This photo above was taken at a concert the BMO gave in the Listening and Viewing Room in the Student Union at Johns Hopkins University on May 15, 1977. BMO director Conrad Gebelein, who was also the long-time Music Director at Hopkins, is standing in the center in his trademark white suit.
On April 17, 2005, the BMO performed as part of a concert series at the Catonsville Presbyterian Church. The director is David Evans. We had a little trouble fitting everyone on the altar area, and the mandocellos and mandobass had to squeeze in on the left.
The BMO used to rehearse at one time in member Mary Markakis' living room. In this photo taken on April 8, 1983, Mary is standing in the back row, fourth from the right. Director Benjamin Durant is seated in the wheel chair on the left.
Here we are on February 21, 2010, playing at the beautiful Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland--a superb venue for an orchestra like ours. Soprano Beatrice Gilbert is singing and director David Evans is conducting.
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Here are some photos of the orchestra and its former directors that do not appear elsewhere on this website or in the BMO history booklet, "Baltimore's Other Orchestra."
This is the first known photo of the BMO. It was taken in 1925 (or maybe even in late 1924). It appeared in the March 1925 issue of The Crescendo magazine. Director and orchestra founder Conrad Gebelein is standing in the center rear. Most of the names of the players are new and do not appear in the appendix of the history booklet. The same photo (below) appeared in the 1926 Gibson catalog.
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A priceless picture of the BMO going somewhere (or already there...in New York City maybe?) some time probably in the late 1920s. Orchestra director Conrad Gebelein is standing on the left. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to identify any of the other folks. Get a load of that bus!
This is what Conrad Gebelein's music studio at 209 West Franklin Street in Baltimore looked like around 1929.
Here's a personalized, autographed photo from Dave Apollon to "Gebby"--Conrad Gebelein--dated December 2, 1941.
In addition to being a multi-talented performing musician, composer and music teacher, Conrad Gebelein was also a very accomplished artist. Here he is in 1962 with his portrait of guitarist Andres Segovia (which Segovia autographed in the upper right-hand corner). This painting showed up for sale on eBay in March 2012. It sold for $382.00.
Here's the BMO with director Benjamin Durant at a concert at York College of Pennsylvania on November 29, 1981.
A very relaxed-looking BMO director Benjamin Durant ca. 1983.
BMO members Joyce Adams and Mary Markakis in a March 1984 publicity photo for the last of three International Mandolin Festival concerts on April 8th at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. The festival consisted of three concerts at three different venues in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area. And three different orchestras performed at all three concerts--the Takoma Mandoleers (from Arlington, VA), the visiting L'Ensemble a Plectre de Toulouse (from Toulouse, France), and the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra.
The BMO takes a bow after performing at the Third Annual Convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America on November 11, 1989. Director David Evans is standing in front, looking back. The BMO hosted this convention in Baltimore (after also hosting the CMSA's first convention in 1987).
The BMO in the Pickersgill library ca. 1990. Director David Evans is kneeling on the left.
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And some more recent photos:
This photo of the BMO was taken at a concert at the Bel Air United Methodist Church on April 21, 2002. Director David Evans and soprano Beatrice Gilbert are seated in the second row in the middle.
These are the performers at the BMO's first "open mic" on December 1, 2004. It was graciously hosted by Mary Markakis at her home. The affair (which was also a fabulous food fest!) was a big success, and we've continued the tradition since then by having at least one open mic a year. These open mics give BMO members a non-critical venue to perform in alone or in small ensembles.
Here's former BMO director David Evans playin' it cool at the BMO's second open mic on June 18, 2005.
This is Roger Price (with Hal Laurent on bass) singing his tribute (a la Johnny Cash) to first mandolinist and mandolin/trumpet soloist Don Tison, who was about to move away from the Baltimore area. Don is seated second from the right. We had a farewell party for Don at Pickersgill on September 6, 2006.
The BMO "banding together for Butch" on October 17, 2007. Mandolinist Butch Baldassari died too young on 10 January 2009 of an inoperable brain tumor.
On December 2, 2009, BMO members volunteered to answer telephones at a Maryland Public Television membership drive. MPT aired a classical music program that evening--an Andrea Bocelli and David Foster Christmas concert--which was a good match for us. We never found out how much money we raised for MPT that night, but it had to be millions!
This is the BMO performing at the 2011 convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America on October 15, 2011. The venue is Kraushaar Auditorium on the campus of Goucher College. This convention, the 25th annual gathering of the CMSA, was held in Baltimore and was hosted by the BMO. In this photo David Evans conducts as soprano Beatrice Gilbert prepares to sing. This was the last appearance of David Evans with the BMO; with this concert he retired after 25 years as the BMO's director.
Carlo Aonzo playing with the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra, March 23, 2013
On March 23, 2013, the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra was honored to have Italian classical mandolin virtuoso Carlo Aonzo join us in a concert. Unfortunately, the concert was not open to the general public, but for the 175-200 employees of The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, who did attend, it was a jaw-dropping musical experience and an unparalleled introduction to Italian classical mandolin music performed by an undisputed master.
