Doug's CMSA Convention Journal

Doug’s Convention Journal from the Baltimore Classical Society of America Convention October 12 through October 16, 2011.

The weather in Baltimore the week of the 25th CMSA Convention was terrible. You felt that you were gradually merging with the ocean if you spent any time outdoors. There was a steady drizzle for the first three days of the conference.

But, the action of the conference was going on indoors in the hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms. This was the 25th session of the CMSA Convention, so the program offers a mix of traditional CMSA events and some local events as well.

In Towson, MD, our hosts were the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra; David Evans— first mandolin, Laura Norris—2nd mandolin, Johnathan Jensen—mandola, and Tony Norris—guitar. They were very wonderful hosts and their influence was clear in the music and workshops. Clearly, if you consider hosting a CMSA convention, there is a lot of work to do and a need for a big group to chip in and help out to make it work well.

The Classical Mandolin Society of America provides leadership, workshop teachers, and structures the contests and performances. Lou Chouniard from Minnesota is the current president and was always a visible presence at the convention. The CMSA board of directors includes many mandolin notables including, John Goodin, the composer of two of the pieces the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra plays. Some of the other players and presenters included:

Jim Bates—En masse orchestra conductor, from Otterbein University.

Antonina Nigrelli—Board member and conductor of the Long Island Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra

Carlo Aonzo—Carlo appeared for a couple of days and did two presentations - parking lot exercises and a history of American mandolin music.

Joe Brent—Joe is a faculty member at the Mannes School of Music Extension, author of several books and a member of several NYC groups.

Mark Davis—Music director for the Providence Mandolin Orchestra.

Chris Aquavella–A California resident. Chris teaches at the New Expression School of Music in San Diego. He studied at Trinity College of Music in England under Alsion Stevens. He just released his first solo CD. Chris also works with the Ger Mandolin Orchestra in Europe.

Victor Kioulaphides—NYC composer in residence at the CMSA convention. Julliard graduate.

Besides the opportunity to take various workshops with the principals of the conference, the en masse orchestra rehearsed twice every day; at 8:30 a.m. and Just before dinner. The program chosen was very interesting and somewhat challenging. The Ceilidh, a collection of tradiitonal Irish pieces, posed about a month's worth of muscle memory practice before I could gather speed on two of the movements —but there was only a week's worth of practice. So there was some partial silence in the 2nd mandolin section during those two movements. The remainder of the choices were doable, and I enjoyed them.

The sound at the convention was excellent. Reinforcement was done by a professional soundman, Greg. The CMSA is hoping to release a CD from the convention. Hopefully there may be a good recording of the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra's performance. We'll continue to inquire about it to find out which pieces are included and when it will be released.

The Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra had four participants for the whole week of the convention; Gordon Neidinger, David Ruppert, Charley Rappaport, and I.

Gordon won second place in the  10th Annual Norman Levine CMSA Playing Contest. He performed "Doina, and SIrba in Eb,"  composed by Charley Rappaport, and Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Gordon and Charley also performed at the open mic night. Charley played fretless mandolin and Gordon and Charley performed a rousing Domra number. Finally, Gordon played many of the cadenza solos in the en masse orchestra piece, "Czardas d'Amour" which was a highlight of the enmasse concert. Congratulations, Gordon on another step toward your mandolin career.

The Providence Mandolin Orchestra, which followed the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra’s concert on Friday night, performed a wonderful show, with two premieres. The USA premiere of Victor Kioulaphides Sinfonia a pizzico and the world premiere of Owen Hartford's Neponset Valley Suite. These pieces were gorgeous, musically and artistically.

This was my first CMSA convention. Would I recommend it to others?

Yes, I had a very enjoyable time. The busy schedule of up to 12 hours of mandolin events and socialization per day was a bit overwhelming at times. I tried to attend section rehearsal every morning, a morning workshop, an afternoon workshop, and the en masse orchestra rehearsal every day before dinner. Concerts were held at lunchtime, and then in the evening, too.

To be able to explore Towson or Baltimore would have involved missing a CMSA event. So, the focus was mandolin all the time. After four days, I did conclude that others were showing more tolerance to sitting in hotel meeting rooms than I was and that other players will probably always be better players than me. But, I did have a good time meeting folks from Canada, Arlington, VA, Wilmington, Delaware, and many other mandolin hotbeds. I did get a sense of the scope and variety of mandolin activities happening across the country. So many outstanding pieces of music were played and enjoyed in one week's time—it just gets hard to keep track when so much good music is present. I developed a new appreciation for Victor Kioulaphides, he's a really good composer. And if I was truly a classical mandolin player, I would probably be ready to move to Providence and participate in their PMO. It's good that I like folk music.