The Mediaeval Baebes are one of the most successful female-led, early music and folk ensembles in Europe.

In addition to two Emmy nominations, they have toured with Jools Holland and supported Michael Flatley in Hyde Park. They have won a Royal Television Society award alongside composer Martin Phipps for their soundtrack to ITV’s hit period drama Victoria and an Ivor Novello Award for their performance on the BBC series The Virgin Queen.

Their Christmas concert begins with a magical torchlight procession and concert-goers are invited to get into the festive spirit and join in with musical instruments, lanterns, or even dressing up in period costume.

As the band's leader, how do you choose the locations for your Christmas tour ?

We all have a say in where our tours will take us, especially as we all have strong connections with home towns, childhood memories, holiday destinations, or just a desire to play in a venue on our bucket list! I have spent many a family holiday in Norfolk visiting my daughter’s grandad and indulging my obsession with the redundant churches of Norfolk. I love exploring and photographing these incredible mediaeval time capsules -there are around 600 in total – and finding organs in various states of repair, extraordinary faces carved into the end of pews, and those with Anglo-Saxon foundations often boasting cobbled towers and little passages that lead up to the balconies too.

What is the significance of The Procession, Katharine?

We are always looking to add some more magic, theatre and story-telling to our performances. For us, the pageantry seen in our costumes and headdresses is just as important as the composition of the songs. The Procession is an extension of this. For the past few years we have processed to celebrate the Winter Solstice at our Christmas concert in London and I liked the idea of making 2023 our ‘procession year’.

Every one of our concerts this year has started with a procession and at Christmas time it just makes it even more magical and fun. We invite everyone to join in, so our audience can become immersed in the pageantry and fantasy that makes Christmas special to us all. And of course, in mediaeval times street processions were an intrinsic part of holiday celebrations which often featured chanting voices and ringing bells.

Great British Life: Mediaeval Baebes are performing across the country in December. Photo: Alan WrightMediaeval Baebes are performing across the country in December. Photo: Alan Wright

What gave you the idea to start The Mediaeval Baebes, Katharine?

To be honest, I have always loved mediaeval music and performing. But, the idea of forming a mediaeval band really took hold after I broke into a North London cemetery with several friends more than 25 years ago and we sang together for fun, clad in flowing white gowns and crowns of ivy.

I then met Marie at a festival. Apparently I was drinking cider and singing a mediaeval song that she loved. She asked what it was and I realised that she was as passionate about all things mediaeval as I was. I told her about the new band I was forming and asked her to join us. I didn’t even know if she could sing! It was the start of a wonderful collaboration and a friendship that has spanned more than 27 years.

How would you describe the sound of Medieval Baebes, Marie?

I love that we create a real mix of haunting melodies, ethereal enchantments, rousing incantations, and cheeky ditties with catchy hooks! Many of us are classically trained and I like to think that with a style of unconventional arrangement and composition, along with a playful and fantastical image, we have used our talents to create a different music sound.

Many of our musical backgrounds come from a more rock and roll origin and although we do replicate and sing traditional mediaeval songs, we often set mediaeval poetry to our own original compositions too. This means we perform a soundscape that plays to everyone's romantic sense of our past, in an accessible, fun and beautiful way.

What is the best part of being a Mediaeval Baebe, Katharine?

We all have our own, different wow monuments and there are so many different experiences where do I start… I really enjoyed performing across the world in Canada, Asia, Europe and the United States. We have sung in castles and caves, through to cathedrals and Glastonbury, as well as performing at the Jersey Opera House and the legendary Lilith Fayre. But, performing on Iggy Pop’s Christmas day special on BBC Radio 6Music was one of the best for me. I am a huge fan of his, and he of us, so that was a real ‘wow’ moment.

What is yours, Marie?

The Baebes are an astonishing collective of very talented women who are just fun to be around both on and off stage, so going on tour is one of the best parts for me. I love it. Also, my life-long obsession has been history, and our songs are designed to be sung in old churches and cathedrals. Our sound rises into the rafters and vaulted ceilings. I feel so very privileged to be able to sing in so many awe-inspiring venues. However, singing at the Royal Albert Hall was just an absolute honour and another favourite of mine was the Minstrels Gallery at Hampton Court Palace. Here I felt a huge powerful sense of history and real a connection to all the musicians that must have sung there through the ages.

Katharine, how will the Mediaeval Baebes top their achievements next?

Ha, I am not sure we can! But…as we have found over the years, we have changed and new opportunities always come up for a new exciting challenge. For example, in 2023 we collaborated with [dance act] Orbital on Ringa Ringa and reached number six in the album chart. So who knows what will be next!

Mediæval Bæbes will be taking their Christmas Procession to various venues across the country throughout December