Sweet Mandolin Ensemble

Sweet Mandolin Ensemble by Deb Noyes
A vote was cast, and the string sextet formerly known as the South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra is now permanently named the Sweet Mandolin Ensemble (SME)! 

We apologize for any confusion.  To explain, the group has gone through many changes as Adam Sweet has also moved his studio several times in the past six years.  But now that he's at his permanent location in Granby, it makes sense to make the name permanent as well.

Several names were put up to the vote:

  • If It Ain't Baroque - (by Keith H.), got several votes mostly for it's entertaining aspect
  • Dolce Ensemble - (by Mieko C.), got several votes
  • Sweet Mandolin Ensemble - (by Nancy K.), ultimately got the most votes
  • Mandolin New England - (by Will M.), is currently being used by the group comprised of area colleagues and members of Joshua Bell's L'Esperance Ensemble.  Even though we all liked it, it would be confusing to have both.
  • There were other suggestions that didn't get into the running, so I'll not mention them here.
To celebrate the name change and Adam's new (and final) studio location, the ensemble will be performing the World's Premiere Performance of the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 for 2 Mandolas by a mandolin ensemble, AND Mozart's Dissonance Quartet at Porter Phelps Museum in Hadley, Mass. on Sunday, July 28 at 2:30pm.

Adam Sweet playing "The Whale" by Mando Mo Strings
The Ensemble will be performing on several Mando Mo Strings instruments including "The Whale", a hand-carved F5-style Mandocello.  

Hope you can make it!

What is Mandolin New England?

MNE at the South Hadley Town Hall, Josh Bell Conducting
Mandolin New England (MNE) is a musical organization fostering positive mandolin experiences for all ages and backgrounds.  The group consists of a mixture of various mandolin ensembles and groups and is hosted by Adam Sweet, students and colleagues from New York, western Mass, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  

The first live performance was at the South Hadley Town Hall in January 2015, where the group performed "Jugoslavia" and the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.  

The orchestra is comprised of Adam Sweet's Sweet Mandolin Ensemble, Joshua Bell's L'Esperance Ensemble, and area colleagues.  The class is open to anyone with 5 or more years of playing experience on either bowed-string instruments (violins, violas, cellos) or mandolin-family instruments.  The class studies Classical-era (1700s) and Romantic-era (1800s) music with composers such as J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, F. Schubert and more.

The group is free to join!  We don't have regular rehearsals, but if you would like to attend the Tuesday night classical group class at Sweet Music Studio, RSVP through the website: http://sweetmusicstudio.net

Visit and "like" our Facebook page to get regular updates: https://www.facebook.com/mandolinnewengland/

Summer 2019 - Schedule & Events

climbing Mt Washington!
I will be on vacation from the last week in June through the first week in July.  I will be back on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Please mark your calendars!

The Summer Schedule is as follows:  Tuesday - Thursday, 5pm-9pm.  Check my schedule here for a more recent update. 
  • There will be no morning hours available until September.  
  • If you had a previously scheduled morning slot, make sure you've moved to an open slot in the evening if you still want lessons.  If the slot you wanted is not available, contact me asap to find another.
  • Several people will be traveling or vacationing this summer, so their slots will be available during the summer months.  
  • If you don't see the slot you want, contact me asap

Festivals:

I will be attending the following outdoor events this summer.  If you would like to meet me there, we can sit together!
  • The Busy Bird Bluegrass Festival is held in Berkshire, New York and is set for July 11-14 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.
  • The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival is held in Oak Hill, New York on the famous Walsh Farm and is set for July 18-21, 2019.
  • The Ossipee Valley Music Festival is held in South Hiram, Maine at the County Fairgrounds and is set for July 25-28 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.  I'll be there on the 25th - in the afternoon around 5.
  • The 11th Annual Brantling Bluegrass Festival dates are set for July 25-28, 2019 (Thursday thru Sunday), and is held in Sodus, New York.  I'll be there on the 26th in the afternoon around 5.
  • The Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival is held in Thornton, New Hampshire at the Sugar Shack campground. This year’s festival is set for August 1-4 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.
  • The Plattsburgh Bluegrass Festival is held in Plattsburgh, New York at the Clinton County Fair Grounds. This year’s event is scheduled for August 8-11 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.
  • The 22nd Annual Pickin’ in the Pasture Bluegrass Festival is held in Lodi, New York and is scheduled for August 22-25 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.  I'll be there on the 23rd in the afternoon around 5.
  • August 22-25 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019, the August edition of the Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival in Litchfield, Maine at the Fairgrounds.  I'll be there on the 24th in the afternoon around 5.
  • The Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival is held in Brunswick, Maine and this year’s event is scheduled for Aug 29 – Sep 1 (Thursday thru Sunday), 2019.

