Born into a musical family (grandfather singer, mother singer & pianist, father singer & flautist), John sang in choirs and as soloist for over 45 years from aged 7, commencing study of music & voice production with Prof Conway Pearson, continuing for 9 years with Robert Fredericks, both of Bristol. He sang in the Novello Players’ production of Glamorous Nights. Also he studied piano accordion with Prof Handel Lovell for at least 4 years.
Having met Jim Stevens of Bristol, a fine exponent of self-accompanied style of mandolin playing, John became most interested and studied music & history relating to this enchanting instrument. His particular interest is in ensemble playing and he was for several years mandola player with ‘Savante Mandoliers’ under direction of Madame Underdowne of Cotham, Bristol. John was also with ‘Percy Poole Serenaders’ and joined Bristol BMG Club as mandolinist until their demise in early 1970s.
In mid 1970s John was a founder member & musical director of Fingers & Frets and has continued to date. He has over the years made contact with mandolin interests in Italy and collected examples of music, information and instruments of the mandolin family.
Tony Counter – Chairman
Tony has been a member of the orchestra for more than 40 years, playing banjo. His other musical talents are guitar, harmonica and penny whistle; he has also been developing his skills with violin and viola and plays in other musical groups.
June Smith – Treasurer
June joined the orchestra in 1986 as a guitarist, but since 2003 has been indulging a passion for mandolin with encouragement from John Hopes! She originally studied piano but was lured to strings at the age of 12, taking up classical guitar and developing an interest in folk, electric & jazz guitar over time and studying theory & technique with Mike Watson. She also has a great interest in the ukulele and is a member of the Ukulele Funhouse Orchestra.
Mike Lock Secretary
Mike has been a member of the orchestra for more than 30 years, playing banjo. He is also a talented acoustic and electric guitarist and plays music with French Connection, a semi-professional jazz group. He is the key contact for concert bookings
Bill started to learn to play with members of the Bolton BMG Club after attending one of their concerts at a very tender age. Everyone in the club orchestra played a banjolin and Bill’s came with him to Bristol in the 1960s and, in the intervening years, came out of the wardrobe for a couple of hours each Christmas! Pleased to be introduced to F&F in 2006, he is now busy re-learning, arthritic fingers and all!
Diana grew up in a musical family and her grandfather played the mandolin. That mandolin lay idle at home for decades but curiosity led her to find out more about playing it, and coming across Fingers and Frets gave the incentive! Earlier experience learning violin and piano, as well as choirs and school orchestra, all proved very useful when taking up the mandolin in the spring of 2011 and many happy times have been had with the orchestra since.
Celia plays mandolin in the orchestra
Sandra joined Fingers & Frets early in the 1980s after learning to play the guitar through Soundwell College adult evening classes at Longwell Green Community Centre. Sandra organised several trips to Denmark for the orchestra to take part in the Ballerup Music Festival and also the return visits of the Danish Mandolin Orchestra Magiba. Sandra is secretary of the National Banjo, Mandolin & Guitar (BMG) Federation committee. If you’re interested in finding out more about the BMG Federation, go to the Links Page and you’ll find it listed
Pete plays acoustic guitar in the orchestra
Peter came along with his English Concertina to help out at a Barn Dance and has been with the orchestra ever since! He is very active on the concertina front and is involved in various festivals and events.
Tim plays acoustic guitar in the orchestra
Bob plays acoustic guitar in the orchestra. His interest in playing guitar started when the Shadows and the Ventures, hit the pop charts in the 1960’s; he played in a few local groups but gave this up when he got married. Years later he was inspired by the artist Chet Atkins, collecting several of his LPs, purchasing a bargain price second hand acoustic guitar and trying to emulate Chet’s finger style playing, unsuccessfully! On retirement Bob once again took up the guitar and, with internet, DVDs and books, was able to make some progress, although practising was sporadic. In 2016 Bob saw a local news item for Fingers & Frets and joined the orchestra, as a way of making a self commitment to playing regularly. He now enjoys the camaraderie and playing a wide variety of music, very much appreciating the help and encouragement of fellow members.
Brian learnt piano and volin when he was younger, achieving Grade 8 in examinations. He also learnt to play woodwind instruments, particularly Bassoon. He was advised to try the bass guitar by a famous Bristol “Bluesman” and took to it like a duck to water and now plays electric bass with Fingers & Frets; he also enjoys bluegrass, blues and rock music.
Peter plays finger style banjo in the orchestra.