Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mandolin Orchestras Coast to Coast

The Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra
Easter Waltz (mp3)(pdf)
Highlandville May 14, 2004 (mp3)(pdf)

Last month, just as I was preparing to head to Seattle for the CMSA convention, I received an email from Kirk Morrison of the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra. Kirk's message included these recordings of the group, under the direction of the esteemed Charley Rappaport, performing these short arrangements of two of my tunes for mandolin orchestra at a concert in early October. These are great field recordings of a real American mandolin orchestra (nearly 40 members strong) at play. I'm very pleased that the PMO is willing to share these performances. If you live in the Pittsburgh region, especially if you play mandolin, guitar or bass, you should look them up and see about joining in on the fun.

You can find the orchestra parts for these pieces under the collective title Another Late Spring in Iowa at my Mandotopia website, along with a brief descriptive note. "Solo" versions of each tune have also appeared in this blog and you can find them using the alphabetical list for this site.

Today there are dozens of mandolin orchestras in the U.S. and Canada. One of the best is the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra which took on the exhausting task of hosting the 2010 CMSA convention. One of the highlights of the convention for me was the chance to sit in with the orchestra during the Friday night concert when they performed my Heavens On Earth suite.

Earlier that afternoon I had learned that the group would be without a guitarist for the evening show and I volunteered to play the guitar part on my piece. Even though I had never actually played that part with a group before I was pretty sure I could manage it. So I borrowed a fine old Gibson guitar from the good folks at the Greg Boyd booth and went up to my hotel room to practice. The Seattle folks were willing to take a chance on me and we had a brief rehearsal that went well. I was a little surprised when I realized that each of the three movements of the piece begins with the guitar setting the tempo but, with the help of excellent conducting, things went very well indeed.

As "composer in residence" of the Seattle convention I gave a brief workshop on my background and adventures as a mandolin orchestra composer and, best of all, I had the honor of hearing the convention En Masse Orchestra rehearse and perform my new piece Antonina (dedicated to CMSA founding member Antonina "Toni" Nigrelli). It was a tremendous pleasure hearing the piece come together over the course of four days and equally fun participating as a member of the 2nd mandolin section. The premier performance of the piece at the Saturday night concert was wonderful. Everyone in the orchestra played their hearts out and I think the audience enjoyed it too. A million thanks to my old friend, conductor Jim Bates, for all of his work in getting the orchestra to play so well.

Thanks again to the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra for sharing their performances!
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