Events:


  • Celtic Calamity (the Thursday night Celtic group class) performing and singing Thursday June 20, 2019 at 7pm at Mill 180 Park in Easthampton
  • Granby Mandolin Ensemble (the Tuesday night Classical group class) performing Bach and Mozart on Sunday, July 28 at 2:30pm at Porter Phelps Museum in Hadley.



F5-style Mandolin from Vietnam, beautifully inlaid

I bought this beautiful mandolin on eBay a long time ago.  I don't even remember the date.  I think it might have been 2006 or 7.  The seller described it as a Vietnamese mandolin, but I suspect it was made in China.  The inlay and shell laminates are gorgeous and easily the best feature of this instrument.  Other than that, it has a nice chop (for bluegrass) and a big-warm tone, so it's perfect for a variety of styles.  I played mostly Celtic and Classical music on it.



It has a minute hairline crack in the back, which doesn't affect the sound, and two of the pegs are white.  I took it to be set up at The Luthier in Ashfield, and Mark Leue didn't have the right parts for it unfortunately.  That's easily remedied by a good luthier.

I have a custom built hard shell case that came with it, included at no extra cost.  Handling, insurance, packaging and shipping comes to an additional $50.  I take PayPal, or you can pick it up at my studio in Granby, MA and pay cash.



The Ranger, by Montana Lutherie (formerly Weber)
SRP: $555
Case: padded gig bag
Shipping & Handling: $50

This tiny little mandolin will go anywhere with you weighing less than two pounds in the case. Sporting a smaller profile than a standard mandolin, but having a standard scale/neck size, it plays like a full size mando.  The Ranger has a two-point flare giving it a larger chamber than its popular predecessor, ‘The Sweet Pea’, but it is still surprisingly quiet, perfect for hotel rooms or crowded campgrounds where people are trying to sleep!

Adam's review of the Ranger

The Ranger - A tiny quiet travel mando from Montana Lutherie






Updates & General Information

Every so often I will update my readers with studio information, event listings and other topics I feel might be relevant. 

Firstly, please come to see the Celtic Group Class Thursday,  June 20th at 7pm performing 90 minutes of music including some of our favorite sing-alongs: "The Parting Glass", Brennan on the Moor and the Gypsy Rover!  The group will be performing in the Hobbit House within The Park at Mill 180 in Easthampton, MA.  This is a free concert.  There are drinks and food at the bar, so you don't need to byob!  I hope you can come.  This will be a lot of fun. 

Secondly, put this date in your calendar: Sunday, July 28th, the Classical Group Class will be performing Bach and Mozart at the Porter Phelps Huntington Museum in Hadley.  The group will be performing the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 for 2 Mandolas and continuo (a world premier!), and Mozart's "Dissonance" String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465 (also a world premier AFAWK).

Finally, Summer is almost here and that means some students go away, leaving gaps in my schedule.  The following slots will be open this week:

Tuesday 11am-12pm
Wednesday 11am-12pm, 7pm-8pm
Friday 5-6pm, 6-7pm

If you are a current student who would like to switch to another day/time, please let me know through Slack and I'll do my best to make arrangements.  If you've been thinking about taking lessons with me, now's the time to register for classes as these slots (especially the early ones) will fill up quickly.

Thank you!

New Octave mandolin from Mandomo Strings

The Octave Mandolin
New from Mando Mo Strings: The Octave Mandolin

This Octave mandolin is hand-carved out of 3-5 year air-dried flamed maple back, sides and neck. Triple A-grade ebony fretboard, Tusq nut and set up with Optima Octave strings, solid cast tailpiece and custom Brekke bridge!

