Gone are the days when every town had one but Brighton still has its very own mandolin and guitar orchestra currently with around 25 players from the City and surrounding areas. The group was founded in 1995 by Ian Harris with the goal of reviving the tradition of mandolin orchestras, which were hugely popular in the UK up until the 1930s. In April 2012 Ian passed the Musical Director baton to Lindsay Stoner.
Originally playing pieces typical of mandolin orchestras from the beginning of the twentieth century, the Fretful Federation has always been expanding and developing its repertoire. We now play a wide range of material including exciting contemporary music by living composers, as well as classical and popular pieces and concertos. We have collaborated with other mandolin orchestras, choirs and the Early Music group, The Pastores Ensemble as well as talented soloists of other instruments. We perform concerts all over Sussex and have toured abroad. If you come to one of our concerts you are guaranteed variety and entertainment. Find out more about them on the Events page.
The music is written in part form for mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos, mandobass, percussion and guitars. We welcome new recruits playing any of these instruments or their relative bowed cousins — the violin family — from beginners to advanced players.
Musical Director – Lindsay Stoner
Lindsay joined the orchestra in 1996 as a complete beginner on the mandolin. After some years of trying to come to grips with the mandolin family of instruments she decided to return to university to develop her knowledge of music and undertook a two-year Diploma in Music with the Open University, a wonderful education.
With the orchestra and also smaller groups she variously played mandolin, mandola and mandocello as required and eventually started on the bass, while also doing some of the conducting. She also started teaching the mandolin to children and continues to teach, having fairly recently added the ukulele to the offering.
When the founding musical director decided to move on to new adventures in early 2012 the orchestra offered Lindsay the post which she accepted with some trepidation. Through the years of her leadership the orchestra has travelled to and performed in Holland, Germany and Belgium in orchestra exchanges, and the group has consistently performed well in the bi-annual national mandolin orchestra rallies, coming away with trophies for Musicianship and also Entertainment. All of these experiences along with the annual calendar of concerts in and around Sussex have continued the progress of the orchestra developing into a strong community music group. The biggest challenge for her and the orchestra so far was the Making Music project with Esmeralda Conde Ruiz, The other ocean, with the group performing to silent film for the first time; it was a demanding and stretching journey and a truly priceless experience.
Adopt a Composer Scheme
The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra was selected for the Adopt a Composer Scheme 2017/2018, sponsored by Making Music.
One of seven groups to have come through the competitive process, they were paired with Spanish composer, Esmeralda Conde Ruiz, and began a year long journey together which resulted in a brand new piece of music titled “the other ocean”. Esmeralda is a multi-award winning composer and conductor. She worked with Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton to select seven pieces from its collection and used them to create the new film and score. The film fuses moving images of people and places from the region with the orchestra’s interests in childhood memories resulting in a unique experience for the audience
Esmeralda Conde Ruiz says: I created ‘The other ocean’ to explore memories through music and images. We all might see the same image but it will trigger a complete different memory and that duality fascinates me. What makes the piece so special for me is the combination of real memories from Brighton and the South East combined with memories of the Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra, who all live in the region.
The work was premiered at Brighton’s Attenborough Centre in November 2018 and aired on BBC Radio 3 in January, 2019.