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Thread: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

  1. #1

    Default Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Hi, folks -
    I've attempted to summarize the history of the mandolin and mandolin orchestras for an upcoming recording by the East Tennessee State Mandolin Orchestra. In my line of work, I am called upon to perform "peer review" to vet and inform writing a fellow scholar. I'd appreciate a "peer review" from any of y'all who might catch any gaffes that I might have put into this history.

    Thanks for any comments / corrections!
    peace,
    Lee
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2022-8-9-ETSUMO-NotesForReview.pdf  

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    Registered User dj coffey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Very interesting. I have no specific comments about your materials, but as I'm preparing a table of 'golden age' photos for the Minnesota Mandolin Orchestra's performance at the Minnesota History Center, I have one observation about the "golden age."

    I temporarily got a subscription to the Star Tribune's 150 year archives. In just doing a search on keywords 'mandolin orchestra' I got so many hits in the 1890's through 19-teens that it will take me a while to get through them all.

    Putting it simply -- if one was having an event, be it business or social, you could pretty much guarantee there would be a mandolin orchestra involved!

    I think we need to bring the Golden Age days back! Get mandolin orchestras at board meetings, garden parties, weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.!

    Dotty
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Also, here's another well-researched article:

    "Sweet Harmonies from Little Wooden Boxes" which is about the mandolin in the midwest.

    https://works.bepress.com/amy_shaw/2/
    Dotty

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  7. #4

    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Thanks so much, Dotty! I appreciate the reference, and the call to action on mandolin orchestra activity!

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    "In my line of work, I am called upon to perform "peer review" to vet and inform writing a fellow scholar. I'd appreciate a "peer review" from any of y'all who might catch any gaffes that I might have put into this history."

    In mine, too (my day job is economics professor).

    Here are a few comments:

    --overall the essay is good, and certainly authoritative enough for CD notes. It is based on the existing literature, and so reflects that literature's strengths and weaknesses (e.g. Paul Sparks' book is now 25 years old, and it would be good to have a second edition but AFAIK, Paul is not working on one). As Dotty points out, for example, the fact that we have digitized newspapers at our disposal opens up many possibilities for further research that were not available when Paul wrote his book.

    --p. 3, line 3, the "mandola" in Munier's group was the mandola in G, a.k.a. octave mandolin (or octave mandola). Not the mandola in C (tuned CGDA), which is the mandola you are using in your ensemble (according to the instrument discussion at the end of the pdf). You could add a reference at this point to Samuel Adelstein, "Mandolin Memories: A Descriptive and Practical Treatise on the Mandolin and Kindred Instruments," which was published in San Francisco in 1905 (so, just before the infamous SF fire) and was originally published in five separate issues (January, February, March, April, May) of 1901. Adelstein visited Italy in the 1890s, met Munier, and discusses his quartet.

    --p. 3, top. The correlation between mandolin playing in the early 20th century and social class is an example of a topic that needs more research. People often point to the widespread presence of mandolin clubs, etc. in high schools and colleges at the time, but do not recognize that only a tiny fraction of Americans attended college ca. 1900 and, similarly, the fraction attending high school was also very low. On the other hand, how many "factory workers" played mandolin is simply not known (in the sense of a reliable average nationwide, as opposed to an anecdote here or there).

    --p. 3, bottom of par. 1. The Odell book was not the only such book. Another was William Place, Jr, "The Organization, Direction, and Maintenance of the Mandolin Orchestra: For Director, Teacher, and Player" published by The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Co. in 1917. Place, Jr was Pettine's most famous student and certainly as well known as Odell at the time. Both his and Odell's book make for curious reading today.

