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Thread: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

  1. #26
    Registered User Bren'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?

    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.
    The Shetland Mandolin Band plays mainly folk-inspired repertoire.
    https://youtu.be/nDGTwVCgw5U
    Players include top local fretted instrument musicians such as founder Jenny Henry, plus Gary Peterson, Chris Hughson and also relative beginners.

    Sample repertoire from their CD "Always on a Monday":
    - The Northlands
    - Kentucky Waltz/Tennessee Waltz
    - Frankie's Tune/Foxrock Hornpipe
    - Song for PJ
    - Bach Minuet in G
    - Boilersuit Blues/Soup Pot Blues
    - Polka Marcia
    - Asta in Snow/Coridinio
    - The Lounge Bar/The Tooth Fairy
    - Sarah's Song
    - El Choclo
    - O Sole Mio/Never on a Sunday
    Bren

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  3. #27

    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Hi, folks - Again, my thanks for the suggestions and corrections. The document is in much better shape with your (and others') contributions. I am grateful for community! Here's the current state of things. Now just figuring how to get Tunecore to accept the sound files...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2022-8-17-MO-LinerNotes.pdf  

  4. #28
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Bob (and Lee and others in this thread)
    "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 intrigues me as a research nerd/supervisor; when my doctoral students tell me their central question, I ask "How are we going to find out about that?"
    I am trying to envision ways one might find out how many factory workers, farmers, shopkeepers, "housewives" (pardon the stereotype but we are talking about early 1900's), and such played in mandolin orchestras. What primary and secondary sources would be available and relevant; where would we look? Probably local newspapers, big city and small town, might have articles or announcements of concerts; production and sales of mandolins--to, not from--various locales... as I said, intriguing. Paul Ruppa has done some of this kind of work, and in fact tells me he has documented items that somewhat conflict with established sources including Sparks.
    Maybe after the gathering in Kalamazoo there will be time to pursue this, but we're going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks!
    jim
    Jim

    Dr James S Imhoff
    Boston University
    Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

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  6. #29
    Registered User Richard Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    R:e working class/labor mandolin orchestras, this is a useful link

    https://forward.com/schmooze/199190/...s-labor-roots/
    Richard Singleton

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  8. #30
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Yes, I have some material on the use of mandolins in drawing a crowd to Wobblies and communist worker party gatherings (I probably got to this material via another thread in the Cafe):
    “A Mandolin Orchestra Could Attract a Lot of Attention”: Interracial Fun with Radical Immigrants, 1920–1955
    by Robert M. Zecker

    Talks about labor groups realizing that lectures on Marxist economics were too heavy on "Cognitive Liberation" and so "Left wing rallies also employed ethnic singing societies and theater troupes to preach a new gospel of Marxism via cultural institutions with which Jewish, Italian, and Slavic workers were familiar." Mandolin groups were a special draw in these gatherings.

    In a paper compiled by Rob Meador and authored by Dan Beimborn:
    "It was in vogue in the 1850s, when it shared the parlor with zithers, mandolas, ukuleles, and other novelties designed to amuse the increasingly leisured middle class. A marked increase in Italian immigration in the 1880s sparked a fad for the bowl-backed Neopolitan instrument that spread across the land. The mandolin was even among the first recorded instruments on Edison cylinders. In 1897, Montgomery Ward's catalog marveled at the 'phenomenal growth in our Mandolin trade'."

    And there's this, a 1977 U of P dissertation by Scott Hambly:
    MANDOLINS IN THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1880: AN INDUSTRIAL AND SOCIOCULTURAL HISTORY.
    He starts some years before the "Spanish Students" thing and gets into class structure:
    "This work is an investigation of the appearance of mandolins and their uses in elite, popular, and folk musics in the United States. The principal objective is to describe the emergence of mandolins within different classes of people from 1880 to the early 1920s, when mandolins were in vogue among those who depended on institutionalized instruction and printed music for learning and performing guidance."
    He also points out the rather Eurocentric and romantic elevation of stringed instruments as superior to pretty much everything else. This is typical of early psuedo-ethnomusicologists who also assumed that music from many other cultures was "primitive" and even "savage."
    "In the scale of musical development the first and highest place may well be assigned to the Stringed Instruments. Their value is indeed twofold, for where# as they are unsurpassed in their power of expressing the deepest emotions of the human heart, their practical utility is such that in every home they find a welcome and cheer many a worker with their concord of sweet sounds."

    So there is material out there that offers a view into the mandolin and the working class; it seems to imply group as well as individual use, but pinpointing "mandolin orchestras" per se will take a bit more digging.
    Jim

    Dr James S Imhoff
    Boston University
    Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

    1912 Gibson K4 Mandocello; Thomann Mandocello; Stiver F5; ?American? Bowlback; Martin 00016; coming: Dusepo Cittern/liuto cantabile

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  10. #31
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    ... The East Coast Mandolin Orchestra ... of Mark Linkins' ... primarily does arrangements -- most recently, a Brazilian program...
    ... while the prior effort, pre-Covid in 2019, celebrated the music of 1969, being 50 years since Woodstock.

    Personal aside: Yes! Exactly the rock that I grew up on, so I felt right at home participating in the local (northen NJ + NYC) practice sessions; even fun stuff like playing Jefferson Airplane bass parts on my D-35. Unfortunately, a major virus (seems that nobody believes in a 3-month-early case of Covid!) kept me from the actual concert.
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the knowin' of you."
    - Ian Tyson

  11. #32
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    A couple of details: The event in Paris in 1878 was the Exposition Universelle, like the Worlds Fairs held in the US last century, though I would imagine there was other smaller events with public entertainments within that.
    Loar started work for Gibson in 1919 and introduced the Master Model instruments from 1922.

    cheers

  12. #33
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    The first thing I thought of when the question of class and mandolin playing was raised was 1) Italian descended players. The second was the notion that the innovative instruments - loars (and the resonator banjo) which were essentially designed for classical music sell so poorly they are remaindered. Making them affordable for rural workers.

    But the resources posted above are wonderful. Thank you.
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  14. #34
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Quote Originally Posted by dj coffey View Post
    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
    This was not just the golden age of mandolin orchestra, it was the golden age of live music - particularly live community music. Before radio, except for player pianos and wax cylinders all music was live. If you wanted music for any event you got musicians to provide it. Percentage-wise more people were gainfully employed making music then than today. Percentage-wise more people enjoyed playing a musical instrument back then as well.

    The advent of radio and later robust recording technology led ultimately to today's culture where music (and performing arts in general) are now the purview of "experts"/professionals.

    It's great to see mandolin orchestras coming back. I don't live close enough to one to participate. Maybe when I retire in a year or so I'll have the time and energy to start one up where I live.

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  16. #35

    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    Many mandolin orchestras also play some world music, as there have been plectrum ensembles in many cultures....balalaika & domra, tamburitza, filipino rondala, etc.
    And RAGTIME sounds especially good on mandos, as well as some popular music. If you want your ensemble to thrive, I think you must play a variety of music.
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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  18. #36
    Sheri Mignano Crawford Mandophile's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essay on Mandolin Orchestras

    In my Salami book, the appendix includes the repertoire of each of the S.F. bay area orchestras. Many of the titles were semi-classical, hybrid and ballo liscio etc. Mandolin orchestras (depending on where and when) thrived when they could match the (mostly) volunteer members' level of ability with the selected pieces on a concert program. Just a final note: while I perused the paper (but did not scrutinize), I arrived at the conclusion without being certain as to your thesis. Perhaps state a clearer objective in the first paragraph or so and provide a solid conclusion.
    Sheri Mignano Crawford

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