Short history of the group
There was an upsurge of interest in the mandolin at the time, partly as the result of the success of the novel “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernieres. Gradually a solid core of keen and committed players emerged, and in 2004 we decided to stop being a teaching group and focus on rehearsing for performances instead.
Numbers grew – at the first official Moonlight Mandolins rehearsal there were six players (all mandolins), by the second session it was nine (including two guitarists). Since then there have been many comings and goings, but overall numbers have grown and we currently have around fifteen regular players and another five or six who join us when they can.
Our first concerts were very local affairs, with small audiences consisting overwhelmingly of partners and family of the players. Gradually our confidence (and our audience) grew. We planned larger concerts in conjunction with other local music groups, and started to involve guest soloists.
At this time we were also lucky enough to have the UK’s number one classical mandolin player, Alison Stephens living nearby. She gave us – collectively and individually – a great deal of help and encouragement, and contributed a number of arrangements to our repertoire. Many of the Moonlights used to travel over to St Neots for lessons with her
The group started to travel more too – the orchestra has competed at several national festivals run by the BMG – making new friends, getting new ideas for repertoire, and bringing home a certain amount of silverware – and members of the MMO have been stalwarts in larger regional ensembles such as the London Mandolin Orchestra and the British National Fretted Orchestra.
As the group grew, so did the role of musical director, and Hugh stood down in 2010 due to general pressure of work. The role was taken over by Anna Langley, who directed the group between 2010 and 2018. Anna started to conduct the group, rather than be a player-leader. This helped the MMO to spread its wings musically, and enabled us to tackler larger-scale works requiring more subtle dynamics and tempo control. Anna’s friendship with fellow Antipodean Michelle Nelson – of the Melbourn Mandolin Ensemble – gave us access to a wealth of contemporary mandolin orchestra music and we have performed Michelle’s works on many occasions.
Anna in turn stood down in Spring of 2018 and Hugh has taken the musical reins again – he was appointed Musical Director in August 2018.