Hilary James and friends: songs, stories and traditions

Hilary JamesInternationally renowned folk singer and musician, Hilary James and one of the world's foremost mandolinists, Simon Mayor, present another series of folk music concerts and workshops at MERL.

Hilary and Simon, two of the country’s most highly acclaimed folk musicians, met as Reading University students in the 1970s have lived in the town for more than 30 years.

The concerts are set within the evocative context of the Museum gallery. They focus on the music of the English countryside and its evolving tradition, and feature high profile invited guests from the national folk scene. The series includes talks and workshops on the issues surrounding folk music and the Englishness debate.

 

The Museum of English Rural Life is very grateful for the generous support of:

Acoustics Records logoThe University of Reading Arts Committee
Acoustics Records, Hilary and Simon's record label
West Berkshire Brewery
West Berkshire Brewery logo'Award-winning beers of exceptional character' 

 

Enjoy a drink of real ale from the MERL bar and during the intervals at each concert. All proceeds go towards the cost of staging the events.

 

 

2013 Concerts and workshops

MandolinquentsA Day with the Mandolinquents

  • Sunday 7th July, 1-9pm
    book now
  • Concert & workshop - £60 & £45 (concs)*
  • Concert only £15 & £12 (concs)

The Mandolinquents are back!

Join Mandolin maestro Simon Mayor, multi-instrumentalist Richard Collins, conductor of the National Youth Guitar ensemble Gerald Garcia and Hilary James for a second summery day of musical magic!

  • Afternoon workshops, 1-5pm
    If you'd like some expert guidance on the mandolin, and the chance to play in a one-day MERL mandolin orchestra, come and join the fun. There'll also be workshops in guitar & voice. All levels are welcome but it helps if you can read music or tablature.

*Contact us for details of a further special reduced workshop rate for school-aged musicians.

For further details on the workshops, please see below and visit www.mandolinquents.com or call 0118 9268615.

  • Outdoor evening concert, 7-9pm
    (Doors open from 6pm for picnics. A West Berkshire Brewery real ale bar will also be available!)
    With a break for tea and a second wind, The Mandolinquents finish the day with an early evening concert in the MERL garden. This will be a relaxed and entertaining concert for all the family!

"Wicked and wonderful"
BBC Radio 3

 

Workshop options:

 

Mandolin with Simon Mayor

Simon Mayer bioSimon Mayor is one of the world's leading mandolin virtuosos as well as a fine fiddler, guitarist, composer and wit. He has produced a wealth of teaching books and DVDs for mandolin, including 'New Celtic Mandolin' 'The Mastering the Mandolin' and 'The Mandolin Tutor', which is now widely regarded as the standard work for the instrument. He is also a regular columnist for Acoustic Magazine.

His live performances are a riot of humorous anecdotes and off-the-cuff wit alongside dazzling musicianship. With an unequalled reputation in folk and classical circles alike his recordings have been heralded across the media. With his debut 'The Mandolin Album', he embarked on a series of recordings to realise his longstanding intention to give the mandolin a uniquely British voice. The CD was immediately made Album of the Week on BBC Radio 2 receiving popular and critical acclaim. His mix of original and traditional material alongside classical showstoppers has brought widespread recognition with invitations from around the globe, including the Classical Mandolin Society of America.

 

Hilary James biographyVoice with Hilary James

While the majority of Hilary's recent repertoire is comprised of traditional English, Irish and Scottish ballads, she is equally at home singing Irving Berlin, country blues, Vivaldi or Bizet. English Sketches, her fifth solo CD, is a collection of English traditional songs and original settings of poems by Shakespeare, Housman and Hardy. It appeared in the Sunday Times 2011 Ten Best World Music Albums. To find out more and hear samples from Hilary's recordings visit www.folksong.co.uk

"Hilary James's celebration of all things rustic has blossomed into a serene disc... the arrangements are a delight throughout." The Sunday Times * * *

"... showcases her beautifully pure voice in this genuinely charming evocation of pastoral England... I find this album pretty irresistible." The Scotsman * * * *

 

Guitar workshop with Gerald Garcia

Gerald Garcia bioDirector of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, Gerald Garcia's reputation is confirmed as one of the world's finest guitarists. From the Wigmore Hall to the Glastonbury Festival he has toured with the likes of John Williams and Paco Pena, appeared with such diverse talents as Michel Legrand, Barbara Streisand, Larry Coryell and Wayne Shorter, has six solo albums out on the Naxos label... and always brings the wackiest sense of humour to his performances! His wider travels have found him as far afield as Borneo, the Arctic Circle and China, where he was the first British guitarist to play in recent times. In September 1995 he toured four Chinese cities in a duo with guitarist John Williams.

