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JON BENNETT & JACQUI JOHNSON - New Acoustic Music For Folk Ensemble 

JON BENNETT & JACQUI JOHNSON - New Acoustic Music For Folk Ensemble 
Mel Bay ISBN: 9781513467368 

Jon Bennett and Jacqui Johnson are two members of the folk group, Moonrakers. Combining several different instruments and acoustic sounds, the band prides itself in bringing traditional and contemporary folk music to audiences throughout the UK. In addition to performances, the band runs a series of Folk Orchestra workshops each year, where participants can develop skills in arranging and playing tunes and songs in the folk idiom. Here Jon and Jacqui present 12 tunes that have been used over the years at such workshops, arranged and presented with four parts, designed so that any combination of instruments – from a duet to a full orchestra – might take them and find a setting that suits them.

In this 48-page A4 book, the tunes, all written by Jon and arranged by Jacqui, are laid out clearly over a single or double-page spread, helpfully reducing the need for page turning. They come with some explanatory notes about the stories behind the tunes, and some relevant photos (sometimes of band members, sometimes tune-related images) which, though a bit dark at times, provide a nice context for the tunes. Each tune has three written parts – the main melody, a countermelody and a bass line - as well as chord suggestions, and there are useful hints and tips for each about things like the use of rhythm, places where the countermelody could be used as an alternative main melody, notes that might prove tricky on certain instruments and how to overcome this, etc. Participants are encouraged to use these written parts as a basis from where they can develop their own arrangements – all part of the learning process.

The book is designed to be used alongside video recordings of each tune which are available to download as a zip file from the Mel Bay website or can be watched on YouTube (the links are in the book). The videos are in spilt-screen format, and you can clearly see and hear Jon and Jacqui (with an occasional extra) play the different parts on guitar, mandolin, cello, whistle, bouzouki etc. It helps to illustrate how the parts come together, and how they can be played simultaneously or in different sequences, on different instruments. The tunes are played at handy speeds, and though they are not designed to be of performance quality, they help to give the idea of the feel of each tune and its arrangement. Together with the book, they’ll set any aspiring ensemble players on the right road.

There are Moonrakers Folk Orchestra workshops planned for later in the year, so if this sounds like your kind of thing, get yourself this book and get along.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 143 of The Living Tradition magazine