We are currently working with a case company to build a custom case that will support the scroll and neck of this beautiful instrument.

Price: $1,449 with custom case.  We are taking pre-orders now.  2-3 month delivery.  ORDER HERE

Specs:
  • Top: Solid Spruce, with tortoise binding
  • Back & Side: solid flamed maple, with tortoise binding
  • Neck: solid flamed maple
  • Fretboard: AAA Grade Ebony
  • Nut width: 1.25'"
  • Body length: 17" 
  • Scale length: 20"

The Old Copperplate on the Octave Mandolin


Irish Bouzouki Recordings

Last week I recorded several tunes on the large bodied Irish bouzouki I own.  If you're interested in learning more about the difference between an Octave mandolin and an Irish bouzouki, I wrote a post on that subject earlier as well!  Below are the videos I recorded.  I hope you enjoy them.  If you would like to learn how to play the Irish bouzouki, contact me.  I would be happy to teach you.


Blarney Pilgrim


Star of the County Down


Whiskey Before Breakfast


Coleraine & The Kesh Jig



Difference Between Irish bouzouki and Octave mandolin

Adam playing his Irish bouzouki
The Irish bouzouki (Irish: búsúcaí) is an adaptation of the Greek bouzouki (Greek: μπουζούκι). The newer Greek tetrachordo (4 courses of strings) bouzouki was introduced into Irish traditional music in the mid-1960s by Johnny Moynihan of the folk group Sweeney's Men. Alec Finn, first in the Cana Band and subsequently in De Dannan, introduced the first more-traditional Greek trichordo (3 course) bouzouki into Irish music.

In the early 1970s, Andy Irvine gave his Greek bouzouki to Dónal Lunny, who replaced the octave strings on the two lower G and D courses with unison strings, thus reinforcing their lower frequencies. Soon after, on a visit with Irvine to the workshop of luthier Peter Abnett, Lunny commissioned a bouzouki to the specifications of a classic, 4-course Greek bouzouki but with unison strings and a three-piece, partially staved back. Since then, the instrument has been adapted for Irish traditional and other styles of folk music.

Tuning
By far the most common tuning for the Irish bouzouki is G2 D3 A3 D4.[7] This was pioneered by Johnny Moynihan (apparently in an attempt to replicate the open, droning sound of Appalachian "clawhammer" banjo) first on the mandolin and then transferred to a Greek bouzouki. It was later picked up by Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny, and quickly became the next thing to a standard tuning for the 4 course instrument. Other tunings used, although by a minority of players, are "octave mandolin" tuning G2 D3 A3 E4, and "Open D" tuning A2 D3 A3 D4. "Open G" G2 D3 G3 D4, is used by some players and has proven useful for "bottleneck" slide playing.


Adam's introduction to the instrument


The G D A D tuning is closer to the D3 A3 D4 tuning of the Greek trichordo bouzouki than is the guitar-like tuning C3 F3 A3 D4 used on the modern Greek tetrachordo, and is particularly well suited to a modal harmonic approach to accompaniment as used in Irish traditional music. Alec Finn, playing a Greek trichordo bouzouki, uses the traditional D3 A3 D4 tuning with the octave pair on the low D course changed to unison

Construction
For many builders and players, the terms "bouzouki", "cittern", and "octave mandolin" are more or less synonymous. The name cittern is often applied to instruments of five courses (ten strings), especially those having a scale length between 20 and 22 inches (500mm and 550mm). They are also occasionally called "10 string bouzoukis" when having a longer scale length. The fifth course is usually either a lowest bass course tuned to C2 or D2 on an instrument with a long scale, or a highest treble course tuned to G4 or A4 on a shorter scale. Luthier Stefan Sobell, who coined the term "cittern" for his modern, mandolin-based instruments, originally used the term for short scale instruments irrespective of the number of their strings, but he now applies "cittern" to all 5 course instruments irrespective of scale length, and "octave mandolin" to all 4 course instruments, leaving out bouzouki entirely.

