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Mayor's Mandolin music at museum
By Amanda Dellor
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Simon Mayor
Simon Mayor is to perform in Sex, death and drink in 17th century England

One of the world's most renowned mandolinists is performing in a series of concerts at The Museum of English Rural Life.

Simon Mayor performed in a show last week at The University of Reading called "Sex, death and drink in 17th century England".

Tim Healey and internationally-renowned folk singer Hilary James also took part in the show.

Simon is will also be at The Henley Festival and at New Greenham Arts.

When were mandolins at their most popular?

Simon said: "In the early 20th century there was a massive boom in mandolin orchestras, and manufacturers started making different sizes of mandolin to correspond with the violin family so you would get whole orchestras of plucked instruments rather than bowed instruments."

Is folk music undergoing a renaissance?

Simon said: "Everything goes in waves doesn't it? It was massively popular in the first half of the 20th century.

"I think it's enjoying a bit of a revival now. I think Britain is a little bit unusual in that it's still a musical backwater here.

"If you go to Germany, Japan, the United States, there are huge numbers of players. There's a really good mandolin orchestra in Madeira."

How would you describe the difference between guitar and mandolin?

Simon said: "The mandolin is higher pitched, it can't get as low as the guitar and the mandolin is double-strung so there are eight strings on it and they're all double.

"Because the strings are doubled you get a much smoother tremolo."

Hilary James
Hilary James will perform in Reading with Simon Mayor

You work together in several different shows, how did you meet?

Hilary said: "At Reading University, I was studying Fine Art and Simon was studying Russian. Both of us were more interested in our music than our courses. We met at the University Folk Club."

The pair are taking part in a series of concerts at the Museum of English Rural Life, at The University of Reading, including on 18 May - Victorian Farmers' Year in Song and 22 June - Sands of Song.

Check the Museum of English Rural Life for more concert details.

For more information go to Simon Mayor or Hilary James

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