About Us

About The Fretful Federation, Brighton's Mandolin Orchestra

Brighton's very own mandolin orchestra has been in existence since its foundation by Ian Harris, the original Leader and Musical Director of the Orchestra, in 1995. His goal was to revive the tradition of mandolin orchestras, which were hugely popular in the UK up until the 1930s. As of April 2012 Ian passed on the baton as Musical Director to Lindsay Stoner. 

Originally playing standard Banjo-Mandolin-Guitar pieces typical of Mandolin Orchestras from the beginning of the twentieth century, the repertoire of The Fretful Federation is always expanding and developing and now we play exciting contemporary music, by living composers, as well as classical and popular pieces, concertos and collaboration with other mandolin orchestras from around the world, and choirs.

The music is written, in part form, for mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos, mandobass, percussion and guitars. We welcome recruits, to our orchestra of all such musicians, and their relative bowed cousins. We play around Brighton and have toured abroad.

The Fretful Federation regularly takes part in competitions and in 1998 won the Francis Day and Hunter Trophy for ensembles of 6-9 players, and in 1999 and 2000 the Senior Orchestra Coronation Trophy for Entertainment, at the annual British Federation of Banjoists, Mandolinists and Guitarists (BMG) rallies. In 2001 The Fretful Federation won the First Prize for Musicianship with a piece by Konrad Wölki,and in 2004 at the October Rally at Falmer School here in Brighton regained the Entertainment cup with a programme varying from Benvenuto by J Kok to Der Heavy Metal Peppi by Otto Jezck. And in 2008 we again won the Challenge Cup for Entertainment at the festival in East Kilbride with a sensitive interpretation of the "Song of a Japanese Autumn", by Yasuo Kuwahara; come to hear us play it!

In 2012 amid stiff competition we again won the conveted First Prize for Musicianship at the BMG in London, playing The Adventures of the Duyfken by Robert Charlton.

In 2014 we lifted the Coronation Cup for entertainment at the BMG Rally in Bristol, retaining it in Glasgow, 2016.

In 2017 we were selected by the Adopt a Composer Scheme to work with Esmeralda Conde Ruiz who will be composing a new piece of music for us to premiere in 2018. 

2018 brought more success at the BMG Festival in Worthing. This time, in addition to the Coronation Cup for entertainment we were also awarded the coveted Federation Cup for musicianship, a great honour.

Adopt a Composer is run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music (the national agency for new music), in association with BBC Radio 3, and funded by PRS Foundation and the Philip and Dorothy Green Music Trust. For the second time Creative Scotland has provided additional funding for a Scottish project.