Carlo Aonzo playing a solo with Tony Norris on guitar
Aside from playing along with the BMO's first mandolin section throughout the evening, Carlo also regaled the audience with a fabulous solo, "Valzer Fantastico" by Enrico Marucelli. Carlo played his new, non-traditional Giacomel bowlback mandolin, which has f-holes and an internal sounding board. The crowd's enthusiastic response called for more, so Carlo went on to play Vittorio Monti's "Czardas" as an encore. BMO guitarist Tony Norris accompanied Carlo on both pieces. It was a magical and unforgettable evening for the BMO.
Carlos Barbosa-Lima performs at BMO concert
Famed Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima was the BMO's special guest artist at a concert on November 9, 2013, at Fallston United Methodist Church. Carlos has played several times before with the BMO, and it was a great pleasure for us to have him return. As he has done in the past, Carlos sat in the guitar section and played along with them for the entire concert. He also performed three lively and beautiful solo pieces.
Tamara Volskaya and Anatoly Trofimov play a solo set at BMO concert
2013 was a great year for performances by guest artists at BMO concerts. We had Carlo Aonzo in March, Carlos Barbosa-Lima in early November, and on November 17th we were honored to host the world-renowned Russian Duo, consisting of Tamara Volskaya (domra) and her husband Anatoly Trofimov (bayan). As the BMO players took a break, Tamara and Anatoly played Paganini's "Carnival of Venice," "Humoresque" by Dvorak and an arrangement by Anatoly of the Russian gypsy favorite "Dark Eyes." For their encore, Tamara switched to mandolin (photo above), and the duo ended their set with "The Third Man Theme" by Karas.
This concert was part of a concert series sponsored by the St. Cecilia Society of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Baltimore and took place at St. Mark's.
Tamara played along with the first mandolin section at this concert. She and Anatoly performed at a second BMO concert on November 20th at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson, and while she and Anatoly were in town, Tamara also played for the youngsters in the BMO's Mando for Kids program. (Click on "Mando for Kids" under "About the Orchestra" for more photos of Tamara and Anatoly.)
The picture below was taken on March 30, 2014. On that date the BMO was honored to be the first group to perform in the newly renovated second-floor performance hall of the Dorchester Center for the Arts in Cambridge, Maryland. In the photo, mandolin soloist (and former BMO director) David Evans is entertaining folks in the sold-out hall.
On June 1, 2014, thirteen members of the Mando for Kids program played along with entire orchestra for two pieces at a concert at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia, Maryland. The mixed group played "The Flying Wedge" by Kate Dolby and "Partita Antiqua," arranged by C. Noordzij. This was the first opportunity for the kids to join the orchestra. They were very excited to be a part of the larger group, and they played very, very well. As an "encore" they played a short piece by themselves.
MandoKids performing with the BMO, June 1, 2014
In 2015 the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra was invited to perform in the concert series at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Baltimore (a new venue for us). We had been contemplating doing a special concert celebrating the mandolin music of Jonathan Jensen (pictured at the right), and this provided an excellent opportunity for the BMO to do just that. The concert took place on a beautiful sunny afternoon on April 26, 2015, for a crowd of over 300. (Fortunately, the concert was not affected by the riots in Baltimore, which had begun getting violent the day before.)
Jonathan is a mandolist with the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra, but unfortunately he is unable to attend most of our events because of his other gig -- as a bassist with the Baltimore Symphony. But he is with us at every concert in his music. Jonathan has composed and arranged many pieces in multiple genres for the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra and for the Baltimore Mandolin Quartet (which also performed at this concert). In addition, Jonathan has arranged a number of songs for our resident soprano, Beatrice Gilbert, with mandolin orchestra accompaniment. This 90-minute concert consisted solely of compositions and arrangements by Jonathan Jensen.
The Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
The Baltimore Mandolin Quartet at Immaculate Heart of Mary
Soprano Beatrice Gilbert and BMO music director Kristin Turner at IHM
On April 24, 2016, the BMO played again at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Our special guests at this concert were Carlo Aonzo and Rene Izquierdo.
Carlo Aonzo and Rene Izquierdo with the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra.
The BMO accompanied Carlo and Rene on Vivaldi's "Concerto in G for Two Mandolins." They also soloed with a selection from their "Paganini" CD -- the "Sonata Concertata." It was a real thrill for the BMO to play with these world-class musicians.
Several of the Pioneers from the Mando for Kids program also played at this concert. After studying diligently for a number of years with Laura Norris, they were accomplished enough to join the BMO recently as full members, and have they been attending rehearsals and concerts.
Carlo Aonzo and Rene Izquierdo with the Mando Kids and founder Laura Norris
In early 2017 Scott Borg, the director of the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society Orchestra, invited the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra to join them in a mini-concert before a performance by classical guitarist David Russell at Towson University's Kaplan Hall. The concert was scheduled for April 29th, which was a little unfortunate, because the BMO had a big concert of its own scheduled for the next day (see below). But Laura Norris and the Pioneers from her Mando for Kids program played, as did several other BMO members. The original plan was to do a couple of pieces with the BCGS, but that got winnowed down to just one - "Giglio Fiorentino" by Carlo Munier.