Mandolin-family luthiers producing an octave mandolin are more likely to use mandolin tuning machines and reproduce the details and styling of their American-style carved top mandolins. Some luthiers choose to refer to their clearly bouzouki-style instruments as octave mandolins, or even as mandocellos, despite the GDAD tuning. The octave mandolin is usually regarded as having a shorter scale length than the Irish bouzouki, in the vicinity of 20 to 23 inches (50 to 59 cm), while the scale length of the Irish bouzouki most often ranges from 24 to 25 inches (60 to 65 cm). Some instruments have scales as long as 26 or even 27 inches (66 to 68 cm). These longer-scaled instruments are generally acknowledged to possess greater volume, sustain, and tonal richness but some players find the stretches involved in fingering too difficult and so prefer shorter scale lengths.

The Octave Mandolin is a fretted string instrument with four pairs of strings tuned in fifths, G, D, A, E (low to high), an octave below a mandolin. It is larger than the mandola, but smaller than the mandocello and its construction is similar to other instruments in the mandolin family. Usually the courses are all unison pairs but the lower two may sometimes be strung as octave pairs with the higher-pitched octave string on top so that it is hit before the thicker lower-pitched string. Alternate tunings of G, D, A, D and A, D, A, D are often employed by Celtic musicians.

The names of the mandolin family instruments vary between Europe and the United States. The instruments that are known in the USA as the mandola and the octave mandolin tend to be known in Great Britain and Ireland as the tenor mandola, the octave mandola (or the "Irish bouzouki"). Also, octave mandola is sometimes applied to what in the U.S. is a mandocello.

In Europe outside the British isles, mandola is the larger GDAE tuned instrument while the smaller CGDA tuned one is known as alt-mandoline (i.e., alto mandolin), mandoliola or liola.

This geographic distinction is not crisp, and there are cases of each term being used in each country. Jimmy Moon, a Scottish luthier calls his version of the instrument by both names and Paul Shippey, an English luthier, uses the term octave mandolin. Confusion will likely continue as the terms continue to be used interchangeably.

Construction
Octave mandolin construction is similar to the mandolin: the body may be constructed with a bowl-shaped back according to designs of the 18th-century Vinaccia school, or with a flat (arched) back according to the designs of Gibson Guitar Corporation popularized in the United States in the early 20th Century. The scale of the octave mandolin is longer than that of the mandolin, and varies more widely, from 19" (48.4 cm) to 24" (61.0 cm), with 21" (53.3 cm) being typical. The internal bracing is similar to the mandolin and mandola, with a single transverse brace on the top just below the oval soundhole. On modern instruments X-bracing is sometimes used.

As is typical of the mandolin family, octave mandolins can be found with either a single oval soundhole or a pair of "F" soundholes.

As with the scale length, the number of frets on an octave mandolin also varies widely, from as few as 17 to as many as 24 frets: 18 or 19 frets is typical.

What is Klezmer Music, and What's The Roma Connection?

Originally, the word "klezmer," from the Yiddish language, meant "vessel of song" and later, simply "musician." However, it has come to characterize the style of secular music played by Ashkenazi Jews for joyful celebrations such as weddings.

Alicia Svigals - Klezmer violinist

Klezmer can trace its origins back to the 9th century in the Rhine valley, where the Yiddish language also developed. As Jews moved to Eastern Europe their celebratory music wedding/festival music found influence in that of the local cultures, specifically in present day Romania (including a definite cross-pollination with Roma music) and Moldova (once Bessarabia, where klezmer musicians started using Turkish scales already familiar from synagogue observances), Belarus, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine and Poland, where 19th century, Polish-Russian klezmorim (esteemed klezmer musicians) who had been in Czarist military bands brought brass and woodwind instruments into what had primarily been string-based ensembles. Judaism’s ultra-orthodox Chasidic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries emphasized passionate singing and dancing while in the act of worship and bound klezmer music inextricably to Jewish festivals and joyous observances.  Klezmer music draws on centuries-old Jewish traditions and incorporates various sounds of music from European and international traditions, including Roma (gypsy) music, Eastern European folk music (particularly Russian music), French Cafe music and early jazz. In different regions of Eastern and Central Europe, klezmer developed slightly differently, leading to an exciting range of subgenres.