*A special reduced rate is available to school-aged guitar players for this workshop. Please contact merlevents@reading.ac.uk for further details.

 

Banjo workshop with Richard Collins

Richard Collins bioRichard Collins is one of the hottest (and subtlest) 5 string banjo players around and one of the few British bluegrass musicians to work as a session musician in Nashville let alone perform a season with the National Theatre in London. He first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and within a couple of years was stunningly adept on a number of stringed instruments. By his mid-teens he was much in demand at bluegrass festivals and arts centres in his native Hampshire. Now highly regarded as a mandolinist and guitarist, his greatest passion is still…the banjo! Apart from his consummate skill as a musician, Richard has reputedly the largest repertoire of self-deprecating banjo jokes in the world.

 

Tears of Laughter: English Comic Song

  • Sunday 10th March, 6pm
    book now
    Tickets £15 or £12 (concessions)

Hilary James (with multi-instrumentalists and raconteurs Simon Mayor and Richard Collins) giggles her way through an eye-watering collection of ancient and modern English ditties, from bawdy ballads to Noel Coward, Vivian Ellis, Jake Thackray and a few more modern surprises. Bring your tissues; one way or another, you'll definitely need them!!

  • Pre-concert singing workshop, 2-5pm
    book now
    £35 workshop only
    £45 for workshop and concert tickets bought together

Join Hilary for an afternoon of sheer fun. Enjoy the pleasure of singing with a group and discover more about your own voice. Explore a myriad of song possibilities with the English folk tradition from ballads and sea shanties to lullabies and comic songs. As well as introducing you to some beautiful English folk songs, Hilary will offer advice on style and technique.

Don't miss this rare opportunity to pick up tips from Hilary, whose voice has been described by All Music Guide as '"One of the most stirring female voices in contemporary British folk music"

For more about Hilary, visit her website at www.folksong.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Previous series

Spring 2012 series

Hilary James returns to present a new series of folk music concerts, workshops and illustrated talks. Beginning with Tales of land and sea by Taffy Thomas in March, the series will continue with a visit from Oxfordshire's 'Magpie Lane', Hilary James's English Sketches and a concert and masterclass workshops with The Mandolinquents.

 

A day with the Mandolinquents

Sunday 8th July

 

Masterclass workshops & concert

1-9pm, £55, £42 concs
Concert only
7pm, £15 & £12 concs
 

Mandolin maestro Simon Mayor, UK banjo champion Richard Collins, conductor of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble Gerald Garcia and Hilary James present an afternoon of mandolin, banjo, guitar and voice masterclasses followed by an early evening concert.

Don't miss this unique opportunity to participate in a masterclass with one of these highly experienced musicians.

Choose from the following masterclasses:

 

Voice with Hilary James

While the majority of Hilary’s recent repertoire is comprised of traditional English, Irish and Scottish ballads, she is equally at home singing Irving Berlin, country blues, Vivaldi or Bizet. English Sketches, her fifth solo CD, is a collection of English traditional songs and original settings of poems by Shakespeare, Housman and Hardy. It appeared in the Sunday Times 2011 Ten Best World Music Albums. To find out more and hear samples from Hilary's recordings visit www.folksong.co.uk

"Hilary James's celebration of all things rustic has blossomed into a serene disc... the arrangements are a delight throughout." The Sunday Times * * *

"... showcases her beautifully pure voice in this genuinely charming evocation of pastoral England... I find this album pretty irresistible." The Scotsman * * * *

 

 

 

Banjo workshop with Richard Collins

Richard Collins is one of the hottest (and subtlest) 5 string banjo players around and one of the few British bluegrass musicians to work as a session musician in Nashville let alone perform a season with the National Theatre in London. He first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and within a couple of years was stunningly adept on a number of stringed instruments. By his mid-teens he was much in demand at bluegrass festivals and arts centres in his native Hampshire. Now highly regarded as a mandolinist and guitarist, his greatest passion is still…the banjo! Apart from his consummate skill as a musician, Richard has reputedly the largest repertoire of self-deprecating banjo jokes in the world.

