This Fall's Musical Harvest
The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra is back in the rehearsal hall, working up a homegrown-harvest program for an October 22nd matinee concert at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Southwest Portland.
“This fall’s concert features a harvest from our own garden: OMO is presenting a program of music composed and/or arranged by orchestra members!” said Christian McKee, OMO music director. “Mandolinist Chuck Whitman’s arrangements have been well received over the last several years. We will add to them an Irving Berlin tune arranged by our mandobass player, Joel Birkeland, an original three-movement suite by mandocellist Jim Imhoff, and an original composition by me.
“In addition,” McKee said, “a chamber quintet will present a rousing set of Italian, Russian and Czech music from the Romantic era.
Meanwhile, the OMO is already working up a lively holiday program for a Dec. 8 concert in Hillsboro, featuring the Newport Nightingales.
Watch this space for more information!
MODERN TAKE ON A TRADITIONAL AMERICAN ART FORM
Founded in 2010, the Portland-based Oregon Mandolin Orchestra has successfully revived the tradition of community-based mandolin ensembles that were wildly popular across North America during the early 20th century. Today, the nonprofit orchestra boasts nearly 25 members who play first mandolin, second mandolin, mandola, mandocello, and mandobass. The OMO is one of just 50 orchestras recognized by the Classical Mandolin Society of America.
Since its launch, the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra has put on up to a half-dozen concerts a year in Portland, Vancouver, Salem, Hillsboro, Astoria, Hood River, Pendleton and Ridgefield, Washington. The orchestra has performed everything from Mozart to Led Zeppelin and regularly plays folk, swing jazz, Brazilian choro and selections from the Great American Songbook and Tin Pan Alley.
The OMO Chamber Ensemble has performed on KOAC and KBOO radio, as well as KGW-TV and KATU-TV. The ensemble also has played before concerts by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Sinfonietta and Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra, as well as during opening festivities for the Oregon Bach Festival.
The late composer John Goodin said he was elated with the OMO’s 2021 world premiere performance of "Oregonia," a piece the orchestra commissioned Goodin to write. "Bravo OMO!! You made my piece sound great," he said. "I can't thank you all enough."
August Watters, a distinguished composer and a former professor at Berklee College of Music, complimented the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra's 2019 performance at the Portland Picnic wine-tasting festival. "Congratulations on your concert!" Watters said. "I was impressed by all the good work going on, and by your choice of repertoire for the ensemble."
In 2018, the OMO was one of only three American ensembles accepted to play at the BDZ Eurofestival in Bruchsal, Germany. The festival, held every four years, was established in 1963 to support the plucked-string music tradition. Hundreds of musicians from around the world performed at the festival.
A concert review by Auftakt!, the festival magazine, praised the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra's technique, saying "fulminating, swelling tremolos" gave pieces "a noticeable dramatic effect." The review went on to say the performance "gave the listeners visions of a majestic landscape and captivated them entirely."
For interviews or questions, please contact:
Christian McKee, Oregon Mandolin Orchestra music director: email@example.com or 503-891-1226
Michael Tognetti, mandolinist, Oregon Mandolin Orchestra board president: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-521-0255.
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Farewell to a Beloved Member of the Nation's Mandolin Community
It is with great sadness that the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra announces the death of composer John Goodin, whose skill at expressing America’s musical soul was matched only by his generosity and good will.
Goodin, who penned “Oregonia” on commission for the orchestra, died Thursday in his home state of Iowa. Cause of death was not released. The OMO performed the world premiere of “Oregonia” to wide acclaim as the finale of its September 12, 2021 virtual concert.
Photo Courtesy of Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. of Decorah, Iowa.
Goodin, a skillful mandolinist and guitarist, cut quite a swath through the music world, not only as a composer, but also as an arranger and author. He wrote several books of original music and arrangements for Mel Bay Publications. He also released at least nine CDs that included original compositions, as well arrangements of pieces by 18th-century composers Georg Philipp Telemann of Germany and William Bates of England.
Goodin’s original compositions were performed by mandolin orchestras across the country. Though each piece is distinct, all share common roots in the American folk songbook, emphasizing the melody lines and harmonies that sprang from the breadth of the American experience.
However, it was Goodin’s grace and seemingly boundless generosity that reflected America’s better side. Goodin offered much of his music for free on his website, Mandotopia, or for a small voluntary donation. He wrote personal thank-you messages to anyone who paid. “John was quick with a handshake and a smile if he knew you -- and even quicker if he didn't,” said mandolinist Michael Tognetti, OMO board president. “I’m heartbroken to hear of his death but I’m grateful that John’s legacy will live on through his compositions.”
Besides “Oregonia,” the OMO performed Goodin’s “Heaven’s On Earth” suite and “North Georgia Hills” over the years. Goodin was an original member of the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra, joining in 1988. He quit only when his “day job” forced him to move to Decorah, Iowa. He immediately joined Contratopia, a local ensemble dedicated to the contra dance music of the Midwest. He also played with the folk group Foot-Notes, which is featured at the Decorah’s annual Nordic Fest.
He remained an active participant in the Classical Mandolin Society of America and was well-received at the organization’s annual conventions for many years until the meetings moved online due to COVID concerns.
Perhaps most importantly, Goodin worked to revive and invigorate the tradition of community mandolin orchestras that were widespread across North America in the early 20th century. His “Deer Tracks” CD offers pieces that almost any beginner can play while learning how to contribute to the sound of a larger ensemble.
“There was always something sparkling and lively about his music, but still gentle and humble like his personality,” said mandocellist Jim Imhoff, a professor of music education for Boston University. “Thank you, John, and rest in Mandotopian peace.”
Photo Courtesy of Louisville Mandolin Orchestra.
The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra is dedicated to bringing the beauty of mandolin music to audiences while providing opportunities for local musicians to perform.
The mandolin was the most popular instrument in America in the early 1900s. That love affair fully bloomed when mandolin orchestras sprang up in cities across the country, enchanting concert-goers with a distinctive collective tinkle of musical rain.
Although tastes shifted over the years, appreciation of the mandolin was rekindled during the Folk Revival of the 60s. This set the stage for the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, which was founded by Brian Oberlin and Elizabeth Farrell in 2010.
Today, the nonprofit, all-volunteer Oregon Mandolin Orchestra counts two dozen dues-paying members who play mandolin, mandola, mandocello and mandobass – all the varied voices of the mandolin instrument family. Acoustic guitars and upright string basses occasionally round out the mix.
Christian McKee, Musical Director, has made music since childhood, playing Suzuki violin as a youngster, and singing in choirs until the age of eighteen. Since then, Christian has toured and performed on the West coast in multiple ensembles on mandolin, mandola and mandocello.
Christian believes that at its best, music is a true conversation amongst the musicians that is shared with the audience and guided by the vision of the composer. Best of all, like any good conversation live music is pleasantly unpredictable and different each time. Christian brings a great deal of enthusiasm to his role as the Orchestra’s musical director, and invites everyone in the Pacific Northwest to enjoy this beautiful music along with us.
Oregon Mandolin Orchestra
P.O. Box 1783