio Marsala & the Imports: instrumental duo 2ish. She also teaches violin, viola and nyckelharpa.