 

The Mandolinquents evening concert

The evening concert is included in the ticket price for masterclass attendees. Alternatively, just come along for the evening concert at 7pm and enjoy listening to this amazing group of musicians playing together live. (See above for details)

For more information, visit www.mandolinquents.com

 

Tales of land and sea - Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest Taffy Thomas

20 March 2012, 7.30pm

  • £15, £12 concessions

The first UK Laureate for Storytelling, Taffy Thomas takes us to East Anglia for tall tales of tall ships and landlubbers. Currently artistic director of Tales in Trust, the Northern Centre for Storytelling, Taffy has also been awarded the MBE for services to storytelling and charity. With songs from Hilary James and additional music from mandolin and fiddle maestro Simon Mayor.

This concert is part of a programme of events related to Field Work, our photographic exhibition. For more information, visit the Field Work exhibition page

 See pictures from the first concert in the series on the MERL Facebook page here

 

Tinker, Tailor, Beggarman, Thief - Magpie Lane

24 April, 7.30pm

  • £15, £12 concessions

Magpie Lane specialise in performing traditional English songs and dance tunes, with a particular focus on the musical heritage of Oxfordshire. In this show they present tales of ordinary folk - ploughboys, poachers, shepherds, sailors and serving maids - at work, at play, in love and, quite often, in trouble with the law. Some of the band's material is well known on the folk scene, but they also bring to life many lesser known items from the manuscripts of Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, and other collectors working roughly a hundred years ago.

Magpie Lane "release consistently good albums of English songs and music"
Mike Harding, BBC Radio 2

"The Oxfordshire-based quintet marry a deep love of their material with an unflashy musicality and a seriousness of purpose that is never solemn. This is traditional music with nothing taken out and just the right soupçon of seasoning."
Jon Boden & Fay Hield, Royal Traditions, Dungworth

To find out more, visit Magpie Lane

English Sketches - Hilary James and friends

26 June, 7.30pm

  • £15, £12 concessions
  • book now

    Hilary performs songs from her acclaimed CD English Sketches, with guests Simon Mayor, Ed Quick, Richard Collins and Eddy Jay.

    Listen to extracts from 'English Sketches' on Hilary's website.

    "Hilary James's celebration of all things rustic has blossomed into a serene disc that blends traditional songs with settings of Shakespeare, Houseman and Hardy."
    The Sunday Times

    "Pretty irresistible."
    The Scotsman

     

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    Spring 2011 series

    Dave Swarbrick (c) Bryan LedgardThe English fiddle - rags, reels and airs
    Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest Dave Swarbrick

    1 March, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £15 or £12 (concessions)
      (10% discount when you book tickets for all 3 concerts)

    Dave Swarbrick (or Swarb as he is affectionately known to friends and fans alike) is truly a living legend and lauded as the most influential of all English folk fiddlers. As a member of Fairport Convention (1970-79), he was instrumental in the band’s transformation from Byrds-style folk rock band to its focus on updating the jigs and reels of Great Britain. His many collaborations include Peggy Seeger, Ian Campbell and Martin Carthy.

    He has received the highest professional accolades including a Lifetime Achievement Award from BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards, the English Folk Dance and Song Society Gold Badge and the Gold Badge of Merit from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.

     

    Simon MayorA take on Jake: the music of the late, great Jake Thackray

    5 April, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £15 or £12 (concessions)

    Simon Mayor presents a highly entertaining review of Jake’s finest songs and masterful wit.

    Simon is “Britain’s leading hot-fingered mandolin virtuoso”, fine guitarist, fiddler, writer, wit...and a huge admirer of fellow Yorkshireman, the late, great Mr Jake Thackray. Hilary James plays various basses and sings “like an angel”.

    Taking centre stage tonight are some of Jake’s finest songs and masterful wit: Bantam Cock, Sister Josephine, The Lodger, The Bull, Widow of Bridlington... and many more.