    --p. 5, last paragraph of the essay. My major suggestion -- I found this paragraph not compelling, for two reasons. First, the repertoire on the CD is, with a few exceptions, drawn from the Golden Age. The exceptions prove the rule -- some "classical" arrangements, and folk-based originals. Nothing wrong with this, but it gives no hint to the reader of the vast (and I do mean vast) expansion of original contemporary repertoire for plucked string ensemble since WW2. The Providence Mandolin Orchestra (with whom I have played for many years) specializes in this. Most of the current American groups do not go as far in this direction as we do, but most of them do play some original contemporary music. Second, the reader will not know of the existence of mandolin orchestras today outside of the US in Europe, especially Germany, or in Asia, especially Japan, or Australia -- in other words, the modern "revival" of the mandolin orchestra is a global phenomenon, of which the US is a (very) modest part.

    Lastly, I will send you a PM, as I am the Reviews Editor of the CMSA's Mandolin Journal, and we would like to review the CD when it appears (if you are willing).
    Robert A. Margo

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Robert,
    Thanks so much for the careful reading and substantive reply. I will work the historical information in as I am able -- but certainly can give the conclusion a wider scope, and at least gesture towards the contemporary scene (and newer music).
    A bit intimidated by the prospect of a recording review, but am eager to get the material out there, and to be more involved in the CMSA, etc. - eager to talk more about this. Thanks again!

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Addendum:

    --the Adelstein book referred to in my post was published in 5 installments in The Cadenza in 1901.

    --p. 5, par. 2, penultimate par in the essay on MO. FYI, the original version of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra was founded in 1911 by William Place, Jr. It lasted until some point late in that decade before going dormant, whether due to WWI or the flu pandemic is not currently known. It reappeared ca. 1930 under a slightly differently organization, called the Providence Plectral Society, which was founded by Hibbard Perry, a student of Place, Jr's and Pettine's. The PPS lasted until 1942, at which point it disbanded due to WW2. The modern PMO was founded in 1973, again by Hibbard Perry, who by that point was well established in the Providence era as a teacher (mainly classical guitar, but also mandolin). Perry retired in 1989, and the PMO directorship was taken over by Mark Davis, who continues to lead the ensemble today. Hence, the PMO is a "legacy" ensemble in the sense that its origins can be traced to the early 20th century but discontinuously, which is different from the Mandoleers or the NYMO.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    "A bit intimidated by the prospect of a recording review, but am eager to get the material out there, and to be more involved in the CMSA, etc. - eager to talk more about this."

    I just sent you a PM.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Sorry if this seems relatively simplistic:
    While the Timmerman chart of historical Italian instruments does make for a pleasing first page, its tiny text is, even after printing, totally illegible, I'd love to see a full-page version of it.
    - Ed

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Lee, glad to see you were able to pursue this project; I remember talking with you about a symposium-like event about MO's. But regarding your article/notes, I was surprised not to see any mention of Calace, especially when you mentioned Munier's use of the 10 string liuto. I am far from a scholarly expert on this, but my teacher, Fabio Giudice is a liuto master and Calace scholar. He is studying Carnatic music in India presently but I will alert him to your work. Calace, it should be noted, was most famous as a solo artist on the liuto cantabile, even credited by some with inventing the instrument: "He also created a ten-stringed mandolon-cello and a bass archlute, which could replace the bowed double bass in mandolin orchestras. " (CD Notes from Raffaele Calace, Motus Mandolin Quartet).
    I am sure my colleague Bob Margo will have more specific and accurate historical data on this, but I agree with him that, although we might never see another Golden Age, there is a worldwide wealth of serious classical music for plucked orchestras. Our own Oregon Mandolin Orchestra was one of the very few American participants in the 2018 Bruchsal, Germany Zupforchestra Fest, probably the largest world event for plucked orchestras. There we saw music produced by highly skilled mandolin orchestras led by university trained conductors.
    Even if your focus is on American Mandolin Orchestras, be aware that we are learning from and drawing music from these international groups.
    And hey, Lee-- maybe not in this thread, but let's talk more about that symposium idea.
    Jim
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Hi Lee - Sounds like a fun group. I did a very quick read through of the document and have the following comments. I could do a more careful review, if you would like. I’ve edited lots of manuscripts in the past and tend to focus on things such as sentence clarity, how ideas flow, if a naive reader will understand, etc. Lots of cool info in yours. An overall comment (which I may have missed in my quick read) is that there were a lot of immigrants coming into the US with a tradition of music making, also (which may not be understood by the youngest readers) is that entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s was mostly a home-grown enterprise. For immigrants, you showed that you’ve made it by having a piano in the front parlor and a lot of folks played music at home. As for my comments:

