Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kalamazoo Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra

The Kalamazoo Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra is a plucked string ensemble 
How long I have lived in Kalamazoo and yet didn't know about the Kalamazoo Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra.  What a terrible deprivation!

Last night I attended their Three Rivers concert at the beautiful Carnegie Center for the Arts (one of the old Andrew Carnegie Foundation-funded small town library buildings that dot our nation and Canada) and was utterly charmed by their performance. They played an eclectic program of music from Europe, Greece, Russia, Japan and even Michigan (which sounded so much like our state).

Two soloists were also featured.  Mark Portolese, who teaches at the Crescendo Academy in the Epic Center downtown, played a sweet and mellifluous violin, and Ron Cleveland sang "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" and "Shine on Harvest Moon."  Wow, what talent we have in our small town!

From the 1880s to the 1920s towns all over America had mandolin ensembles with a repertoire usually consisting of a mix of classical, marches, rags, and popular music of the day.  Kalamazoo also had several groups.

After World War I,  jazz and swing bands gradually replaced the the mandolin groups in popularity.  However, Bill Monroe (mandolinist and father of bluegrass music) re-introduced it with his bluegrass band in the mid 1940's. For the next several decades the mandolin was strongly associated with only bluegrass music.

Since the formation of the Classical Mandolin Society of America in 1986 by Norman Levine, the mandolin has enjoyed a renaissance and mandolin ensembles have re-formed in many cities throughout the U.S.  It was at this time that director Miles Kusik, concert mistress Jackie Zito and member John Hosley founded the Kalamazoo Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra.  In 1992 they also formed the Third Coast Guitar Trio, which performs a wide variety of music from classical to Latin American.  Kusik currently maintains a teaching studio at the Crescendo Academy of Music and is the classical guitar instructor for Kalamazoo College.

A reception of tea sandwiches and yummy desserts followed the concert and was prepared by Mr. Thom Cooks.

A perfect evening and a wonderful find.  I can hardly wait for the group's next concert.  In fact, here are this year's remaining performances:
October 29, 2011 - 7:00 pm Mandolin Quartet Seasons of Bulgaria in concert
Ladies Library Association; 333 S. Park, Kalamazoo, MI
December 2, 2011 - Art Hop
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
The Crescendo Academy provides individualized music instruction in a positive and supportive atmosphere to all persons regardless of age, ability or income, as its mission states.  This is an effort to get local people involved in the local community and it's the kind of thing that makes Kalamazoo a great place to live.

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