In the making of MOSAIC, The Montana Mandolin Society sets musical pieces from various cultures, genre, and eras into an overall design. The result is an art piece illuminating the complex partnerships of creativity, musicianship and artful arrangements. MOSAIC is a magical venture through what we have come to know as "The Montana Sound". Each piece depicts the muse in its own image. Savor each moment! MOSAIC
mo.sa.ic (mo-sa' ik) noun a. A decorative design made by setting small colored pieces into a surface. b. The process or art of making such a design. [Middle English musycke; Old French mosaique; Old Italian mosaico; Medieval Latin musaicum. Translation: 'of the muses'.
Don Sterinberg, mandolin virtuoso from Chicago writes:
"Have you ever been in a band? Consider if you will the challenge of gathering talented individuals, instruments and paraphernalia, then surmounting scheduling problems and then, taking a crack at some actual music. Now, just think if this were not a band, but an orchestra, and you were in Bozeman, Montana, the place where God left her shoes, as some might say. And oh yes, this is not to be "just" an orchestra, but a MANDOLIN orchestra....
I bring all of this up because my friends in Montana have actually done it! Not only done it, but done it extremely well--and continue to do it. I know! I was there to perform at one of their concerts and enjoyed their inspired musicianship firsthand. But perhaps better testament to their vision and evolution is this recording. You are bound to enjoy as I have the MMS's ability to present cinematic music: music which conjures images of other places, other times, all the while retaining the openness and honesty of the Montana countryside itself.
You might think the great practitioners of mandolin art such as Bill Monroe, Dave Appollon or Jethro Burns were responsible for the popularity of this great instrument in America. In actuality, before any of them began their careers, there was something of a mandolin orchestra movement (or craze) in the early twentieth century and even before. Instrument manufacturers encouraged development of mandolin (or fretted instrument) ensembles, touting not only musical development but social interaction and cultural enhancement. Entire communities of like-minded individuals developed mandolin orchestras in urban centers worldwide, many thriving to this day. My friends in Montana are part of this tradition, but have their own identity as well.
What sets them apart? The first thing you'll notice is their instrumentation, which includes not only mandolins, mandolas, and mandocelloes, but bowed instruments, guitar, hammered dulcimer, and the occasional five-string banjo or vocal. In other words they not only use the instrumental textures made available by their members, they do so artfully, achieving the goal of enhancing the music.
The music chosen is another big part of the MMS's unique style. Pieces are drawn from various traditions, but somehow fit together as a pleasing and continuous set. There are originals and arrangements from within the orchestra, and from the mandolin orchestra community. Nancy Padilla's "The Promise" is destined to become a classic! Jeff Dearinger's arrangement of "Alma Brazillero" allows the ensemble to explore the Brazilian mandolin tradition, while Walter Carter's "Soldier's Night Out" recasts a bit of our own North American culture. It's all supposed to be fun, folks, and that's what Dennis White's "The Duck Waddle" is, from
top to bottom. Follow the ducks in this Society through this entire set, and you'll have detours to Japan, Israel, Venezuela, and Scotland. This open-mindedness in programming, combined with dedication to preparing authentic and emotion-filled versions of these varied styles, keeps the ensemble's performances fresh and interesting.
Still, there's an intangible quality here, a spirit which imbues all of these pieces with breath and life just as it gives the Montana Mandolin Society its unique sound signature. Where does it come from, this inspiration? Good leadership? Clean air? A sense of connectedness with time-honored traditions of fellowship and musicmaking? The magic of the tremolo?....My guess is all of the above and then some. Thankfully we don't have to understand what inspires the Montana Mandolin Society. You'll feel it as you listen to this recording. I dare say you will carry some of that same spirit within yourself--don't be surprised if you find yourself shopping for a mandocello or a ticket to Bozeman, writing a story or painting a painting. That's the muse! Thanks to my friends in Montana for reminding us of it's magic."
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE MONTANA MANDOLIN SOCIETY
Known for their own particular sound and style "THE MONTANA SOUND", this internationally famous mandolin ensemble represents Montana as musical ambassadors in places such as The Kennedy Center, National Public Radio, and on their recent tour of Japan. The positive energy is evident both on and off stage!
Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello, Octave Mandolin, Hammer Dulcimer, Violin, Guitar, Banjo.
Unique beginnings, a brief history:
A surprising chain of events brought forth The Montana Mandolin Society. Dennis White, director, came upon a rare photo taken in 1902. The photo showed the Bozeman Mandolin and Guitar Club made up of Bozeman's early founders; local businessmen, college students, cattle ranchers, and cowboys. The photo of the old time group led to the formation of the Society.
