View Full Version : Simon Mayor

J. Mark Lane
Jan-26-2004, 10:57am
A year or so ago I got the album "New Celtic Mandolin," and instantly became a Mayor fan. Since then, I got the "Duos" album with Hillary James. Very nice. Then the "Mandolinquents" album, which is different but very good.

Then I picked up "The Mandolin Album." Holy ships! This is truly one of the best albums I have listened to in many years. Scanning Simon's website, I note that Ian Anderson said of this album, "one of the best (mostly) instrumental works by an English acoustic musician that's so far been made." I would suggest, of any other nationality, as well.

I'm sorry to gush like this. But I am so thrilled with this album -- check out "Two Seagulls Call from My Birch Tree" or "Maple Flames," both Mayor compositions. (My 21 month old daughter gets up to dance every time the former comes on.)

I know Simon gives workshops now and then, and some of you have met and spoken with him. What is his training, primarily? It would seem from his work that he is deeply rooted in Classical (well, perhaps Baroque) music. But he also does much "Celtic" material, and British folk. Do any of you play these pieces? Some of them sound to me to be quite difficult, technically.

Just wanted to chat a bit about this man and his work. Any observations would be welcome.


Mike Buesseler
Jan-26-2004, 11:11am
Hey, Mark,

I also love Simon's work. #My partner and I play a few of his tunes. #One from The New Celtic Mandolin, "Waynesboro" and a couple from Mastering The Mandolin. #This is a technique book, not song book, but there are some keepers there. #"Bluebell Polka" and "Maloney's Last Glass," are in our repertoire, so far. #

Simon is all over the map in his choice of music. #Everything from classical to polkas to bluegrass and swing. #And that TONE!! #To die for....

Definitely consider Mastering the Mandolin. #It speaks to the intermediate player about all those things that keep you intermediate. #Can't say I'll become a "Master," but I'm becoming an advanced intermediate, anyway!

Jan-26-2004, 11:22am
An excerpt from Mel Bay´s Mandolin 2000 book:

"Surprisingly, Simon Mayor is a self-taught musician. After hearing Irish fiddle music for the first time, he pestered the school music teacher for violin lessons, but was told he was too old! He decided to learn anyway, and taught himself to play with the help of a well worn collection of fiddle and mandolin reciords. Within 18 months he was winning national music competitions and gained his first headline in the Melody Maker".

There´s a beautiful (and somewhat challenging) tune "The Dark and Slender Boy" arranged by Simon Mayor in the aforementioned Mel Bay book.

greetings, Arto

Mike Crocker
Jan-26-2004, 11:22am
Gush away, I know what you mean!

I've attended a few of his workshops at the Celtic College in Goderich Ontario and Hilary has borrowed my double bass a couple of times. Also had an informal private hour or so with him at a festival where we passed my mandolin back and forth. He was so into it that I learned more in that hour than in my previous 12 years of playing mandolin. The man is a giant among giants and a true genious of phrasing and dynamics.

He's no slouch on guitar either. When he tried my baritone I was ready to give it to him, but he was very typically gracious and complimentary when he handed it back.

I've been studying his recordings and his books for several years and I always find something new to interest my hands and mind. There are some tunes which don't appear on the cds which can be found in his instructional videos and books. I don't have his new book yet, but he has signed all the others for me. The only cd I'm missing is the bluegrass one unless his new cd is out by now.

My guitar/fiddle duo (I play guitar) plays several of his tunes and arrangements. We played "Mandolin Minuet" as a wedding recessional this year and someone in the wedding party said they wanted to do it over again just to hear the music.

Many of his arrangements are quite difficult, I gave up on The Butterfly and went back to my old way of playing it though I've added a few of his inflections. But others are deceptively easy once you see what he's doing in tab form. He's been pretty free about sharing music and ideas.

As far as I know he's mostly self taught on mandolin but I don't know what previous training he might have had. He did once say that he played a lot of pennywhistle when he was younger, and you can hear him add whistle on several recordings.