Like the Jews, the Roma are an ancient ethnicity that did not originate in Europe; who are believed to have migrated to Persia from northern India from around 420 BC when 10,000 Luri (a caste of musicians and dancers) were brought at the request of the King. On the move with the Turkish army who used them as professional musicians, the Roma dispersed throughout Europe from the 15th century, living on the fringes of society as tinkers, craftsmen and horsetraders, as well as entertainers. Whether dancing with trained bears or playing for a village wedding, Gypsies in the Austro-Hungarian empire made themselves indispensable as performers to villages of various ethnicities (Saxons, Vlachs, Magyar and Moldavians, etc., to name just the groups of Transylvania).

Taraf d Hadouks - Gypsy/Roma/Klezmer


Also like the Jews, the Roma  were a separate minority group generally living on the margins of the societies of the countries in which they lived.  Both groups maintained distinct cultural identities despite being widely scattered, possessed no country or homeland of their own, and were frequent targets of expulsions, discrimination, and persecution. Like klezmer, Roma music is likely traditional religious songs combined with the music of host countries, and influenced by Roma status as a wandering and often marginalized minority. Despite of all this, the music of both groups is often joyful and exemplifies the energy and fire of life and of living.

Klezmer music is intended to replicate the human voice including sounds of crying, wailing and laughing. Generally, the violin is responsible for the imitation which is mean to sound like the cantor in a synagogue. Often, a klezmer band will include a fiddle, a bass or cello, a clarinet and a drum. Secondary instruments include hammered dulcimers and an accordion.
Klezmer music is made for dancing. Most dances which are intended to go along with klezmer music are set dances (much like the Anglo square or contra dances). Klezmer music also has many traditional waltzes and polkas, and in later years, musicians picked up some tangos and polkas which remain in the repertoire.

These klezmer pieces are meant for dancing, including fast and slow tempos:

  • Freylekhs are the most popular klezmer dances and they are done in a circle while the piano, accordion or bass plays an "oom-pah" beat. "Freylekh" is the Yiddish word for "festive."
  • Skotshne, meaning hopping, is like a more complex freylekh.
  • Tango is a famous dance that came out of Argentina; Jews originally composed quite a few Eastern European tangos.
  • Sher: This is a set dance, one of the most common, done in 2/4 tempo. The name is derived from the straight-legged, quick movements of the legs, reminiscent of the shears used by tailors.
  • Halaka is a traditional Israeli dance the originated in Safed in Galilee; its tune has been handed down through generations.
  • Khosidl, or khusidl, is named after the Hasidic Jews who performed the dance which can be done in a circle or in a line.
  • Sirba is comprised of hopping and short bursts of running.
  • Hora or zhok is a Romanian-style dance; the Israeli hora is derived from the Romanian hora. "Zhok" in Yiddish comes from the Romanian word "joc" which means dance.
  • Csárdás is popular among Jews from Hungary, Slovakia and the Carpathians. It begins slowly
  • Padespan is a kind of Russian/Spanish waltz.and then the speed quickens.
  • Kolomeike is a quick and catchy dance which comes from Ukraine where it is the most common folk music.
  • Mazurka and polka are from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Both Jew and non-Jews engaged in the dance.
  • Terkish is like the habanera.

Di Grine Kuzine with Theodore Bikel

Other Articles



Introducing: Klezmer For Beginners Online Group Class

The Klezmer For Beginners Online Group Class will be broadcast from Adam's YouTube channel (here) beginning June 5, 2019 and going for the whole summer.  If there is interest in the class beyond that, we will continue.

The class meets Wednesday mornings from 9am-11am EST.

The cost is  $75 for the summer (a $15 savings).  Register and pay through PayPal (here), include your instrument (if any), name, email address and cell phone # in the comments box.

You do not need to play an instrument to participate in the class!  There will be lots of discussion, presentation of materials including links to download sheet music and other information, watching/listening to music and of course playing and sharing music together.  Singers and dancers are encouraged to participate.

Please RSVP by pre-paying for the class!  Thank you!

Sweet Mandolin Ensemble

Sweet Mandolin Ensemble by Deb Noyes A vote was cast, and the string sextet formerly known as the South Hadley Mandolin Orchestra is no...