     Jake Thackray

    Jake Thackray's lyrics are firmly and recognisably rooted in the English countryside, character and language. They are also painfully funny, sad, tragic, rude, irreverent, incisive and happy, and often enough all these things at the same time. In short, they are unique. By the mid-sixties Jake was back in his native Yorkshire teaching at a school near Leeds where he found a way to get unruly pupils to take an interest was through his songs. This and performing in folk clubs led to appearances on local BBC programmes followed by national TV with regular slots on The Frost Report, The Braden Beat and That's Life. In nearly thirty years of performing he made over 1,000 radio and TV appearances ranging from a topical song in magazine programmes to broadcasts of live concerts on both radio and television. His EMI catalogue produced seven albums between 1967 and 1991.

    He died on Christmas Eve 2002 at the age of 64. He left behind a collection of songs unsurpassed by any contemporary songwriter or poet, the songs of a craftsman whose lyrics, melodies and accompaniment are as relevant and appealing today as they ever were. If Jake Thackray had been French he would surely have received the Legion d'Honneur and become a national treasure.

    For more information about the life and music of Jake Thackray, visit The Jake Thackray Website

     

    Karen TweedAccordion times
    Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest Karen Tweed

    24 May, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £15 or £12 (concessions)

    Join accordion queen Karen Tweed on an uplifting, personal musical journey exploring the life and times of this simple air-filled instrument. From mussettes, polkas, and tangos to Morris dances and Irish marching bands the music intertwines with politics. Full of controversy, from dance floor to concert stage and beyond, this illustrated talk will entice you into a push-pull debate you hardly realised could be possible! Karen will play, talk, present and inspire you to have a squeeze!

     

    Arrangements from an accordionist's repertoire:
    a workshop with Karen Tweed

    24 May, 6.15-7.15pm

    • £5 or free to concert ticket holders
    • Book

    Whatever your level of ability bring an instrument and voice, join Karen in her rollercoaster journey of making an arrangement from tunes scattering via Scandinavia, Quebec, Wales, England and her ink pen and become an organic orchestration! Karen is breathtaking in her approach to hands on arrangements, always packed with laughter, elegance and frolics! She'll casserole an arrangement to suit everyone from enthusiastic beginner to seasoned professional. Great fun for all!

     


    Spring 2010 series

    Tim Healey in 17C costumeSex, drink and death in 17C England
    Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest Tim Healey

    16 March, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £15 and £12 (concs) (Save by buying tickets for all 3 concerts for £36 or £30)

    A very welcome return to MERL of popular writer and broadcaster Tim Healey whose last illustrated talk on the Green Man was a huge success. Tonight he explores the colourful and raffish side of English social life during the tumultuous era of the English Civil War and Restoration. Accompanied in song and music by Hilary and Simon.

    Only 60 tickets available, so book now!!

    Don't forget to in plenty of time to enjoy a drink of West Berkshire Brewery Real Ale, which will also be available throughout the evening!

     

    The Victorian village band workshop, with John Kirkpatrick

    Adult Learners Week logo18 May, 6.15-7.15pm

    • Free
    • Booking required (FULLY BOOKED)

    Whatever your level of ability bring an instrument, join in the fun and become part of the Victorian village band. John's experience as a workshop leader and teacher of singing, instrumental and dancing skills is legendary. He'll concoct an arrangement to suit everyone from enthusiastic beginner to seasoned professional. Great fun for all!

    There are only 20 places available on a first come first served basis, so book now!

     

    John KirkpatrickThe Victorian farmer's year in song
    Hilary James and Simon Mayor
    with special guest John Kirkpatrick

    18 May, 7.30pm

    Singer, melodeon and anglo-concertina maestro, John Kirkpatrick (as seen recently on BBC 2's 'Victorian Farm') takes his audience on a remarkable journey through the country calendar in music and song.

    Don't miss this opportunity to see the 2010 BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year perform in an intimate and atmospheric setting.  Only 60 tickets available, so book now!!

    West Berkshire Brewery Real Ale bar!

