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Herbert Forrest Odell (1872-1926) was prodigious not only as a mandolinist and teacher, but also as a composer, arranger, and publisher. The son of Ira H. Odell, musician, conductor, and instrument maker, H.F. Odell originally studied violin, piano, organ and voice. He discovered the mandolin in 1893, and two years later traveled to Paris to study with mandolin virtuoso Jean Pietrapertosa. (1) He returned to Boston to teach mandolin and play with the Boston Opera Company orchestra. He later formed the 60-piece Langham Orchestra, which was renamed the Odell Orchestra. (2)
Odell’s compositions include pieces for mandolin, guitar, banjo and mandolin orchestra, as well as ragtime piano songs and comic operas. (3) Three of his orchestral compositions, “Laughing Eyes,” “Gallantry,” and “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice,” appear on the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble’s 1998 recording, “All the Rage: Mandolin Ensemble Music from 1897-1924.” Odell also arranged other composers’ music for mandolin orchestra. He adapted Enrique Granados’ “12 Dances for Piano” for mandolin orchestra.
Odell began a music publishing company in 1905, which operated out of 165 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts. He also started a music trade journal, Crescendo, which was published from 1905 to 1925, when it was bought up by Vega. His books include, “The Mandolin Orchestra” (1913), a guide for forming, managing, and playing in a mandolin orchestra, and the Odell Method for the Mandolin, Volume 1-4. The Odell method is still used to this day in Japan. (4)
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H.F. Odell, having never married, lived with his parents almost his entire life. He was outlived by both of them when he died in a nursing facility in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1926. (5)
(1) Noonan, Jeffrey. “The Guitar in America: Victorian Era to Jazz Age.” Scarecrow Press, 2008.