Mandolin New England - Arts Block Concert 5/16/15

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Mandolin New England in Franklin County Debut at Arts Block May 16

A regional orchestra playing instruments from the mandolin family will perform in Greenfield’s Arts Block on Saturday, May 16 for its first appearance in the county.

Mandolin New England was formed by students from Sweet Music in Granby to revive the mandolin orchestra in the Valley, a musical tradition which flourished here early in the 20th Century. Its membership also includes musicians from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.

The group will premiere the first orchestral performance of Barton Cove, by Greenfield composer Michael Nix, who will accompany the group on guitar and solo on a classical banjo-like instrument he designed, the 7-string Banjar.

Although originally composed in 2005, Nix has reset his composition to take advantage of the multiple string voices of the orchestra that includes mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and a rare mandobass from the 1920s. Barton Cove is an environmental anthem to the majesty of New England’s greatest river. A poem written to accompany the work is a lament for the industrialization of the Connecticut River at Turners Falls, its first waterfall in Massachusetts, and an area that was once an ancient native fishing center and the site in 1676 of the massacre of 300 inhabitants of an Indian encampment by mounted militia from the town of Hadley.

Michael Nix performs on lute, guitar, banjo, Banjar, and mandolin throughout the United States and Asia and teams with Chris Devine as the Devine-Nix Duo.  His recordings have been featured in documentaries and on NPR’s Weekend Edition and American Experience (PBS).

In addition to the Nix composition, selections will include works by J. S. Bach and the blind Irish composer Turlough O'Carolan. Josh Bell, founder of L’Esperance Mandolin Ensemble of Providence will conduct the group.

Mandolin New England depends upon local music teachers to supply new orchestra members, and students from two local studios are represented in the group. Since 1986, Sweet Music has enabled western Mass. students of all ages to learn to play traditional music on the fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo

Tickets for the concert are available online at for $7 and $10 at the door on May 16th.  The doors open at 7:30 and the concert starts at 8.