Photo credit: Sue Kramer
The Springfield Mandolin orchestra will have its first public performance of 2017 with a program scheduled for March 4, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the First Congregation Church in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The program will feature Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, orchestral variations of traditional Irish melodies, and several original compositions – the first completed performance of “Strinennia,” composed by Michael Mayerfield Bell, “Rags, Riffs, and Reveries,” by Greek-born composer Victor Kioulaphides, and two pieces by local multi-instrumentalist Jim Armenti.
The Springfield Mandolin Orchestra is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit dedicated to providing educational performances and events throughout the Metro Springfield area.
“Rags, Riffs, and Reveries,” and the music of Jim Armenti
Barbara and Joe Blumenthal commissioned Victor Kioulaphides to compose a piece of music to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Barbara’s instrument, a 1916 Gibson A-Junior mandolin. The piece is arranged for mandolins, guitar, and bass. According to Barbara, “We wanted a multi-movement piece evoking popular American music being played around the time my mandolin was built. So, the 5-movement piece includes a fox- trot, a stomp, and a cakewalk. Two interlude waltz movements are written just for mandolin and bass.”
Barbara became acquainted with Kioulaphides while attending Carlo Aonzo’s Mandolin Workshop in Manhattan, which they have attended during the past ten years. Kioulaphides is a professional bass player based in New York City, and he also teaches, arranges and composes music. “Rags, Riffs and Reveries” was originally scheduled to be premiered in a concert last December, but the concert was cancelled on account of a snow storm. The piece will now have its first public performance at the March 4 concert with the Springfield Mandolin Orchestra, and they will be joined by Jim Armenti and Sue Burkhart in performing this original piece.
Jim Armenti, who composed two pieces that will also be performed that evening, has a B.A. in music from the University of Massachusetts. He has played in a variety of bands in the Pioneer Valley during the past 30 years, including the Yankee Rhythm Band, Klezamir, Gutterbirds, Donna Lee, and the Lonesome Brothers. Jim plays and teaches a variety of musical styles, including rock, country, jazz, folk, and klezmer.
Strinennia refers to the Balkan festival held on March 9 of each year to celebrate the springtime return of the birds. Michael Mayerfield Bell, an environmental sociologist and musician/composer, composed the classical suite “Strinennia” in 2002. Originally in two movements, the suite has been performed numerous times over the past 15 years, according to Josh Bell, Michael’s brother. The suite will be performed with the third movement in public for the first time at the March 4 concert with the Springfield Mandolin Orchestra.
Josh described how Michael, in composing the third movement, “has crafted voices of birds in the background,” creating “special effects (that) imitate a variety of bird calls.” “(It’s) remarkable how Michael envisions (the) voice of mandolin, and the subtle distinctions of the different tonal voices in regards to the power of music,” Josh said in praise of his brother.
“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and some Irish melodies
“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (or Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is perhaps the most familiar of Mozart’s compositions. Written in 1787, it was not published until 1827, thirty-six years after Mozart’s death, even though Mozart’s widow sold this work, with other compositions, to a publisher in 1799. This work is believed to have been written on commission, as were most of Mozart’s serenades. There is no known record of its first performance.
To usher in the Saint Patrick’s Day season, the orchestra will be performing orchestral arrangements of Irish melodies. “Molly on the Shore” is an adaptation of a folk song by Australian-born modernist classical composer Percy Grainger, who is more renown for his folk song adaptations than his original compositions. “Rocky Road to Dublin,” a slip jig that has been performed by artists ranging from Makem and Clancy to the Dropkick Murphys, is an ensemble arrangement by Jim Dalton, a faculty member of the Boston Conservatory of Music. Although not a traditional Irish melody by any stretch of the imagination, “Moon Dance” was composed by Northern Ireland-born Van Morrison.
Tickets for the concert can be ordered in advance at www.mandolinorchestra.org. Advance price is $12, door price is $15.
Interview with Barbara Blumenthal via email 1/29/17
Interview with Josh Bell via phone 2/2/17