Yup, I'm a fan.

Peace, Mooh.

Jan-26-2004, 1:13pm
Simon and Hilary are a delightful pair of highly professional musicians. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to produce them in concert and workshop here in Goshen last fall. I'd highly recommend others in, say, Chicago or St. Louis, to produce them in concert and/or for a series of workshops. He's up there with Norman Blake in my book. Would be really sweet to see them paired up for a recording.


Andy R
Jan-26-2004, 3:53pm
You may say that Simon Mayor just about saved my life, well, almost. I was laid up for a year after having back surgery that left me with nerve damage in my foot. My wife would buy little things for me to try to take my mind off the pain and confinement. When I was just about at my lowest point, along came The New Celtic Mandolin Video. The first thing I learned was Dark and Slender Boy. It sure did help. I still love playing that song even though it reminds me of some rough times.

Jan-26-2004, 4:34pm
Hey Gang!
I have had "Mastering The Mandolin" and CD since before Christmas and must say it is an excellent instructional piece. The material is from everywhere. I started with Roland White's book and CD and felt as though I was making good progress. However, Simon's book showed me how much of a beginner I still am. Simon's method's will take you to the next level.

Then there's that tone...This is a must have piece for any serious mandolin student. Doesn't matter whether you play bluegrass, celtic, classical, jazz, or what have you.

J. Mark Lane
Jan-26-2004, 6:53pm
Great responses, all, thanks.

MikeB, where do you play? Same question to Mooh.

I do plan to get the "Mastering" set. I have the "New Celtic" book and CD. A couple of the tunes look within my (streched) ability.

It's fascinating to me to think he is self-taught. Hard to believe. He does play whistle and fiddle and guitar on the "Mandolin Album." Hilary plays bass and other huge instruments, it appears. Both are amazingly talented. And her voice is beautiful.

Someone mentioned a new CD on the way? Any info on that?

I see he appears to play an f-hole A style mandolin. Seems kind of unusual for a British player.

Anyway, I will be ordering all the remaining CD's and instructional materials. May as well have something to work toward, even if it is way beyond reach for a hack like me....

Mike Buesseler
Jan-26-2004, 8:14pm
MikeB, where do you play?

You mean where do I live? #Montana. #I play mostly in my living room, sometimes in cafes, museums, art galleries around town (Great Falls).

How about you?

J. Mark Lane
Jan-26-2004, 8:44pm
Living room <g>. Trying some duet material with a friend who is a classical guitarist, and finding it an interesting combination (which I quite like). But I've never been anything other than a living room player.

Oh, the living room is in Mamaroneck, New York (30 minutes north of NYC).

Scott Tichenor
Jan-26-2004, 9:06pm
Simon Mayor is a genius. If he lived in the U.S. he'd be a household name in the mandolin community. For those of you who haven't heard I've had a cut of his on the MP3 page (http://www.mandolincafe.com/mp3/) and a transcription on another Cafe page (http://www.mandolincafe.com/tunes.html) for several years now. Tried to get him to Mandofest this year but uncertainty surrounding work visas since 9/11 have made it really difficult to plan so we haven't yet connected. Never pass a chance to see he and Hillary in concert.

Mike Crocker
Jan-27-2004, 12:00am
Since you asked, I'm in Goderich Ontario.

Simon usually plays a Vanden mandolin, details on his website. I've played his older one and the one I think is current. The newer one has a radiused fingerboard. These are killer mandolins, leagues better than most, but it would be too easy to attribute his tone to the instrument alone. When he played my flat-top ("I don't normally like flat-tops, but this one's pretty good" he said) his tone was superb.

He's also one of the funniest guys I've ever met.

I hope this discussion generates some product sales for Simon, there are few who are as deserving.

Peace, Mooh.

Steve L
Jan-27-2004, 8:07am
Mooh, what kind of flat top was it? I seem to remember you have a Jimmy Moon, but I'm not sure.

