Information about the band
Magpie Lane is a five-piece folk band from Oxford, specialising in traditional English songs and dance tunes. They combine powerful vocals with vigorous dance tunes, performing inventive arrangements on acoustic instruments.
The current line-up is:
Ian Giles - vocals, percussion
Andy Turner - vocals, anglo-concertina, one-row melodeon
Mat Green - fiddle, vocals
Sophie Thurman - vocals, cello
Jon Fletcher - vocals, bouzouki, guitar
Their most recent CD - their eighth - was 'The Robber Bird', released in December 2011, and the first on their own label.
Prior to that the band had released seven CDs on the Beautiful Jo record label. All of their recordings have been well-received by critics and fans alike, and the band are a popular attraction in concert, and at folk clubs and festivals.
Read Tim Healey's account: Magpie Lane - how it all began
The musicians of Magpie Lane first came together in the winter of 1992-93 to record 'The Oxford Ramble', a collection of songs and tunes from, or about, Oxfordshire. Although originally conceived as a one-off recording project the band soon took on a life of its own. The success of 'The Oxford Ramble' led to the release of a second CD, 'Speed the Plough', a year later; to be followed shortly afterwards by 'Wassail: a Country Christmas' and 'Jack-in-the-Green'. The celebration of beer in song 'A Taste of Ale' was commissioned by highly respected author and folksong scholar Roy Palmer, to accompany his book of the same name, and was the first to feature new recruit Benji Kirkpatrick. 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 seventh Magpie Lane album, 'Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell', was the first to feature Jon Fletcher. This was another seasonal collection featuring songs and tunes from the band's Christmas shows.
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 bands regular Christmas concerts at the Holywell Music Rooms have become something of a tradition on the Oxford music scene, and have frequently sold out.
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 groups 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.
The bands 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 over the years bouzouki and guitar have rubbed shoulders with melodeon, autoharp, hurdy-gurdy, smallpipes, recorders, flute, harmonium, viola and Appalachian dulcimer.
The groups 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 bands trademarks.