Music - Fretful Federation
A few years back Ian Harris, a trained classical musician,
was busking in Bristol with his mandolin. “Not very
successfully, actually” he remembers. An old couple
approached him, invited him in for a cup of tea. “They
were handing out parts in a mandolin orchestra, of the sort
that used to be popular until the 30’s,” he says.
Ian got involved, and when he moved to Brighton, he was presented
with the repertoire of scores of a defunct company. He decided
to set up his own orchestra.
“At first a few people joined, and gradually we expanded
until now we have 25 or so members,” he says. “The
orchestra is set up like a classical string orchestra: instead
of violins we have mandolins, instead of violas, we have mandolas,
instead of cellos we have mandocellos, instead of basses,
mandobasses.” The sound is more ‘bright and shimmery’
than a violin orchestra: the group perform a varied repertoire
from tangos, rumbas and ragtime to classical and contemporary
works. The group practice on Tuesdays at 7.30 in St George’s
Church in Kemptown. A small lottery grant means that anyone
interested is welcome to turn up and will be lent an instrument
to practice on. So who goes to mandolin orchestra concerts?
“A real mixture, from classical fans to guitarists who
are curious to see what sort of music we make.” I’m
intrigued as to what Ian’s day job is. “I play
music on stilts,” he says. He also is a handsaw expert.
“I’ve just come back from a festival in China.”