    P.3: “Mandolins, along with banjos, became the object of new kinds of popular attention--and various kinds of “uplift” and popularization—as other fretted instruments”. Two comments: 1. not sure what you mean by “uplift” and popularization, especially since this is just after you mention popular attention. I would suggest removing this phrase. 2. “as other fretted instruments” <- other than the guitar, what are you talking about here?

    P. 4 “The firm grew around Gibson's revolutionary designs but the business didn't retain him— a new visionary was hired by Gibson in 1922: acoustic engineer Lloyd Allayre Loar.” The use of Gibson to refer to the person and then the company is confusing here. I would suggest “the firm” or “the company” in place of the second Gibson. And, is Lloyd Loar’s middle name necessary here?

    - Denis

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Hello, Lee.
    A very important thing to mention, at the beginning of your text, is that the “new” mandolin, which appeared around 1750-1760, was tuned in fifths – and not in fourths and a third, like the previous Renaissance and Baroque mandolin (which had 4, 5 or 6 double courses, gut strings and gut moveable frets, and therefore was for certain a very different instrument). The tuning is a huge turning point in the mandolins history.
    Another important thing to modify is that “During this period” (you mean at the end of the 17th century and early 1800s, don’t you), luthiers developed the form of the guitar and the mandolin, BUT NOT the form of the violin, which was already definitely set since the mid-17th century (Epitome musical by Philibert Jambe de Fer, Lyons, 1556).
    In the bibliography, the correct spelling is Wölki, not Wolki.
    All the best,
    (PS I hope the form of my reply is OK. Not only that English is my 3rd language, but this is only my 2nd post on the Mandolin Cafe.)

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Thanks, Lee, for your work on this fascinating topic and for sharing it here.

    I also find the feedback from others to be helpful to my own learning as well.

    For me, Robert's point bears repeating:

    --p. 3, top. The correlation between mandolin playing in the early 20th century and social class is an example of a topic that needs more research. People often point to the widespread presence of mandolin clubs, etc. in high schools and colleges at the time, but do not recognize that only a tiny fraction of Americans attended college ca. 1900 and, similarly, the fraction attending high school was also very low. On the other hand, how many "factory workers" played mandolin is simply not known (in the sense of a reliable average nationwide, as opposed to an anecdote here or there).


    This is certainly very important points to underscore, not as social critique, but as important context.
    Associated with this, of course, is the massive production of instruments (and the wide range of quality and 'price-points' to serve this market.)
    Did these cheaper HS or collegiate instruments help offset the cost of more expensive or boutique instruments from the makers.

    That said, we've seen enough photos of mandolin clubs here where all the members are sporting killer Gibson F4s, mandolas and mandocellos...
    But we've also seen photos posted of modest 'orchestras' in less fancy garb and very modest mandolins.

    The 'decline' of mandolin orchestras might have have been a contributing factor to the decline of many of the bigger US mandolins makers (Lyon and Healy / Vega / Oscar Schmidt for instance.) That was likely a healthy market for some time for them.


    Sheri Mignano's great book "Mandolins Like Salami" offers some insight into another history of mandolin culture in America at this time, but understandably focuses more on the memorable players of the era rather than the unknown player likely playing in family or social club duos and trios....with the duo and trio music made available in the Italo-American music idiom. She does write on some of the important Bay Area orchestras which seem quite different than the collegiate and school groups in age, experience and repetoire.


    I'm so glad to see this effort to glean and synthesize information from old sources and continue to advance the overall mandolin knowledge base.

    To be honest, I don't enjoy most mandolin orchestra music, or much in the way of 'classical' mandolin.

