The Mandolin Orchestra yesterday. Photo: Graham McDonald

MUSIC / “Hopes, Dreams & Memories”,  the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra, Hughes Baptist Church, June 20. Report by GRAHAM MCDONALD

THIS was a concert to launch the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra’s first CD, recorded, as it happens, in the same venue as the afternoon’s performance.

The orchestra was formed in 2003 and has been performing at least semi-regularly since then. The 20 or so members play a mix of mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and guitars, giving them a musical compass more or less the same as a bowed string orchestra.

The plucked strings were augmented by contributions on accordion and flute from a couple of the mandolin players and the orchestra provided instrumental accompaniment to the Worldly Goods Choir with vocal soloists, Moya Simpson and Theodora Volti.

The idea of the CD came from the family experience of CMO president Wal Jurkiewicz, whose parents were immigrants from post-World War II Europe and whose father helped build the Cotter Dam.

The music on the CD, and performed at the concert, reflects the home nationalities of those migrants of the '50s and '60s, with music from Italy, Poland, Finland, Greece, the British Isles, China and more. These are mostly folk melodies and songs, cleverly and simply arranged for the orchestra as stand-alone instrumentals or as song accompaniments.

Notable were the orchestral settings by the CMO’s conductor Michael Hardy and several of the song melodies arranged the Worldly Goods Choir, co-director John Shortis. The marriage of the choir and orchestra for this recording and concert is a clever idea with an obvious sharing of musical ideas and style of repertoire.

A highlight of the concert were the solo vocal contributions from the other co-director of the choir, Moya Simpson, and guest singer Theodora Volti, who is of Greek background, but seems as comfortable singing Edith Piaf as she does Mikis Theodorakis. Hers is a superb voice and I look forward to hearing her sing again in the future.

This type of collaboration between the mandolin orchestra and the choir is at the heart of what community music making should be about. It is people making music for the sheer pleasure of it. There are a few rough edges, but it matters little. This is about a community’s enjoyment of music.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor