Simon Mayor & Hilary James
This fine English duo have a wide variety of accomplishments to their credit. Simon Mayor’s current position is as one of the world’s foremost mandolinists and composers for the instrument. Hilary James’ “elegant singing” (Daily Telegraph) is quintessentially English, but easily crosses the great musical divides from British ballads to blues and Berlioz. She’s renowned too for an unlikely taste in bass instruments (she could turn up with her giant mandobass or slimline semi-acoustic double bass), accompanying Simon on guitar on anything from bluegrass to Vivaldi, and even managing a step dance if the wind is in the right direction.
If they have a speciality, it’s an ability to perform a truly diverse array of music with respect and affection, held together by Simon’s famed introductions which range from the wry to the hilarious. Their shows include a Vivaldi concerto, Scottish, Irish and English ballads, Gershwin, Berlin, ragtime and originals including at least one of their gruesomely hilarious children’s songs (reminiscent of Belloc’s ‘Cautionery Tales’).
Originally from the north of England, they met as students at Reading University, where they discovered a shared passion for music. Hilary sang with the University Big Band and presented the University Folk Club while studying for a degree in Fine Art; Simon studied Russian language, literature and social thought while learning to play mandolin, violin and guitar. Before graduating they won a national music competition and played the Cambridge Festival.
Captivating and experienced live performers, they have now toured the globe from Seattle to Singapore, taking in a truly diverse roster of world, folk and classical festivals, including the Classical Mandolin Society of America, Rudoldstat World Music Festival (Germany), the Vancouver Folk Festival (Canada), the Stephen Leacock Humor Festival (Canada), The Henley Festival, Cheltenham Literature Festival and Sidmouth Folk Festival. With the last four years in particular spent in almost constant touring, this Summer sees them writing and recording several new projects.
They share a passionate interest in children’s music and have worked extensively with young people in theatres and schools, as well as writing and presenting music education programmes for BBC Radio and TV for six years. They have recorded five ‘Musical Mystery Tour’ children’s CDs of original songs and the ‘Musical Mystery Tour’ songbook is published by Faber Music.
Simon Mayor is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading mandolin players, as well as fine fiddle player, guitarist, composer and wit. His highly acclaimed Mandolin Albums have gained him an unequalled reputation in classical and folk circles alike and have been heralded across the media from Radio 3, Classic FM, Radio 2 (Album of the Week) and World Service (Recording of the Week) to magazines as diverse as Q, Vox, Cosmopolitan and Folk Roots.
His off-beat humour surfaced in his own series for BBC Radio 2 Marooned with a Mandolin – “the best programme on Radio 2 this week” in The Independent on Sunday. Aside from the mandolin, he played swing fiddle on the album Five Guys Name Mo and has written four music books including a collection of children’s songs for Faber Music.
Hilary James may be best known for her fine singing, but she takes her place in the Mandolinquents line-up pounding the mighty mandobass. Her superb voice defies categorisation and has featured everywhere from Classic FM to Radio 1’s Andy Kershaw. Covering everything from traditional folk music to blues and swing her three solo CDs have been played on radio stations from Los Angeles to Latvia and brought an invitation to make a video with MTV award winning editor/producer Dan Lebenthal in Hollywood. Hilary James presented music education programmes for national BBC Radio for six years and has illustrated a children’s song book for Faber Music.
Together with Simon Mayor she has written over 60 children’s songs, as well as topical songs for news programmes.