The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra.

One of the proudest achievements of Ian Harris's life is the creation of this 30 piece mandolin orchestra, made up of 1st and 2nd mandolins, mandolas, guitars, mandocellos and 2 mandobasses.

Here are some videos of us performing at our many concerts.

Brighton Festival May 2010

Karl Jenkin's 'Song of the Spirit'

Check out these YouTube clip of us playing in Worthing's St Botolph's Church, in 2007:

Song of Japanese Autumn (as it is over 10 minutes long, it is in 2 halves):

Vivaldi's Mandolin concerto, in G, 3rd Movement:

Robert Schulz, Two Folk dances, 2nd movement:

John Goodin's Smitten:

Jon Kok's Benvenuto:

Here's a You Tube video of us at one of our Tuesday night rehearsals at St George's Church playing Carlo Munier's Carnevale di Venezia; the soloist is me.

The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra has been performing for over ten years.

We rehearse once a week, every week, at St Georges Church, Kemptpwn, Brighton on Tuesdays at 7.30pm. You can see a link here:

We have performed at numerous festivals and towns around the south, including The Brighton Festival, Adur Festival, Worthing, Littlehampton, Hailsham, Lewes, Shoreham-by-Sea.

The music we play ranges from Classical, Baroque Concertos, Music Hall, Contemporary Composers (we have commissioned pieces from some of the finest living composers such as David Sutton-Anderson) from around the world.

The orchestra is arranged as a traditional string orchestra, as the mandolin family duplicates the violin family; 1st mandolins, 2nd mandolins, mandolas, mandocello, guitars (nylon strung; an exception to the traditional string orchestra, of course!), and mandobasses

You can hire a mandolin group/orchestra, from 1 to 30 piece, to play at your function/occasion. An addition to any event that is sure to surprise and impress.

Also, if you would like to join The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra please contact me, Ian Harris at

Also check out the web page of 'The Fretful Federation' at


How it all started (the orchestra, that is)

I was busking in the black hole that is Bristol's shopping precinct, probably 1995. Whilst trying to scrap a penny together there I was accosted by an older lady who was a member of the Bristol Mandolin Orchestra, 'Fingers and Frets'. She suggested I visit the leader of said orchestra, John Hope, whom I did. He was very welcoming and sat me down to play together some old orchestra music; the first piece was "Gypsy Love". He started trying to get together some sets of parts for this piece and others and eventually gave up and gave me the whole box of a defunct orchestra's music (I was never informed which one).

When I came back to Brighton I set about, with a religeous devotion, to harass and persuade various music teachers and musicians to form a professional group. Involved were such persons as Brian Ashworth, and Phil Berthoud. Martin Edis and Moyra Huxtable eventually showed their faces.

In order to get others interested I started advertising in the local ad paper, The Fridayad, which was free at the time. Alot of amateurs and beginners expressed an interest to take part.

So, when the professional group started to fail, I thought it would be high time to try to cobble together an amateur Community Orchestra. Early members were Ninka, Martin Edis, Lindsay Stoner, Mark Price, Bernice Plesence, John Barry, Jean Clarke and Alan Kennington.

I often tried to encourage people to take part by offering them my deadly homebrew beer.

Eventually we got it together to play our first concert at The Friends Centre, Brighton, in 1997.

When I started the orchestra it was with me as the sole director and dictator. A few years later I gave the orchestra and orchestra repertoire to the orchestra in order to aid the orchestra in trying to achieve a Lottery Grant, which was eventually successful. The orchestra then formed it's own committee and employed me, with my eternal gratituded, as it's musical director.

Rest is history, check out it's web site, as linked above.

How I got into classical mandolin

Ian Harris studied for his music degree at Dartington college of Arts. His priority instrument was classical guitar.

One of his favourite radio programmes, whilst there, was the weekly classical guitar programme. One evening, he heard the Mair/Davis duo of mandolin and guitar play Will Ayton's '3 pieces', and Brian Israels 'Sonatinetta'. He was blown away.

He immediately ordered the music and tried to persuade his folk mandolin next door neighbour to play the mandolin part; this was too much for him, so he learnt the mandolin part himself and found a classical guitarist to accompany him in a recital at the college.

He was hooked.

How I got 'The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra' off the ground

Eventually he became acquainted with the Bristol mandolin orchestra, 'Fingers and Frets' and the leader of said, John Hope, was kind enough to give him a big box of mandolin orchestra music from a defunct orchestra.

He took it back to Brighton where he started pestering people to form a professional mandolin orchestra (is there such a thing?). He found he had a lot of interest from many amateurs who wanted to play part music on their mandolins or guitars, so he opened it up as an amateur orchestra.

So, from then on, he invited all and sundry to join him, on a Tuesday evening, to play this strange and quaint 1930's mandolin orchestra part music.

It took several years, several venue changes, and lots of concerts, to get the orchestra to the self sufficient stage it is now. The first couple of years were difficult, though, with rehearsals sometimes attended by only 1 - 5 people; now the orchestra has a regular attendance of 25 - 30 players, with mandolins (1st and 2nds), octace mandolas, mandocello, guitars (nylon strung) and 2 mandobasses.

Ian Harris has always thought of 'The Fretful Federation' as his proudest achievement. What is better than coming up with a seed of an idea and for it to grow into a living community organisation that brings people together for the joyful purpose of playing this beautiful music. Speaking of which, we don't only play the 1930's stuff anymore, but also music by living composers and other classical pieces. Sometimes Ian gets to strut his funky stuff as the mandolin soloist, in mandolin concertos, or to play musical saw, accompanied by the orchestra, or maybe just to sing a song, similarily supported by the the orchestra.

To join or book for a concert 'The Fretful Federation' please go to it's website at

The London, Portsmouth, and Southampton Mandolin Orchestra

Ian Harris is currently rounding up persons who want to join sister orchestras, or the Fretful Federation, in London, Portsmouth and Southampton.

The idea is that a collective of orchestras is formed, in the South East of England, that will play the same music, and meet up, occasionally, to perform as a larger orchestra.

Those that are interested please contact Ian on his email at: