Join us for our annual Christmas concerts!
The December 2014 issue of North Hills Monthly magazine features a colorful story on the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra. 20,000 printed copies of the magazine are distributed throughout North Hills communities. In addition, the story appears on the magazine's website, complete with a slideshow of our performers and events. Click here to see it
The Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra will again be performing at the McKeesport International Village on Wednesday August 13, 2014 at 9:00 PM. Come out and hear us!! See attached flyer for details.
You’ll find more than a dozen booths selling freshly-made ethnic foods from around the world, continuous live entertainment, live music for dancing, crafts, community information and games, and short educational sessions about world cultures. This has been a Pittsburgh-area tradition for more than a half-century.
The Pittsburgh Mandolin Society had a very busy holiday season. The Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra was invited to join Mark Milovats for his holiday show at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh. This annual event is a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the orchestra was glad to add their talents to the show, titled “Christmas in Hawaii”. The holiday season also brought the orchestra back to some of our favorite venues, including Mars Presbyterian Church, Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church, and our rehearsal home, St. Johns Lutheran Church of Highland. The orchestra played holiday favorites from around the world, including “Feliz Navidad”, “Czarna Madonna”, and “Maoz Tsur”. Gary sang Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”, and then led the audience in singing some traditional favorites. The Avjar Tamburitza Orkestar, consisting of Ron, Lois, Abby, Carl, Jason, Dick and Charley, traded their mandolins in to perform a traditional tamburitza number for the audiences. And the PMO Bluegrass Company, consisting of Valerie, Jason, Charley, Mark, and guest banjo player Jason Buzan, wowed the audience with their rendition of the Bill Monroe classic, “Christmastimes A’Comin”.
The Society’s small ensembles were very busy too. Riversong String Ensemble, consisting of Ron, Jan, Carol, Dave, Mark and Gary, made return appearances at some private holiday parties this year. They performed traditional holiday tunes, and beautiful adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Gary wowed the audiences with his rendition of “Ave Maria”. Mostly Mandolins, consisting of Joan, Joyce, Abby and Dave, made an appearance at Phipps Conservatory. Decorated for the holidays, the Conservatory drew thousands of visitors who could hear their beautiful music as they wandered through the exhibits.
The Pittsburgh Mandolin Society did some unusual events during the summer and fall of 2013. The Mandolin Orchestra was invited to play at the International Village in McKeesport for the first time. This multi-ethnic festival has been drawing crowds of over 20,000 people for over 50 years, and the mandolin orchestra was very well received. Later in August, we were invited to play at the Cumberland Woods Village. The audience members loved the sound of the orchestra, and were thrilled by the sultry vocals of guest artist Alexandra Korshin on “Wayfaring Stranger”. The orchestra members were happy to spot one of our original members, Mark Evans, in the audience.
Over the summer, the members of the Riversong String Ensemble found themselves needing to revisit the “animal” songs in their repertoire. Surrounded by some furry friends at Mifflin Avenue UMC’s first ever “Blessing of the Animals”, they played Henry Mancini’s classics, “Pink Panther” and “Baby Elephant Walk”. Staying in the “animal” theme, they also played a fund-raiser for Living in Liberty, a new shelter for abused women that allows them to bring their pets with them.
The Pittsburgh Mandolin Society barely had time to put their holiday repertoire to rest for next year, when we started rehearsing for a very busy spring concert schedule.
The Mars Presbyterian Church so enjoyed the appearance by the Riversong String Ensemble in December that they invited the full orchestra back to perform on March 10th. The audience responded enthusiastically to Charley’s mesmerizing mandolin technique on the traditional “Karapet”, and many compliments were received after the show.
On April 14, the orchestra traveled to Oil City to participate in the “Arts in the Transit” Series. Ron briefly traded his mandolin for the custom-made oud that he picked up on his recent trip to Morocco, and played a traditional Middle Eastern tune for the audience. The Mandolinisti Italiani Quartet played traditional Italian songs on the mandolin, and Gary demonstrated his versatility by singing “O Sole Mio”, “Danny Boy”, and Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More”.
The orchestra’s traditional Mother’s Day concert was held at St. John’s Church of Highland on May 11th. Father and daughter duo Hannah and Suguru made their first featured appearance together as soloists, playing Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto while the orchestra backed them. The Gypsy Strings also played a portion of the concert, with their violinist George Batyi joining the orchestra as the soloist for “Csardas”.
The following weekend, the Riversong String Ensemble was invited to play at the National Road Festival. Performing in a historic church in Brownsville, the audience was blown away by a very pregnant and beautiful Emily singing the traditional ballad “The Wild Goose”, and Gary singing the poignant “Misty”. Then the instrumentalists promptly changed the mood by switching their mandolins to banjos, and playing the raucous “Jackson Stomp”.
On June 15, the Riversong String Ensemble had a return engagement at the Economy Boro Community Days. Being a local resident, Philip sat in with the band and demonstrated his octave mandolin for his neighbors on some traditional numbers like “The Pennsylvania Polka”, “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, and “The Year of Jubilo”.
This year marked some big changes to our traditional holiday concerts. Several members temporarily traded their mandolins for tamburitza instruments, and performed traditional European holiday carols on them. Cantor Ben sang Maoz Tsur to honor the Chanukah season, and the PMO Chorus led the audiences in singing traditional carols. Audiences were also treated to the sound of the rarely-heard octave mandolin, when Philip sat in with the Riversong String Ensemble to play Archangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto”. Anxious to show off all of these new and exciting works, the orchestra made three return appearances to some of our favorite venues, making for a very busy and fun holiday season in 2012.
On December 2nd, we performed for our good friends at the First Christian Church in Weirton, and then joined them for homemade cookies and punch after the concert. This was an especially busy day for the members of the Riversong String Ensemble, who had also made a trip earlier that morning to the historic Mars Presbyterian Church. They performed a beautiful adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for the parishioners there.
On December 9th, we performed at our rehearsal home, the beautiful St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland. This concert happened to coincide with St. John’s astonishing living recreation of the Village of Bethlehem, giving much added meaning to the day.
On December 16, we performed at Mifflin Avenue United Methodist Church. This was the first time that many of our members met their new Pastor, Kelly Smith, and the first time that she had heard a mandolin orchestra!
On December 23, the seven members of the Riversong String Ensemble braved the inclement weather to play outdoors on a (thankfully) heated stage at the newly constructed European Village in Market Square. The holiday shoppers were even braver – standing out in the cold to listen with rapt attention to the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, and enthusiastically singing carols with Emily and Gary as the instrumentalists tried to keep their very cold fingers moving.
Celebrating a decade since its unique revival, Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra hosted an anniversary concert with a new album release event on Saturday, September 22, 2012, at Synod Hall in Oakland. Our latest album, “From Faraway Shores” is a symbol of the cooperative and successful work of the entire orchestra—in a language that knows no boundaries and yet is understood by all cultures. The album was available to the public for the first time at the concert. The concert paid homage to the very first Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra concert; and some of the original members were there to performed a few tunes with us—including the founder of the orchestra Alan Epstein. The guest artists who performed at the first concert—Allegheny Drifters and The Great American Gypsies (Charley Rappaport and Joe Kovach)— helped us celebrate a decade together by performing guest sets at this concert as well.
We opened our 10th concert season with the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra headlining a Mother’s Day Concert on Saturday, May 12, 2012, at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland, in McCandless, PA, with Charley Rappaport conducting. The program featured folk, classical, and world music, compositions by modern composers written specifically for the mandolin family of instruments, as well as spirited Eastern European Klezmer dance tunes. “Bolero”, by Raffaele Calace, a mandolin solo with orchestra accompaniment, was premiered, with 17 year old Gordon Neidinger as soloist. Gordon also composed the cadenza which was also performed for the first time.
The concert featured the Jerry Grcevich Tamburitza Orchestra. Mr. Grcevich is one of the foremost tamburitza musicians in the world, performing with tamburitza groups throughout the United States and Europe. In 2005, he was the first Western Pennsylvania artist to receive the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest award for traditional arts. The tamburitza is a traditional stringed instrument originating in the country that used to be named Yugoslavia and was popularized in the United States by the Duquesne University Tamburitzans.
This concert also featured Riversong String Ensemble, a small ensemble that consists of our orchestra members.