Exciting times for the newly-formed London Mandolin Quartet... Almost before the very first rehearsal, LMQ was invited by the London Saxophone Choir to take part in two summer concerts celebrating the work of J.S. Bach. Come along if you can - this year is Bach's 330th birthday!
Following our earlier post about the life and work of B.M. Jenkins, we were contacted by Rob Mitchell, who sent us this lovely photo. His great grandmother, Annie Rebecca Free, was a player in the Band, and the photograph was handed down to her family.
Professional photographer John Maw took this wonderful shot of our instruments for the LME website and Facebook page. He just happens to be a terrific mandola player too!
You can see more of his work at http://www.jhmaw.co.uk
Benjamin Michell Jenkins was born on 9 July 1868 in Bethnal Green, London, to parents of Cornish descent (the name Michell was his mother’s maiden name). He was the youngest of six sons, two of whom died in childhood. Little is known of his formative years which were spent in and around Bethnal Green where his father owned a grocery business. Throughout his life he suffered from a leg defect, possibly from birth, which made walking difficult and in the language of the time he was described as a cripple.
In common with the children of most middle-class families in the Victorian age, Benjamin learnt the piano and showed musical talent. By his early 20s he was tuning pianos for the firm of André and Company in Hackney and took a particular interest in the mandolin and other plucked instruments as a pupil of his employer, Professor Carl André. The records show that Benjamin was already conductor of Professor André’s Mandolin and Guitar Band (30 performers) at a concert in London in 1891 at the age of 23, taking over from the Professor who had recently died. In the following year he was listed as a mandolin and guitar teacher at The Polytechnic, an institution founded in London by the philanthropist Quintin Hogg in 1881, later becoming The Regent Street Polytechnic and now the University of Westminster. He also taught at the People’s Palace (now Queen Mary, University of London). The mandolin instruction book he wrote is known to have reached many thousands of pupils since six editions were published, supplemented by a book of mandolin exercises.
As the number of his pupils (mainly women) increased his concerts became more ambitious with a first concert at Crystal Palace in 1893 and by 1896 he is already credited with conducting the largest band of its kind in England comprising instrumentalists from The Polytechnic and People’s Palace, also giving concerts at the Queen’s Hall and other London venues. A Crystal Palace concert review of a concert in 1899 reports that the hall was crowded with standing room only. “The combined bands numbered some 150 performers, of whom quite 130 were ladies, clad in dainty white dresses with graceful ribbons of varied rainbow colours attached to their mandolins…..A really fine programme was offered, and to those who had never previously had the opportunity of listening to a mandolin band, the effect must have been charming. The tinkling sound usually associated with the mandolin was entirely absent…” Elsewhere it is reported that he had 217 students at that time and a total of over 2,000 had been through his classes.
The various bands continued to prosper during the early years of the 20th Century and a schedule of events in 1909 refers to concerts at Queen’s Hall, Crystal Palace, the Royal Albert Hall and elsewhere. After the Great War, Mr Jenkins assisted blind ex-servicemen by teaching them to play mandolin and guitar, also providing instruments for their use since new ones were unobtainable during the early post-war period.
Concerts and teaching resumed in the 1920s and continued until Mr Jenkins’ retirement from The Polytechnic in 1930 when he was presented with a retirement present of a clock which is in the possession of the writer of this article who also holds many items of memorabilia relating to the musician. His sudden death at his Chardmore Road home in Hackney on 17 October 1931 aged 63 was reported in The Polytechnic Magazine where he was described as the originator and founder of the Mandolin Band and tribute was paid to the devoted time and service which he gave ungrudgingly, winning the affection of all its members. He was unmarried. In his will he bequeathed the bulk of his estate to two orthopaedic institutions.
John Greig (BMJ’s Great-Nephew)
Members of the Luton Mandolin Band pictured outside Philip J Bone's Music Shop in 1923. Here's a potted history of the Bone family from an article in 'Luton Today':
'Shortly before the start of the 20th Century, Phillip Bone opened a shop in New Bedford Road, Luton, selling quality musical instruments.
Bone & Co became a national authority on stringed instruments and a feature of the shop was the musical doorbell which sounded very much like a few mandolin notes. Pianos, organs, violins, guitars and mandolins were sold.
Phillip conducted the Luton Band and in 1890 he formed a mandolin group which bore his name, later becoming the Luton Mandolin Band.
He also published a book, Biographies Of Celebrated Mandolinists And Guitarists, which became a standard work in many countries.
His children naturally studied music and daughter Mary won the English Mandolinists’ Championship at the age of 21.
Irene joined her father’s band and was also an accomplished tutor and harpist who gave lessons to gentlemen’s children in local stately homes, including Luton Hoo.
Luton Mandolin Band held concerts all over Britain and Phillip continued to be a leading member of the musical community, working and playing until his 90th year.
When he died, aged 91, after retirement in 1964, Irene continued with the shop, but was reluctant to replace anything.
Gas lighting remained for many years and Miss Bone refused to handle or stock electric guitars, stating: “They are only played by people who pretend to be musicians.”
She became the conductor of Luton Mandolin Band and often performed on the BBC Home Service in the In Town Tonight programme.
She also provided soundtrack for the1964 MGM film The Yellow Rolls Royce.
Irene Bone (she was in fact Mrs Meeks, but was always known as Miss Bone) died in 1978, aged 84. Her Steinway grand piano was left to a college of music in London.
Luton High School girl Mary Bone, who married a Luton News reporter in 1950, eventually retired to Scotland and died in 1999.
As neither she nor Irene had any children, the Bone dynasty came to an end and the shop was finally sold and turned into a hairdressers, although the interesting green tiled exterior remained, depicting mandolins, drums and trumpets, all designed by Phillip Bone.'
> Information for this article was supplied by Bob Norman’s book Were You Being Served?, remembering 50 Luton shops of yesteryear.
British composer Eileen Pakenham is said to have first met Irene Bone at the Luton Music Shop, when she visited to purchase a mandolin. The two became friends and musical colleagues, and recordings exist of them, on mandolin and piano, performing some of Eileen's works.
Rushden Mandolin Band in the early 1900's, from Rushden in Bedfordshire. They were led by Rose Holmes, and players included D Clipson, M Knight, E Neal, M Percival, D Rawlins, Florence Simpson, E Upton, E Whitby, Ms. Young.
Giuseppe Manente, Italian composer and musician, who wrote Rêverie de Poète, one of LME's favourite pieces. Details of his life and work can be found on Tiziano Palladino's website via this link: http://www.tizianopalladino.it/giuseppe_manente.php
The LME blog
Players, music and plucked strings.