    I've never had any interest in playing in one, but I love mandolins and therefore I love mandolin orchestras. Old and new.

    Mick
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  24. #14

    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Thanks so much for the reading, thinking, and suggesting, folks! The essay is in much better shape due to your help!

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Hello again, Lee.
    I meant, for sure : "BUT NOT the form of the violin, which was already definitely set since the MID-16th CENTURY (Epitome musical by Philibert Jambe de Fer, Lyons, 1556). Sorry for that "misprint".
    All the best,
    Moxhe

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    I appreciate your thoughts, Mick! The class issues here are fascinating. I just ordered the Mignano book - thanks for the reference.
    ...and maybe we can sway you to liking mandolin orchestra music--stay tuned for the recording!

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    A very naive question: are there mandolin orchestras that don’t play classical music?

    I, too, am not an active classical music listener (mandolin or not), but I am very intrigued by the idea of a mandolin orchestra playing other genres of music, like a big band jazz ensemble might.

    Mike Marshall and Darol Anger recently performed with a big band ensemble based in Germany where they performed “The Duo” repertoire. Throwing more mandolin-family instruments into that cast certainly would have been interesting!

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    I assumed those photos of the "Gibson Orchestras" were part of the marketing machine in action.
    The scenario I always envisaged would be:
    Crate of ordered instruments finally arrives.Everybody gets tuckered up in their finery and poses with their brand new shiny instrument.

    Does anyone have any info on the kind of contract bandleaders signed when ordering a case load? Did they get a commission?

    I do wonder what it did to the accessibility of those orchestras? Many knock-on consequences I can envisage.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    I’ve got nothing t add, but that I enjoyed reading it very much. Do let us know when it’s released.
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    [QUOTE=joh;1875159]A very naive question: are there mandolin orchestras that don’t play classical music?

    To joh -
    Well, if our group counts, then yes! Curious to hear what others would say, though.

    My approach to the mandolin orchestra projct has been very open, since I work with what mandolin players show up here at ETSU, and those who have interest in the MO. Soe semesters we concentrate more on art music and notated parts, and other semesters we work more from head arrangements and other sorts of organization.
    The semester we made this recording (2017) we worked up some pieces connected with latinx composers/performers/sources, including a choro piece with a "head arrangement" as well as some that we played from parts. I enjoy the variety!

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Quote Originally Posted by joh View Post
    A very naive question: are there mandolin orchestras that don’t play classical music?
    Although these groups did play classical and "light" classical music, there were also arrangements of what were popular tunes of the time period too, along with regional and ethnic favorites.

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    "A very naive question: are there mandolin orchestras that don’t play classical music?

    I, too, am not an active classical music listener (mandolin or not), but I am very intrigued by the idea of a mandolin orchestra playing other genres of music, like a big band jazz ensemble might.'

    There is variation, but I would say as a general rule, most MO's active today play a variety of genres. The group that I have played with for many years, the Providence Mandolin Orchestra (PMO), specializes in contemporary original works but we still frequently play arrangements, typically of pop music -- as for example, in our recent concert (June 2022) in RI when the program included my arrangements for MO of three songs by Randy Newman. We've also played my arrangements of works by Jobim, Paul Simon, and the Police. Ca. 20 years ago, a typical PMO program would include jazz arrangements, e.g. Mingus, but not recently. The East Coast Mandolin Orchestra, which is a project of Mark Linkins' (the music director of the Munier group in Philadelphia and also the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra) primarily does arrangements -- most recently, a Brazilian program (which included Jobim and other similar).
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Quote Originally Posted by joh;[URL=[URL=1875159[/URL
    ]A very naive question: are there mandolin orchestras that don’t play classical music?
    I have played the following with MOoD (Mandolin Orchestra of Devon) up until it's recent demise. (now being replaced by Moorlands Mandolins) Mostly arranged by Matt Norman or Nick Wyke. There were others, but this is what I could find on the iPad list.

