By Mandolin Cafe
May 26, 2015 - 8:30 pm
New York, N.Y. — The Ger Mandolin Orchestra (GMO), makes its New York debut June 18, 8:00 p.m. at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, New York University, as part of KulturfestNYC, an international celebration of Jewish arts and culture.
The Ger Mandolin Orchestra is the brainchild of Israeli-American Avner Yonai. Avner's search for his family roots in Poland led him to a tattered photograph of his grandfather and two other relatives playing in a pre-WWII Jewish mandolin orchestra in the Polish town of Gora Kalwaria (Ger in Yiddish).
The photograph inspired Yonai to create a contemporary version of this musical group, as a memorial project for his own family and the orchestra members, most of whom perished in the Holocaust.
We have a lot of stone monuments, but this is a living monument... it brings something to life rather than honouring something that's dead.
Under the direction of Grammy winner Mike Marshall, the new Ger Mandolin Orchestra resurrects a quintessential Jewish musical form. Mandolin clubs and orchestras were at one time ubiquitous in the shtetlakh (villages) of Jewish Eastern Europe and in North American immigrant communities.
With authentic instrumentation and repertoire that includes Klezmer, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Czech and classical music, the Ger Mandolin Orchestra's all-star lineup of international musicians achieves a rare synergy between history and virtuosic musical performance
The GMO's NY premiere is presented as part of KulturfestNYC, an international celebration of Jewish arts and culture, produced by the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene, America's longest-running Yiddish theatre company.
Says Folksbiene Artistic Director, Zalmen Mlotek, "I could not imagine a better context than KulturfestNYC for the Ger Mandolin Orchestra to make its NY debut. The group's virtuosity, soul and authenticity makes them entirely unique, and the story behind their creation is compelling and inspiring. This show is not to be missed!
The original Ger Mandolin Orchestra, circa 1920s-30s.
New Ger Mandolin Orchestra led by Mike Marshall in front of the Ger Synagogue in Poland, September 2011.
The 11-member Ger Mandolin Orchestra (GMO) made its debut in March 2011 at the Jewish Music Festival in Berkeley, California. Six months after its premiere performance, the group was invited to Poland to perform in the town of Gora Kalwaria to a packed room of over 500 residents, including the only two remaining Jewish community members, and the Mayor and other dignitaries.
As a result of this concert, the town of Gora Kalwaria subsequently created its first ever (now-annual) Holocaust memorial event. Additionally, as a result of music workshops conducted by the GMO on that trip, a number of Polish youth mandolin orchestras now perform arrangements of Jewish music from the GMO's repertoire. In November 2013, the Ger Mandolin Orchestra performed sell-out concerts in Claremont, California, and Toronto, Canada, as part of Holocaust Education Week. The group is on permanent display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix Arizona, as representatives of Polish musical culture and plucked string orchestras.
The Ger Mandolin Orchestra is led by renowned multi-instrumentalist Mike Marshall, a multiple Grammy nominee and winner known for his work over the last 35 years with such luminaries as Bela Fleck, David Grisman, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile and Stephane Grappelli. Marshall is joined in the GMO by an all-star cast of mandolinists. From the classical mandolin world comes San Diego's Chris Acquavella, and San Francisco's Dana Rath and Adam Roskiewicz, one half of the Modern Mandolin Quartet, whose most recent album Americana received three Grammy nominations in 2012. The group's resident experts in Jewish and Klezmer music are New York City's Jeff Warschauer and Toronto's Eric Stein, leader of the award-winning group Beyond the Pale and Artistic Director of Toronto's renowned Ashkenaz Festival. From Portland, Oregon come Brian Oberlin and Tim Connell, mandolinists esteemed for their expertise in bluegrass, jazz and Brazilian music. Adding to the international flavour of the group is Prague's Radim Zenkl, an astounding virtuoso whose music bridges the worlds of bluegrass, classical and east European folk. The orchestra is completed by two new additions, German Classical mandolinist Caterina Lichtenberg, who holds the only professorship of mandolin in all of Europe (Cologne University of Music, Wuppertal Campus), and New England-based bluegrass/roots innovator Joe Walsh, who teaches on the faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
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