In October of 2000, The Montana Mandolin Society released their first CD, AS FAR AS I CAN SEE which spans a musical time line of mandolin history representative of tunes from the seventeenth century to the twenty first century. The music reflects tones as bright and sharp as Montana's Mountains.
The Society was nominated by both State Senators and subsequently performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C..
NPR Featured the Society in an All Things Considered interview with Linda Wertheimer.
In 2002 the Society released a second CD entitled THE BRIDGER WALTZ, a collection that illustrates the gifts of profound inspiration we get from the unforgettable Rocky Mountains.
In the summer of 2002, by invitation, The Montana Mandolin Society performed a two week Japanese Musical Ambassador tour. Highlights of that tour were the 13th annual Kanto Mandolin Festival in Tokyo Japan, a concert at Roccoman hall in Kobe, and the Kumamoto Sister City Celebration in Kumamoto Japan.
The ensemble works as individuals to contribute their interpretation of the music and blend it with the rest of the ensemble into their own particular sound and style.
DIRTY LINEN October November 2004
The Montana Mandolin Society MOSAIC (self released MMM2004)
MOSAIC is an appropriate title for this latest disc from the Montana Mandolin Society, as the eight-member group offers original compositions and both funny and serious music from Israel, Japan, and Brazil, along with a Stephen Foster tune and a variation on "Soldier's Joy" . The creative dialogue and sparkling musicianship of the eight, who play hammer dulcimer, violin, guitar, and banjo, as well as mandolin, mandola, and octave mandolin among them, make this a refreshing and rewarding journey. Two of the best tunes are originals; Dennis White's amusing "Duck Waddle" and Nancy Padilla's slow air "The Promise" (which doesn't actually include and mandolins.) KD
Here is what Joe Ross, freelance writer for BLUEGRASS NOW says:
MMM 2004 Playing Time - 42:36
The Montana Mandolin Society calls their third album in as many years "Mosaic," and they do a fine job adorning their mix of contemporary and traditional music with decorative ornaments. Opening with "The January Waltz" by John Goodin, the string ensemble gives an impressionistic seasonal piece that sets the mood for a chilly, white winter. Society members Dennis White, Nancy Padilla and Jesse Ahmann also contribute original compositions--Duck Waddle, The Promise and Downtime, respectively. White is the Society's music director, and "Duck Waddle" has a musical gait characterized by short steps that melodically tilt from side to side. Violinist Padilla's air was originally written as a bridal processional. Cellist Ahmann's "DownTime" was inspired by Vivaldi and is leanly arranged for a quartet with only cello, violin, mandola and mandocello. It's a nice change-up from the larger group's sound.
When the full Society plays, they also include mandolins, guitar, hammered dulcimer, and bass. They also wisely include light percussion on the Venezuelan "La Partida," Israeli piece "Zemer Atik", and Latin "Besame Mucho." The former allows hammered dulcimer player Lindsay Turnquist and bassist Craig Hull to really shine. A Brazilian waltz, "Alma Braziliaro," reinforces the Society's love for world music.
Before touring Japan in 2002, the band also arranged a Japanese folk song,"Itsuki no Komoriuti," for their concerts. The first vocal track ever on a Montana Mandolin Society recording is Stephen Foster's "Oh Suzannah," which is given a leisurely treatment by singer Dennis White whose vocal style is not too dissimilar from John Hartford's. A lively and quick paced romp is the best way of describing "Hippodrome Gallop," and Walter Carter's slow
reflective variation on a traditional old-time fiddle tune, Soldier's Joy,is called "Soldier's Night Out" to close out the album.
The Montana Mandolin Society formed in 1999 by Dennis White, a music teacher and professional musician. White assembled a group of his music students and former band mates to perform at Bozeman's Longfellow Elementary School. Now,the nonprofit organization's goal is to revive the musical spirit of the Bozeman Mandolin and Guitar Club that performed at the turn of the century. The reincarnation of the historic group has now played venues of all sizes, school workshops, historic settings, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and a tour through Japan.
The group wisely doesn't take on music beyond their capabilities and technical limitations. Obviously understanding their strengths and weaknesses, they have a keen aptitude for capitalizing on the former. Being in a college town has its advantages, and the Society has found a number of its participants among the ranks of faculty and staff at Montana State University. While mandolin family instruments are usually front and center, other stringed instruments have not been excluded. To this end, and whether a result of conscious intent or musical necessity in Bozeman, the Montana Mandolin Society has innovatively created a unique sound unlike those turn-of-the-century groups. They also apparently concentrate on finding good material from around the world, arranging it appropriately, presenting it in educational forums, and showcasing their various players. I think that a string player would have great fun working with them in such a context as they embark on a crusade to promote and teach about the mandolin and its immediate family, cousins and other stringed relatives.