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Leader: Ian Harris BA(Hons)

Tel 01273 422434, 07939368874


MP3 samples from the February Concert

| Nechledil March by Franz Lehar |
full version, 1.25 Mb, plus:

| Balalaika Souvenir by John B Kok |  
sample, 234kB

| Scott Joplin's New Rag |
sample, 234kB

| Dieter Kreidler's Tango |
sample, 234kB

| Im Chambre Separée by Richard Heuberger |
sample, 234kB

Fretful Federation
Brighton's own Classical Mandolin Orchestra

Orchestra History

Fretful FederationBrighton's very own mandolin orchestra has been in existence for eight years, since its foundation by Ian Harris, the Leader and Musical Director of the Orchestra in 1997. His goal was to revive the tradition of mandolin orchestras, which were hugely popular in the UK up until the 1930s.

Originally playing standard Banjo-Mandolin-Guitar pieces typical of Mandolin Orchestras of the beginning of the century, the repertoire of The Fretful Federation is always expanding and developing and now includes everything from tangos, rumbas and ragtime to classical and contemporary works, fully challenging the range of instruments of the mandolin family. For a varied repertoire, come to one of the concerts.

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 rallies. In 2004 The Fretful Federation won the First Prize for Musicianship at the Rally in October, held at Falmer School here in Brighton with a programme varying from Benvenuto by J Kok to Der Heavy Metal Peppi by Otto Jezck.

Orchestra Instruments

The Mandolin Orchestra has members that mirror those of a string orchestra. These include the mandolin, mandola, mandocello, mandobass and the luito, a near-extinct instrument. There is also a guitar section and flute.

A mandolin is tuned like a violin but played with a plectrum. It has pairs of strings which give it the characteristic mandolin sound when played vibrato.

Most of the orchestral solos are on the Mandolin, which also provide a strong high harmony line.

These may be backed by Mandolas and, in the case of the Fretful Federation, several Octave Mandolas and a Mandocello.

The Bass line is provided by a Mando Bass played by Allan and constructed by a member, luthier Andrew Twort. Allan is currently "breaking in" a second Mandobass, which could leave room for you to play his old one! Andrew plays a self-constructed Luito, an instrument with 5 pairs of strings which covers the range of the Mandocello and Octave mandola, and give him some interesting moments when swapping from Treble clef to Cello clef to Bass Clef.

Guitars give a strong bass and rhythm line. The flute provides an interesting continuo contrast to solo mandolins.

A piece of music may feature any of these instruments.


The centre of the Cultural Universe is now St Georges Church, Kemptown on Tuesdays from 19.30 to 21.30 approximately.

Leader: Ian Harris BA(Hons)Leader: Ian Harris BA(Hons)

Ian is a  mandolin virtuoso, playing all the mandolin family and classical guitar. He provides the inspiration and most of the drive behind the Fretful Federation. he is also involved in other musical initiatives including Early Music ensembles.
Click here for his Website

Orchestra Members


BeginnersAs the only Mandolin Orchestra within 60 km of Brighton and Hove, the Fretful Federation encourages anyone interested to learn to play. The normal method for a complete beginner is to have lessons with Ian Harris, and after a time to join in some of the Orchestra Rehearsals and Concerts.

We have a youth policy and actively encourage the learning of the Mandolin by young people; you should see them playing at some of the concerts.

There is also an annual workshop at the Festival (see above) which gives an opportunity for anyone to try an instrument for themselves.

Established Musicians

We regularly include other instrumentalists in our orchestra. If you are a Mandolinist (or a flautist, harpist, percussionist) we would love you to play with us.

Federation Patrons

Federation Patrons support us in our future programme. To them we give deep appreciation, free tickets and priority booking for all concerts. Our first Patrons are R J Mc Conachie and Len Matthews.

Source http://www.fretful-federation.co.uk/
May, 2006