Musicians: Simon Mayor and Hilary James
Reviewer: Christy Ku
Mandolin music, dry wit and songs about turkeys – it can only be Simon Mayor and Hilary James. Mayor is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, columnist and one of the world’s leading mandolinists. He tours with long-term partner Hilary James, a singer and fellow multi-instrumentalist. Together, they play folk music with an interest in children’s music.
Mayor and James present an unamplified and intimate gig at the Cygnet Theatre, with Wren Music as their opening act. Wren Music specialise in using music to form communities, encouraging people to participate in music through traditional and folk music. Presenting their third collaboration with Cygnet Theatre, Marilyn Tucker and Paul Wilson open the show with vocals and guitar. Tucker and Wilson have been singing together for 30 years, and comfortably create a warm atmosphere, presenting old folklore and traditional songs to the audience. With their music and poetry, they bring an old romanticised world of pastures, lost loves and sentiment through songs collected from their travels and their friends.
Mayor lives up to his reputation on the mandolin – he is fantastically skilled and plays effortlessly. His dry sense of humour and unpretentious stage presence means he banters with the audience readily and easily. James has a beautiful voice with great control, and through chatting to the audience and sharing anecdotes, it’s as though everyone in the audience is her friend. The two musicians synergise perfectly with each other, falling into the tumbles and turns of the music. They play a mix of traditional music, folk, blues, French songs and nonsense songs for children with plenty of chances to sing along.
Playing a medley of violin, guitar, mandolin and bass mandolin, Mayor and James are at home on stage and charm the audience with their music and story-telling. If you enjoy folk tunes and a musical journey to the past, be sure to see them live for a rather lovely evening.
Reviewed on 25 September 2015.