Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra
From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, people are picking up the mandolin. Mandolin orchestras are once again the rage in cities everywhere, and Pittsburgh boasts one of of the largest in the country. (Who knew?!) The Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra features more than 35 mando-family instrument players, and it is fortunate to call St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland its home venue. There, it will perform its annual holiday concert on Sunday, December 21, 2014.
The orchestra’s mission: the preservation and promotion of mandolin music from its heyday to the present day.
The orchestra first formed in 1919, but took a hiatus during war times, only to start up again in 2001. Now it’s playing in full force, with seasonal concerts each year at St. John’s, the Byham Theater, historic Mifflin Avenue Church, and International Village, which draws an audience of more than 20,000 people to McKeesport each summer.
The orchestra’s holiday concerts are especially popular, presenting a multi-ethnic twist. Past holiday musical traditions have included Italian, Irish, Jewish, Greek, Croatian, Slavic, Russian, Japanese, Old Time, and more—but the Pittsburgh Mandolin Orchestra lives in modern times, with orchestra members from all walks of life.
Recognized by the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts as a master folk musician, Charley Rappaport has been conductor of the orchestra, and a popular performer in front of it, for eight years.
The orchestra has featured performers from the region who range from high schoolers, college students, and working and retired adults, as well as visiting guest virtuosos. They play a variety of instruments including mandolin, mandola, mandocello, mando-bass, acoustic guitar, woodwind, and percussion. The orchestra also has its own vocalist, Gary Burdick.