Magna Carta (band)

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Magna Carta
Magna (constructed) (small).jpg
(from left to right) Chris Simpson, Linda Simpson, Matt Barnhoorn. May 2008.
Background information
GenresProgressive rock, folk, folk rock, acoustic, rock
Years active1969–present
LabelsFontana, Vertigo, HTD, Tembo, Mercury, Talking Elephant, Repertoire, Harvey
Associated actsChris Simpson, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Ralph McTell, Cat Stevens, Dear Reader, S.L.Y., Arlyn
MembersChris Simpson
George Norris
Wendy Ross
Past membersLyell Tranter
Glen Stuart
Davey Johnstone
Nigel Smith
Tom Hoy
Linda Simpson
Pick Withers
Lee Abbott
John Carey
Matt Barnhoorn
Nick Hall
Laurens Joensen
Magna Carta (Amsterdam, 1972)

Magna Carta is a progressive rock/folk rock group originally formed in London in April 1969; their first concert was on 10 May 1969, by Chris Simpson (guitar, vocals), Lyell Tranter (guitar, vocals), and Glen Stuart (vocals).

The trio released albums for Fontana Records and Vertigo Records, enjoying particular success with 1970's Seasons before Tranter returned to Australia. Davey Johnstone joined the line-up as his replacement, recording Songs From Wasties Orchard and In Concert with the band before leaving to work with Elton John, with whom he is still playing.


Simpson and Stuart were then joined by Stan Gordon, recording and releasing the much-lauded Lord Of The Ages. Graham Smith who had played on the sessions for Lord Of The Ages, was also added to the line-up but shortly afterwards both he and Gordon left.

There followed a period of much change and upheaval as Simpson and Stuart added a new rhythm section, but Glen Stuart did not feel comfortable with the new direction. This short-lived set-up soon gave way to Simpson and Stuart being joined by Tommy Hoy (ex-Natural Acoustic Band), before Stuart left to run a pet shop in Richmond, Surrey.

Nigel Smith joined in time to help record 1976’s Putting It Back Together. In 1977 Hoy’s former bandmate in the Natural Acoustic Band, Robin Thyne joined the band, along with Lee Abbott. Soon afterwards, Pick Withers was added. Withers stayed only briefly, leaving to join Dire Straits. Amid much acrimony Thyne and Hoy left in 1979 to form NovaKarta. Tom McConville appeared on the Live In Bergen release, before the line-up changed again to include Al Fenn and George Norris.

Between 1980 and 1982, Doug Morter was added to the line-up, together with a variety of drummers, including Paul Burgess. The 1981 release, Midnight Blue, contained “Highway To Spain”, a popular track on radio station playlists around the world[citation needed]. Norris, Burgess, and Morter all left, the latter moving on to the Albion Band.

Chris Simpson’s solo release, Listen To The Man, came out during this period and featured backing from Abbott, Linda Taylor, and Will Jackson. Between 1984 and 1986, Simpson and Taylor went to the Middle East to run a music club, before returning home to re-form Magna Carta. By 1986 the extremely fluid line-up now included, in addition to Simpson, Taylor, and Abbott, Gwyn Jones, John Carey, Paul Burgess, and Simon Carlton. In 1988, One To One was released on the Tembo label, Jones left the band the same year.

In 1990, Simpson and Taylor married, and, with the semi-retirement of Lee Abbott, they continued to play as Magna Carta as a duo, as well as with a larger line-up for extensive touring.

The 1992 Dutch release, Heartlands, was followed by a sell-out tour of the Netherlands. The duo continued to maintain a busy live schedule, and over the years toured over 60 different countries. Several live albums appeared over the course of the decade, in addition to the reissue of the band’s '70s albums on CD.

In 2001 the (so far) last studio CD Seasons In The Tide was released on the Gold Circle label. Unfortunately the label went bankrupt very soon afterwards. In 2002 the DVD Ticket To The Moon was released, recorded at the Dutch island of Texel in 2001.

In Autumn 2001 Chris and Linda supported Fairport Convention on their Dutch theatre tour. At De Hanzehof theatre in Zutphen they saw a young violin player from the Netherlands who played some songs with Fairport. Afterwards they met the young man, Matt(hijs) Barnhoorn, who was born in Alphen aan den Rijn and lives in Borculo. They asked him to join them on one of their concerts. In 2002 Matt became a permanent member of Magna Carta. As well as violin he plays mandolin and guitar. Together they performed two tours of the Netherlands each year since, one spring tour (usually in music cafés, folk clubs, and small venues) and one autumn tour, mainly in theatres throughout the country. They also went on tour in South Africa and played in Canada, Switzerland, Spain, and Belgium.

In 2006 Chris and Linda Simpson announced that their marriage was over.

