In March of 1989 LMO invited world famous classical mandolinist Keith Harris to Louisville to conduct a week-long workshop. Held at the University of Louisville, this intensive, technique-driven series of classes heightened LMO's attention to detail and helped the players move to a higher musical level. Keith Harris introduced the orchestra to classical pick techniques, techniques which were critical in the development of LMO's classical sound.
Working with Harris (called the "Paganini of the Mandolin") affected the quality of the group dramatically. The workshop activities culminated in a concert held on Saturday, March 18 at the University of Louisville's Middleton Auditorium. The first half of the concert featured solo mandolin pieces performed by the versatile Mr. Harris. LMO performed Vivaldi's "Concerto in G Major for Two Mandolins," with Michael Schroeder and Philip Wakeman performing the first and second parts respectively. John Goodin's "Up River Road" received a warm response from the audience and the show ended with LMO performing a transcription of a Torelli violin concerto with Harris as soloist.
The success of the concert and the enthusiasm of LMO members impressed Harris and resulted in LMO receiving an invitation to the German Bundesmusikfest, an international mandolin festival held every four years. Although LMO was unable to attend the 1990 event, Harris' visit to Louisville opened the door for LMO to travel to Germany for the 1994 event held in the former East German town of Schoeneck.
Mando Magnificat II
Look Ma, I'm on TV!
The Louisville Mandolin Orchestra's initial foray into public performance in the fall of 1988 proved so popular that Lonesome Pine Director Richard Van Kleeck invited the group back for a second show during the 1989 LPS summer series. "Mando Magnificat II" would open the series and would feature not only Sam Bush and The Modern Mandolin Quartet but also Peter Ostroushko, the musical director and a regular performer on Garrison Keillor's radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion." Adding to the excitement surrounding this event came the news that the show would be videotaped for broadcast on PBS stations across America as part of the Lonesome Pine Specials syndicated series. (The LPS syndicated series has appeared on public television stations across the United States as well as on stations in seven European cities.)
On August 1 in the Bomhard Theater, LMO once again took the stage, the group a bit larger than the previous year and the music considerably more demanding. The 27-member group overcame the nervousness that comes from playing in front of television cameras (and a live audience) to give an excellent performance. Stellar performances by Sam Bush and Peter Ostroushko, a stunning duet by Bush and Mike Marshall and gorgeous ensemble playing by The Modern Mandolin Quartet combined to create a truly magical mandolin evening. The show's finale brought all the musicians onstage to perform Manuel de Falla's "La Vida Breve" and Aaron Copland's "Hoedown." Richard Van Kleeck conducted the finale and the audience responded as it had the year before with a loud and lengthy standing ovation. Perhaps the best evidence of this show's quality can be found at the Smithsonian: the videotape of Mando Magnificat II is one of only five Lonesome Pine Specials that have become part of the Smithsonian's collection.
Partnerships with Public Radio Pays Off
From the beginning, LMO received enthusiastic support from WFPL and WFPK, two of Louisville's three public radio stations. WFPL (the "jazz and information" station) had recorded Mando Magnificat in 1988 and had run it as part of the syndicated "Lonesome Pine Specials" series. (This popular series ran for years on National Public Radio [NPR] and American Public Radio [APR] affiliates across America.) On August 20, 1989, WFPK (the classical music station) broadcast a live LMO concert from the Unitarian Church in downtown Louisville. "Playful Pizzicato" from Benjamin Britten's "Simple Symphony" and "Up River Road" from John Goodin's "Louisville Suite" hit Louisville's radio airwaves and LMO reached out to yet another segment of the Louisville community. WFPK also recorded the concert and has played excerpts from it over the past few years.
In an ongoing effort to lend support to the stations which so generously supported LMO, orchestra members have joined in the fundraising activities of Louisville's public radio stations (now known as the Public Radio Partnership). Each fall and spring, LMO members volunteer to answer phones during the membership campaigns.
Reaching Out Through Charitable Events
In October, 1989 LMO performed again at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, this time to benefit the Kentucky Opera Association at its annual book sale. LMO played to a large and noisy crowd, helping to make the KOA sale a success. This was the first of many charitable events in which LMO has participated over the last seven years in its continuing effort to reach out to Louisville's diverse community.