THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 32: THE MUSICAL SECTION: STEPHEN SIMBLET QC: THE MANDOLIN PLAYING SILK
I said I was looking for a wide variety of music and musicians for the music section of the club. Stephen Simblet QC plays mandolin in Balkan folk music groups (there are links to their performances below). This ties up very well with part of the club’s constitution being to encourage mandolin playing…
What instrument (or instruments) do you play?
I play mandolin and violin. I also sometimes dig out a ukulele, and spent lockdown learning the baritone horn, which in a cautious, lawyerly way, thought would improve my lung resilience in case I was struck down by coronavirus.
How long have you been playing and how did you find playing through your time studying law/early years of practice.
I learnt piano as a child, and also had violin lessons through school. I then put them all aside for a bit while at university and training, before discovering that there was an amateur orchestra down the road from where I had just moved to in London, and thought that it would be a good thing to do. I stayed playing classical music with that same amateur orchestra for 20 odd years before away, playing at separate times in two other different amateur orchestras after that.
Who do you play with now and what type of music?
I play mandolin in two Balkan folk music groups, and occasionally attend bluegrass events. I wanted to learn a folk instrument and mandolin was the obvious choice as the tuning is the same as the violin, so it appealed at the time to my musical laziness. I love the music of eastern Europe and the Balkans, and was able to find a group specialising in that sort of music in London who wanted some mandolin- type instruments. I also intend, after restrictions lift, to rejoin my classical orchestra.
What’s your usual type of gig/performance.
The Balkan music groups we play in various music venues across London. Some are pubs, some are proper concert halls or churches. My main band, Shunta! puts on particularly rumbustious gigs, and we put on a good lively set. Our Valentine’s Day gig, in a pub in east London, had people dancing on the tables.
People always ask – “where do you find the time”?
Most of these rehearsals are either close to my house or close to my chambers, so there is not much travelling involved, and I think that most people can carve a couple of hours out of a weekday evening to play music in the same way as they might watch TV, going to the gym, or reading a book. People rarely ask other lawyers where they find the time to read novels, and this is not much different. Also, I think in some way it makes the brain a bit fitter, so actually creates a greater robustness and mental resilience, so frees up some other time.
Do you think it helps or affects your day to day work as a lawyer?
I think playing and preforming music helps my day to day work as a lawyer. It requires concentration, but of a different sort from that used in preparing cases, so it is keeping the brain active but exercising it differently. It also reduces anxieties about performance, and requires a level of discipline and preparedness to shut up and listen which comes in helpful when sitting in court following cases. Also, doing something pleasurable and relaxing is important for reducing any lawyer’s stress levels.
Do you have any advice for lawyer/musicians or musician/lawyers out there?”
Lawyer/ musicians should keep up your musical interests. We are lucky in Britain, and especially the larger cities in which most lawyers work, to have so many amateur music groups. Playing music is a sociable activity and means you acquire a lot of non- lawyer friends. If don’t already play an instrument and don’t fancy a choir, my advice is to learn an instrument that is in demand: amateur orchestras always want string players for example, as there are so many needed and it is easy to accommodate another, whereas oboeists never give up their orchestra places as they won’t get back. Same with the mandolin: banjo players are 10- a – penny in comparison. And everyone always seems to want a bass player.
See Stephen play…
Here are some links: our showreel :
Our lockdown video: