Next came "Six for Gold" with Sophie Polhill and Marguerite Hutchinson in the line-up, alongside Benji, and original members Ian Giles, Mat Green and Andy Turner. The band's most recent recording, the only so far to feature Jon Fletcher, is another Christmas CD, "Knock at the Knocker, Ring at teh Bell". Immediately after the release of "The Oxford Ramble", a series of promotional concerts in and around Oxford proved immensely enjoyable - for band and audience alike - and confirmed Magpie Lane very much as a live band, as well as a recording outfit. Since then Magpie Lane have built up a loyal following: in particular, the band’s regular Christmas concerts at the Holywell Music Rooms have become something of a tradition on the Oxford music scene, and are invariably sold out. 'The bill-boards advertising their annual Christmas concert at the Holywell Music Room said 'Sold Out' - yet fans queued in the bitter cold fog in hope of last minute cancellations. Those of us inside were treated to a feast of seasonal carols, wassails, ballads and the second instalment of the Bampton Mummer's play they began last year...
A great night and a splendid way to begin the countdown to Christmas Day.' Helen Peacocke, The Oxford Times - writing of the 1995 concert Magpie Lane have also made successful appearances at festivals including Sidmouth, Towersey, Fylde and Chippenham. At Sidmouth '99 the band provided music for the highly successful Arena Theatre show Flashback, which celebrated the meeting in 1899 of Cecil Sharp and William Kimber, and the continuing revival of morris dance in England. The sound of Magpie Lane is unmistakably English. The group’s repertoire originally focused exclusively on Oxfordshire. Although a concert set might now include the occasional item from Ireland, the Isle of Man or even France - as well as a few recently-composed pieces - English traditional songs and dance tunes remain at the core. When mixing The Oxford Ramble Ashley Hutchings happened to be in the Woodworm Studio. On hearing the Swalcliffe May Day Carol he commented "You can tell it's English a mile away". We think he meant this as a compliment; we certainly took it as such! The band’s instrumental line-up was originally based around that of a nineteenth century village band, with fiddle, cello, concertina, whistles and percussion very much to the fore. However Magpie Lane has always preferred to remain true to the spirit of the tradition, rather than slavishly reproduce an "authentic" sound.
Thus the band has always made use of the eclectic range of instruments at its disposal - and bouzouki and guitar have rubbed shoulders with melodeon, autoharp, smallpipes, recorders, flute, harmonium, viola and Appalachian dulcimer. The group’s instrumental prowess is matched, if not surpassed, by its vocal strength. Fronted by the wonderful voice of Ian Giles, all the members of Magpie Lane can in fact sing, and powerful vocal harmonies are one of the band’s trademarks. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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