Monday, September 26, 2022

Minnesota "Ice Picks" performs at Open Mic!


Fantastic time at the first in person convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America since the COVID hiatus. The organization was still active with "conventions in the cloud" that were well done and well received, but boy howdy, were folks happy to be back together in person again!

A number of MMO peeps attended: Daryl, Erik, Dotty, David Ingham, Jack, Jonathan, Lon, Lou, Cheryl.

We had an aHa moment and thought "hey, we have enough people to do an Open Mic ensemble. And we did!

In an odd confluence of events, the lower voices dominated, so Dotty switched to mandolin and we recruited friend Nancy King from the Atlanta Mandolin Orchestra to join us in performing John Goodin's Wedding March Suite and Peter O's Red Lodge Reel at Open Mic. And we were fortunate to get the slot. It was nerve wracking and fun! Thanks to all who participated.

Otherwise. In the lead up to the convention, a few of us gathered and tried rehearsing some of the pieces. Let us say, we shook our heads about this difficult music (some had unfamiliar time signatures, some had a difficult key - E Major - with ridiculously fast passages, some were absolutely gorgeous and easy to a much slower tempo). We thought OMG how will this possibly come together with only 3 sectional rehearsals and 4 full ensemble rehearsals?

Cut to the chase. It did. The final concert was AMAZING.

There were a number of wonderful workshops. Many about the music of the Philippines and South America.

The program kept us busy and engaged the whole time. The Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra did a very nice and tight performance featuring some singers doing some 1930's(?) style tunes and some other challenging works. They were wonderful. And great convention hosts!

No matter what skill level, people learn a lot, participate in the En Masse as best they're able and have the best time you can with a bass, guitar or mandolin in hand!

Next year's will be in Kansas City, which is drivable. Hope more MMO peeps will consider attending.

Please talk to any of us mentioned above about the experience and mark your calendars for November of next year (I've forgotten the date and it's not yet on's website but will be soon no doubt).

As for transportation, there was a lot of carpooling. Erik rode with Daryl, Jack and David with Lou, Dotty with the Lou group up there and with Cheryl back. So don't figure you'll have to drive alone or go by plane!

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Album Release Announcement

 Hello MMO Friends,

I am very excited to tell you all that this past week I released a new album of all original compositions! It features mandolin and octave mandolin on every track, and includes my own recording of Defiant. I was heavily inspired by the soundtracks to fantasy films, Studio Ghibli movies, tabletop gaming, and the fantasy genre in general. It is available to stream for free on Spotify and YouTube/YouTube music, as well as on Apple Music, Amazon Music, and just about anywhere else you can stream music! You can also download it on iTunes, Amazon, and the other web stores if you so choose. While you're there you can also give a listen to a couple of albums that I released last year, my first collection titled "Borne Aloft" which featured the Raven, and a collection of tunes I wrote for mandolin quartet, "Introspection". You can also listen to the first track off the new album below!

Hope everyone is doing well! It was wonderful to see and hear you at the Arboretum, hopefully I can resume attending practice semi-regularly come fall. Have a great summer and thanks for listening!

Benjamin Gieseke, M1

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

CMSA 2022 MMO Update. Wow!

A lot of chat prior to last night's performance. There's a BUNCH of MMO people going to CMSA 2022 in Kalamazoo!

Here's what I know:

Mandolins: Cheryl G., Lou, Allison

Mandolas: Jonathan, Sarah

Mandocellos: Daryl C, Dotty, Erick

Bass/guitar: Jack L. Dave Ingham

Director: Lon Hendricks 

I may have missed someone. There are a lot of gyrations figuring out transportation, but people are open to driving together. There are some folk going via train and plane.

Let me know if you are considering attending and are trying to figure out transportation.


Richfield Bandshell!

 So glad to see so many of us at the Richfield Bandshell last night!

Jim and I were there early and set up chairs and chatted with the young man handling sound. He was very amiable and helpful and clearly enjoyed his job. He talked about the lunchtime children's program they had earlier about science and how they had the kids and the entertainer all on stage.

