Mackerel Sky began in November 2010 when cellist and singer Ailsa Mair Hughes and multi-instrumentalist Pixy Tom started playing together. From contrasting musical backgrounds, the two Aberystwyth-based musicians play a variety of tunes including gypsy folk dances, blues, tango and traditional Welsh songs, as well as playing their own original compositions and improvisations. You may hear fiddle, cello, piano, kazoo, guitar, voice, flute, bongos, clarinet and accordion in action… but not always as you may expect.
Ailsa Mair Hughes
Classically trained and now somewhat untamed, Ailsa Mair Hughes has spent a lot of time since the age of seven deciphering complex black dots on paper – and less conventional musical notation – but now mainly improvises and plays by ear. She writes her own songs for cello and voice, creates evocative soundscapes to sonorously snazz-up many a story (collaborating with Martin Maudsley, Peter Stevenson, Milly Jackdaw and Sarah Mooney amongst others), plays with Zimbabwean-mbira-based group the Ombiviolum Orkestra and makes mixed fruit jam with various musicians, including Pixy Tom in their duo Mackerel Sky. Her past musical experiences include playing half way up a lime tree to accompany an aerial silk fairy in the Whispering Wood Folk, and standing up for over 2 hours in the Royal Albert Hall singing Messiaen as an alto in the BBC National Chorus of Wales. Ailsa tried moving away from Aberystwyth to Bristol in Autumn 2010, but the coastal town’s mystical gravity pulled her back there pronto. She is currently putting energy into learning smaller instruments that can be bounced around with…
Born in the mean streets of Bangor, the bastard son of a Ukrainian street accordionist and a travelling window salesman from Neath, Pixy Tom grew up fast. His formative years were spent accompanying his mother on the jaw harp and stealing dogs. After a brief but regrettable stint in Bollywood, Pixy Tom set about learning the violin. Whether he ever will is yet to be found out. His achievements include cooking a full English breakfast in under 4 minutes.