    MOoD repertoire (in random order);


    All In A Garden Green- Trad / Playford
    Arkansas Traveller
    Astley's Ride
    Ave Verum Corpus - Mozart
    Andro - Breton trad
    Minuet op3 - Boccerini
    Midnight On The Water
    Golden Sonata - H Purcell
    Bukoviner Freylechs - Trad
    Chalk's Hornpipe - Trad
    Sonatina Op 36, No 1 - Muzio Clementi
    The Conquet - Trad (from Benjamin Rose 1820
    Fisher's Hornpipe - Trad
    The Forth Brig - J. Scott Skinner
    Fox and Geese- Trad
    Gypsy Swing - Nick Wyke
    Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison
    June Apple - Trad
    Love Letters In The Sand - J Fred Coots
    Pyaaamu Mallusjoella - Paula Susitaival
    Manha de Carnaval - Louis Bonfa
    Suite from Playford - arr. Nick Wyke
    Rejoice And Be Merry - Trad
    Sielunestun Polkka - Trad
    Sir Sidney Smith's March - James Hook
    Tar Road to Sligo
    Tears - Grapelli/Reinhart
    The River - Nick Wyke
    Turel's Hornpipe - Trad.
    Waiting For The Federals
    Walter Bulwe's Polka no 2
    Henry Atkinson # 187 - arr Matt Norman
    London - Ashover / Matt Norman
    Olympian March - Joe Morley
    Pupilla Cerula - E.Becucci
    Che Ridere!! - E.Becucci
    Texas Boogie - Dr. John / Matt Norman
    Alexander's Ragtime Band -Irving Berlin
    Prelude #1 in C - J S Bach
    Blaze-away - Abe Holzmann
    The Bluebell Polka - In this form by Jimmy Shand-from Flop Eared Mule
    Trio Sonata Number 1 - William Boyce
    Canto di Bimba - Giacomo Sartori
    Concerto di Mandolino - Domenico Caudioso
    Dill Pickles - Charles L Johnson
    Ermozica Tango - Prof. Joseph Albin Op. 130
    Evolution Rag - Thomas S. Allen
    Faronell's Division upon a Ground
    Greensleeves - Arr Vaughan Williams
    Grimstock - Trad
    Guillô, pran ton tamborin! - Trad
    Heel and Toe Polka - Joe Morley
    Rondeau from Abdelazer - H Purcell
    Music From The Royal Fireworks - GF Handel
    Hartland Point - Matt Norman
    The Hogmanay Jig - Trad
    Menuet 1 - GF Handel
    Menuet 2 - GF Handel
    A Favourite Duet by Mr Holmes - From the William Winter Manuscript
    O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Arr M Norman
    The River Ockment - M Norman
    Old Adam The Poacher - William Andews/ Baring Gould
    The Orange Hat - Alison Stephens
    Rejouissance - GF Handel
    Allegro - Riggieri
    On the Sunny Side of the Street - Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
    Tarantella - Raffaele Calace
    Tom Mellin's Hornpipe - Thomas Marsden
    Tra Veglia e Sonno - Luigi Canora
    Concerto for Strings (D Major) - A Vivaldi
    We Wish You a Merry Christmas - Trad
    Last edited by Beanzy; Aug-15-2022 at 4:47pm.
    Eoin



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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Eoin, I managed to get some videos of the Mandolin Orchestra of Devon on youtube...excellent! I liked everything I heard...
    Music washes away from the soul the dust of every-day life. Auerbach.

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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Great stuff, Dotty.
    I recognise some material from Paul Sparks, who you acknowledge in the bibliography.
    You have summarised it well within the essay format.
    I'm currently reading his "The Classical Mandolin".
    I had the pleasure of hearing Paul speak and play at Simon Mayor's mandolin retreat in Yorkshire last year.

    The illustrated talk by Paul Sparks on ‘The Mandolin in the Eighteenth Century’ was a fascinating insight to the world of the early mandolin. It was enhanced by Paul, on mandolin and John Mackenzie on guitar with examples of music from the period.
    Bren

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