Mike Crocker
Jan-27-2004, 8:43am
Steve...You're right, it's a Moon. It's modified a bit with a Weber tailpiece, Schaller tuners, slightly radiused edge binding (the original sharp edge was hard on the arm), and the bridge is shimmed so that it's no longer adjustable. It was a bit of an ugly duckling off the rack as the dealer had mistreated it a bit, but it had that sound I knew would mature. Such an axe is never gonna change the tastes of someone like Mayor, but it sure was cool to hear it played by a master!

I spent four hours last night (my pathetic little musician's day job) listening to The English Mandolin. I could just drown in this stuff and die a happy man.

Peace, Mooh.

J. Mark Lane
Jan-27-2004, 12:49pm
The English Mandolin. That and The Second Mandolin Album are on their way to me as we speak.

I was looking around for info on the Vanden mandolins, and lo and behold, I see from the Vanden website (which I quickly located) there is now a "Simon Mayor Model" Vanden mandolin! Cool. See it here:


Base price is 2800 pounds sterling (about $5k). Next time I get over to Scotland I hope to visit this guy and perhaps try one of these things.

Mike Crocker
Jan-27-2004, 2:44pm
Mark...Now that would be cool!


Jan-27-2004, 8:55pm
I've never heard of Vanden mandolins ...are these well known? Any other players out there that can share any additional info on them?

Jan-28-2004, 7:17pm
This topic is exactly why i dig the cafe. i have never heard of this musician or this builder. He is an excellent player. Have people listened to the audio files? Great stuff plus what a sweet mando...kinda has a Dudenbostel vibe to its tone.

Mike Crocker
Jan-29-2004, 8:44am
There's more information at www.vanden.co.uk about the mandolins, and there is a Mayor model available. I wouldn't say they are well known in my part of the world (Ontario), but in the UK they might be.


Jan-30-2004, 1:16am
I have Simon Mayer's "New Celtic Mandolin video..... one word....AWESOME!

Never have felt more accomplishment when I mastered "Dance of the Water Boatman!"

Also me and my other half of our little acoustic duo play Waynesboro and I NEVER get tired of playing "A Dark and Slender Boy"

Best value from a video I ever got. Simon is a fantastic mandolin player!

Mar-06-2004, 11:11am
I had the opportunity to do the stage setup for Simon and Hillary at the Mill Race Festival in Cambridge, Ontario a number of years ago. This close-up view of a Master at work was inspiring! Unfortunately the lasting impression I was left with was of a man who was unapproachable, unfriendly and arrogant. Hillary on the other hand was a sweet heart. He may have just been having a bad day. I have met a number of excellent musicians over the years and a majority have been approachable, friendly, confident but humble. We must always be conscious of how we treat our fellow men (& women.) It can come back on us.:( I did buy a CD and still enjoy it.

Mike Buesseler
Mar-06-2004, 11:51am
For what it's worth, my partner is sort of looking for a new mandolin (he plays a Brentrup, so I say "sort of looking"). # We both drool over S. Mayor's tone and musicianship, in general.

So, for the heck of it, my buddy sent Simon an email. #He got not one, but two seperate personal replies on what he thinks of Vanden mandolins and why he plays them. #VERY COOL guy, in my opinion.

Oh, his Vanden has a slightly longer scale than normal mandolins (better sustain and more room in those upper registers for fingers). #Simons says ( ) he considers Vanden to be "one of maybe 6 top builders in the world." #I wish he'd said who he thought the other 5 were.

J. Mark Lane
Mar-06-2004, 2:10pm
Well, back when Simon was the guest of the week on CoMando, I posted something about him and he emailed me. We corresponded a little bit and he seemed like a very nice guy.

Everyone has off days. And sometimes impressions can be wrong, or caused by something you did or said. Anyway, they say Beethoven was a jerk. Fine by me.

Mar-06-2004, 4:18pm
Let's not forget his EXCELLENT CD of holiday music: "Winter with mandolins" Go Simon!