In 2007 Chris celebrated his 65th birthday. On August 17 he was asked to travel to Liverpool, ostensibly to take part in a radio interview with BBC Radio Merseyside presenter Spencer Leigh. However, it transpired that his wife had secretly arranged for Magna Carta to perform at the famous Cavern Club on Mathew Street. When Chris arrived in Liverpool he was greeted by a busload of friends, musicians, and people from the Yorkshire Dales. After an emotional Beatles bustour (Chris is a huge Beatles fan) the concert at The Cavern was a celebration. The band was joined by Lee Abbott on bass and Iain 'Stewy' Stewart on harmonica. At the end of the concert, Simpson was presented with one of the now famous Cavern bricks with the band's name on it, which has since been mounted on the Wall of Fame, along with the names of all the acts ever to have played the venue, opposite The Cavern Club itself.

In 2007 Magna Carta had already decided that they would disband in 2009, mainly in recognition of the deterioration of the Simpsons' relationship. In the autumn of 2008 they embarked upon an extensive farewell tour of the Netherlands.

On May 11, 2009, Chris and Linda Simpson, along with Matt Barnhoorn, played their last concert at Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam. The concert lasted approximately two and a half hours. Chris, Linda, and Matt were joined by some ex-members of Magna Carta: Lee Abbott, Doug Morter, George Norris and Tom Hoy. Two Dutch musicians were also present: Mike Roelofs (keyboards) and Eddie C (percussion). Matt's father Henny Barnhoorn played the bagpipes at the start of the second half of the concert. Dr. Andrew Jackson, doctor and part-time actor, was the narrator (as he was on the recording of Fields of Eden on the Backroads album).

But this farewell concert was not really the end...

A tour featuring Simpson and Tom Hoy went ahead in South Africa in September 2009. Hoy has since stated that he has no intention of taking part in future tours and, as a result, a 2010 tour of South Africa took place with the line up of Chris Simpson and Nick Hall; they also performed in Spain, Canada and the Netherlands in 2011. A Dutch autumn tour was booked, but Nick declined to attend, so Chris had to find a replacement.

Early 2011 the cd Midnight Blue was released in a 2 cd package with the live album Live & Let Live, which got several great reviews.

In September and October 2011 a new Magna Carta line up toured around 17 venues in the Netherlands. George Norris returned on guitar and vocals and the latest addition was Dutch multi-instrumentalist Laurens Joensen [pronounced Jo-ansen]. Joensen played slide guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin. The Dutch tour was a huge success and it was commented upon that this latest line up more reflected the early sound of Magna Carta.

Since the tour in the Netherlands the band returned to the studio to record a new album, Fields Of Eden.


Studio Albums[edit]

  • Magna Carta (1969)
    • Also issued as This is Magna Carta and Times of Change
  • Seasons (1970)
  • Songs from Wasties Orchard (1971)
  • Lord of the Ages (1973)
  • Took A Long Time (1976)
    • Also issued as Putting it Back Together
  • Martin's Café (1977)
  • Prisoners on the Line (1978)
  • No Truth in the Rumour (1979)
  • Midnight Blue (1982)
  • Sweet Deceiver (1983)
  • One to One (1988)
    • Reissued with three additional tracks as Rings Around the Moon (2000)
    • Reissued as Ticket to the Moon (2005)
  • Seasons (1991)
  • Lord of the Ages (1991)
  • Heartlands (1992)
  • Seasons in the Tide (2001)
  • In Tomorrow (2CDs and a DVD) (2005)
  • The Fields of Eden (2015)

Live Albums[edit]

  • In Concert (live in Carré) (1972)
  • Live in Bergen (1978)
  • State of the Art (1993)
  • Live at the BBC (1995)
  • Live at Grassington (1999)
  • Evergreen (2000)
  • Forever (2000)
  • A Touch of Class (2002)
  • Ticket to the Moon (DVD) (2002)


  • Spotlight on Magna Carta (1977)
  • Old Master & New Horizons (1991)
  • Milestones (2CD) (1994)
  • Las Tierras del Viento (1995)
  • Limited Edition (1996)
  • Seasons + Wasties Orchard (1999)
  • Lord of the Ages + Martin's Cafe (1999)
  • Where to Now? (2000)
  • Magna Carta Gold (2003)
  • Ages and Seasons (2003)
  • Backroads (2006)
  • Airport Song (DVD) (2006)
  • Deserted Highways of the Heart... (2007)
  • Tomorrow Never Comes, The Anthology 1969-2006 (2CD) (2007)
  • Written in the Wind (2CD) (2008)

Other Releases[edit]

  • Chris Simpson - Listen to the Man (1984)
  • Paul Stewart - That's the Way it Goes (2006)
    • pre Magna Carta recordings

External links[edit]