• Clare Burgess

Moonrakers are back!


Moonrakers is an Oxford-based group of four musicians, some from the classical and some from the folk tradition. Instrumentally, the group is sufficiently diverse to create different sound textures for each piece. The fact that the band "just OOZES quality" (Living Tradition) is down to the careful arrangements and selection of tunes and songs, presenting “exquisite music” (BBC). The choice of material is largely from the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English traditions, reflecting a love of traditional tunes and contemporary songs 'in the idiom'. Jon Bennett composes several of the tunes and songs, but the arrangements are down to the special skills of the band members. He explains: "We have our own unique arrangements, weaving a tapestry of acoustic sounds around the harp, stringed instruments and whistles. These are tunes and songs both old and new given an entirely fresh appraisal - and our audiences love it!"

Rowan Bennett’s Celtic harp is very much a centre piece of the group, complemented with Liz van Santen’s superb fiddle, and Jon’s bouzouki, guitar, whistles and bodhran. The warm vocals of Sarah Fell combine with Jon’s rich baritone. Moonrakers now have four albums under their belt and have received glowing reviews in the music press (“highly infectious”- Maverick; "fine organic collection of apt musicianship" - Earbuzz). They've appeared at Oxford, Wantage, Guildford, Cropredy, Witney, Penn, Lechlade, Alcester, Shenington, Wycombe and Wolvercote festivals over the last few years.

Moonrakers have a strong following locally in Oxfordshire and enjoy playing in less-traditional venues. For example, their “In-Spires” tour has taken them to a host of beautiful churches in the southern counties. “Festivals and arts centres would be our natural outlets, but we love playing to audiences who may not often hear this kind of music.” says Jon.

Moonrakers also have other skills to offer. Band members have experience in running instrumental and vocal workshops, and Jon has a back catalogue of self-composed children’s songs, several of which have been published in BBC books and even performed by a mass choir in Wembley! Last, but not least, Moonrakers have produced their own multi-media show “A History of the Celtic Harp” with slides, narration and live music which can be either a stand-alone presentation, or an unusual and interesting addition to any performance.


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