     

    Hilary JamesThe sands of song
    Hilary James with guests, Simon Mayor and Belshazzar's Feast (Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson)

    22 June, 7.30pm

    Hilary traces the history of English Rural Life in song: bell-ringing, country dancing, high days and holidays, love, lust, loss, landscape and labour. Virtuoso accompaniment on guitar, fiddle, oboe, accordion and mandolin plus a hearty dose of wit and repartee from the assembled company. Only 60 tickets available, so book now!!

     

    Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson, Belshazzar's FeastSpecial free, pre-concert event for ticket-holders (please book when you buy your tickets):

    In conversation with Belshazzar's Feast
    6.30-7.10pm

    A rare opportunity to meet this highly respected and hugely popular musical and witty duo in the intimate setting of MERL. Paul Sartin (who appeared with Bellowhead at the 2008 Proms) sings and plays fiddle and oboe while Paul Hutchinson plays accordion. Recently seen in a 2009 TV Christmas Special for BBC4.

    West Berkshire Brewery Real Ale bar!

     

    Spring 2009 series

    In the Spring of 2009 MERL ran a series of folk concerts, workshops and illustrated talks with and  represents a new and exciting departure for the Museum in exploring new ways to encourage the current resurgence of interest in English traditional music, song and storytelling.

    'Songs from a small island': Hilary James and Simon Mayor in concert

    3 March, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £12 and £10 (concessions) SOLD OUT

    A musical journey around the British countryside from Dorset to Scotland viewed through folksong and settings of poems by John Clare, William Barnes and Robbie Burns. Also featuring some fine fiddle and mandolin tunes from maestro Mayor.

    “Evocative virtuosity and faultless singing” The Daily Telegraph

    ”Just fantastic to go and see live” BBC Radio 3

    Listen to Hilary singing her song, 'Linden Lea' set to the words of the poem by William Barnes, from the album 'Music from a Small Island'.  Click here to download (MP3 - 3MB)

     

    How to play the tin whistle in 15 minutes

    28 April, 6.30-7pm

    • Free
    • Booking required

    Never made music and wondered what it would be like? For families and individuals from 7 years old to 70!

    As well as learning to play simple folk tunes by ear on pennywhistles provided on the day, you will be helped and encouraged to make up your own tunes and contribute to what Luke sees as an ever evolving folk music tradition.

    Luke Daniels is a well known and highly respected folk musician with previous experience of outreach and educational work, including the Folkworks National Summer School and for the Newcastle University folk music degree course. In 2003 he set up the first folk music academy in the South East dedicated to young traditional musicians with funding from the National Foundation for Youth Music.

     

    Luke Daniels'Trading traditions': Hilary James and Simon Mayor with special guest, Luke Daniels

    28 April, 7.30pm

    • Tickets £12 and £10 (concessions)

    Luke Daniels is one of a new breed of contemporary performers coming from a background of Irish folk and traditional music, 1992 BBC Young Tradition Award Winner and ex Riverdance band member. Luke was more recently selected to take part in the Distil project organised by the Scottish Arts Council, an event through which he met and completed a series of mentoring sessions with the composer Judith Weir & Paul Rogers.

    His latest piece ‘Circle of Stone’ was recently featured on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune program. Previous work has been performed at the English National Opera Works, London Jazz Festival, South Bank’s ‘Folk in the Fall’ and in The Royal Festival at the London Philharmonic’s 2004 ‘Roots Day’ event. He performed at this year’s Belfast Festival and last year’s ROH Firsts event in the Lindbury Studios. He has just returned from a tour of China with his own ensemble “Lost Music of the Gaels.”

    He believes that the folk music ethos can help young people develop a highly disciplined approach to music through their love and enjoyment of it. A belief that led him to set up his Traditional Music Academy at South Hill Park in 2004 with funding from the National Foundation for Youth Music.  

    "An engaging new force to reckon with." The Guardian

     

    Tim Healey The Green Man - a mythical figure, with special guest Tim Healey

    12 May, 2009

    • Tickets £12 and £10 (concessions)

    The Green Man is an age-old presence in architecture and crafts. Who is the mysterious figure? Is he, as some say, a brooding woodland deity from early pagan tree cults? Does he derive from Celtic or Roman religion? What are his connections with traditional May Day celebrations? Freelance writer and popular broadcaster, Tim Healey tells the Green Man story, with stunning visual images and musical interludes from Simon and Hilary.

     

     

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