As a performance venue, this is a new one not just to us, but to the city of Richfield as it opened over the last 3-4 years. Great acoustics onstage without monitor speakers. A nearby bathroom (wow!). Wise of them to hold up on landscaping given the drought of the past couple of years. In a few years, the arbor vitae behind the stage will grow and shelter performers' backs (and iPads), not to mention the audience's eyes from the setting sun.

It's clear there's Richfield community support given the number of people who came out in spite of the iffy weather forecast and stayed for the entire performance!

I just wanted to thank everyone in the orchestra (we had an excellent turnout) for sticking with the program despite the forecast.



Sunday, July 3, 2022

 CMSA is coming up! Kalamazoo, Sept. 21-25.

Most of the music is already available thanks to Lon who is key to all of that.

I do think attending workshops and conventions, particularly those that are classical in orientation (but none-the-less play a wide variety of music), are wonderful development opportunities. Several days to JUST play the instrument, attend workshops about the instrument, and perform together!

If you're intimidated by the notion...don't be. You ARE good enough no matter your skills. You will have concentrated time, be around knowledgable people and will improve. And there's no shame in playing air mandolin at times!

Go, if you can spare the time and afford it.

This year, if you register now, you'll already have access to your parts, so you can begin looking at them, maybe some performances exist on Youtube and you can listen (I haven't looked, usually at least one is there).

In August, I propose to host small mandolin family instrument group practice sessions Saturday mornings 10 AM at my home in Excelsior. By small, I mean no more than 5 people. (Guitars, I can't hope to help you, you may want to do your own thing). Though I play mandocello, I've played mandolin and octave in the orchestra.

We'll focus on the tricky bits...seeing if we can't identify optimal left hand fingerings for stratospheric sections and work on rhythms to the extent we can. That prep will make your experience at CMSA even more enjoyable.

Look me up in the roster on and shoot me an email if you're interested in doing this.

And I encourage others to do the same outreach/small group thing. In fact, I think the MMO will get better if various folks go "hmm, this is challenging...maybe an off-site sectional will help!"


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Peter Ostroushko, MMO performing works by and in his memory

I went through my photo archives. In 2012, the MMO hosted the convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America. Peter O was headliner for a sold-out performance at our Ridgedale conference hotel.

Here is a photo of Peter listening as Mark Davis on mandolin and Rene Izquierdo on guitar have a quiet moment and play Peter's Hymn 911. A lovely, heart rending piece.

Here's Peter's version:

This month 100 years ago at the Gibson factory....

Scott shares this series of articles looking back 100 years at Gibson mandolins.  Don't take this blog post as a recommendation to clean your mandolin with gasoline.

Mandolin and Music related books -- Free!

 Spring cleaning!

MMO members: I'm clearing my shelves of books I've enjoyed but doubt I'll refer to again. If you respond to this blog post, I'll earmark these for you, otherwise will offer first come-first serve at next Monday's rehearsal.

  • Paul Sparks - The Classical Mandolin - 2 copies (1 CLAIMED, Erik)
  • James Tyler and Paul Sparks - The Early Mandolin (CLAIMED, Lou)
  • Graham McDonald - The Mandolin: A History

I also have 3 general interest books on performance and rehearsal.

  • The Practice Revolution
  • The Science and Psychology of Music Performance
  • After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance

These are in like new condition.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Mandolin Rental?

Geoff LeCrone reached out to our orchestra to enquire about renting a mandolin for a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Minnesota Orchestra June 10 to June 12.  He would need it from June 3 through the 16th and is ideally looking for a bowlback, but perhaps an early 20th-century mandolin would be appropriate, too.

Does anyone have pointers or ideas for a rental?  Jonathan and Lon can provide Geoff's email.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Scott found the following article from the Minnesota Historical Society on the rich history mandolin orchestras playing in the Twin Cities before us.  Super cool. There’s even mention of probably the first live-stream mandolin-orchestra concert from Minnesota in 1900.