Monday, March 21, 2011

three and a half hours of mandolin foolin'

oh boy. so. how does one write about a mandolin orchestra festival?

well here's how. so saturday night i headed over to frank and debbie's, my dad's first cousins, and there we caught a quick drink and i got some pup-petting time with the two most famous border collies, lucky and traveler. then we piled in the car and headed down to the CAPA center in downtown pittsburgh, where frank succeeded in parking the car. no, that came out wrong. he parked the car in a garage next door, not at the center.

i had no idea what to expect, whether a "mandolin festival" comprised of a series of concerts, or a series of mandolin-playing workshops, perhaps with a special demonstration on how to make mandolins. frank didn't know if he was supposed to bring his mandolin or not, and i half-joked that i would bring my uke, disguised as a mandolin. in a beard, hat, and glasses, naturally.

it was a concert it turns out. a three and a half hour concert. don't get me wrong, i really enjoyed it, and our friend gregg was playing in the pittsburgh mandolin orchestra so it was a real treat to see him on the stage. but even operas aren't three and a half hours. and they have costumes.

so each group was great to hear, but perhaps they could have each played about half the number of pieces they chose, to keep things moving. one can only listen to one instrument for so long before needing a break. it's like listening to the bagpipes for three and a half hours straight.

there were three groups: the pittsburgh mandolin orchestra, the dayton, ohio mandolin orchestra, and an international mandolin orchestra, including two young italian guys who took the liberty of goofing off on stage since they could play brilliantly enough to not really pay close attention to what they were doing.

i also enjoyed seeing the range of instruments in the mandolin family; i had no idea that such things existed as mandocellos, and mandobasses, essentially the mandolin equivalents of the various violin family sizes we are used to seeing in a classical orchestra. the mandobass looks like a giant tick, and is totally worth giving you a visual for:

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