Members of the BMO and the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society
at Towson University's Kaplan Hall, April 29, 2017
For the third year in a row, the BMO played a big concert to a very appreciative crowd of about 350 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on April 30, 2017. This year's headliner was plectrum banjoist Buddy Wachter (photo at right). Buddy is a Baltimore native who began studying the banjo, mandolin and bass at age nine. At age 16, before he had even graduated from high school, he auditioned with his banjo for the Fred Waring Show and got hired. He began his professional career as a featured performer with Waring's famed "Pennsylvanians." Starting in 1990, Buddy performed and lectured all over the world as a musical ambassador for the U. S. Department of State. He has played more than 7,000 concerts in over 120 countries. Buddy was inducted into the Banjo Hall of Fame in 2001 in the Four-String Performance category and again in 2012 for Education and Instruction. We had been trying to arrange a concert with Buddy for many years, and we were so glad that we were finally able to pull it off.
In addition to playing a couple of pieces with the BMO, Buddy brought along two of his playing partners, tubist Ed Goldstein and mandolinist Marc DeSimone. They did some pieces together and played with the orchestra as well. Buddy and Ed played Drigo's "Serenade" and Brunover's "All the Rage" with us, and Buddy and Marc played Canora's "Tra Veglia e Sonno" and Denza's "Funiculi, Funicula" with us as well. The concert rocked to an end with everyone playing "Beer Barrel Polka" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" as an encore.
In the fall of 2017 we were invited by the Music Department at a local high school, Towson High School, to play a concert for their music students. We readily accepted this offer to do an outreach program at a school - something we hadn't done in a long time. We prepared a program that comprised brief talks about various mandolin- and mandolin orchestra-related topics followed by some tunes that were appropriate for the various themes. In spite of this being a daytime and mid-week concert, we managed to gather together a nice-sized ensemble of orchestra members with every instrument represented. So on December 20th, we performed for a great crowd of high schoolers.
Here are the topics we covered: Origin of the mandolin; Mandolins in America and in Baltimore; History of the BMO; Mandolin family instruments; Composing and arranging for mandolin orchestra; Other mandolin genres; Mando for Kids; Sources for mandolin orchestra music; How to join the BMO, where we rehearse, etc.
From our perspective, it was a very successful afternoon, and we hope we sparked interest in some of those students to consider checking our orchestra out and possibly joining it. And we also plan to advertise our willingness to do similar programs at other schools in the Baltimore area.
Our spring 2018 outing as part of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church concert series featured domra virtuosa Tamara Volskaya and her Russian Trio. The trio consists of Tamara, who plays domra and mandolin, Anatoly Trofimov, bayan (button accordion) and Leonid Bruk, contrabass balalaika.
Tamara and Anatoly played a concert with us back in 2013, and we were so excited to have her back with us again with her larger group (and in front of a larger audience).
The BMO opened the program with a couple of Baltimore-based tunes. The Russian Trio then played three pieces from their standard repertoire: "Terskiye Chastushki," a traditional Russian folk song, "Waltz" by Shostakovich and "Festive Dance" from the movie "Gadfly." Next, Tamara picked up her mandolin, and the BMO accompanied her and the Trio with a medley of Italian favorites called "Italian Memories."
After the intermission, Tamara soloed brilliantly with Vivaldi's "Concerto in C Major for Mandolin," accompanied by the BMO. The Trio opened its second set with "March" from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" and "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakov. Tamara's incredible virtuosity was on vivid display in her rendering of this difficult piece. After two more Trio pieces, the BMO joined in again to accompany them as they played "Neapollitan Dance" from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." For an encore, Tamara played the "From Russian With Love" theme song to the accompaniment of the BMO's talented Mando for Kids Pioneers. What a treat it was to witness Tamara's dazzling virtuosity, breathtaking speed and impeccable style.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church has been very good to the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra. We have been so fortunate to have been invited back to their concert series. Our concerts at this venue are dedicated to the orchestra's founder, Conrad Gebelein. For our fifth appearance at IHM on May 5, 2019, we decided to feature our resident soprano, Beatrice Gilbert. She celebrated her 25th anniversary singing with the BMO this year. This concert featured an unusual twist - it was jointly conducted by retiring BMO music director, Kristin Turner, and incoming BMO music director, Mark Linkins. Kristin conducted Bea's vocal pieces with the orchestra and Mark conducted the BMO's instrumental pieces.
The BMO opened the show with three pieces. Then Bea, accompanied by John Massa on the piano, sang two Puccini arias, "Senza Momma" and "Canzone di Doretta." She followed those with "Lied an den Mond" by Dvorak.
The BMO returned to accompany mandolinists Abigail Cannon and Gabe Locati (visiting from Philadelphia) in Bach's "Double Violin Concerto in D minor." (Unfortunately, we don't have a photo of that wonderful performance by these young players.)
Bea returned to sing the following songs with the orchestra: Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro," Lehar's "Vilya Lied" and Strauss's "Adele's Laughing Song."
After the intermission, Bea sang two more pieces with John Massa at the piano - "I Dreamed a Dream" by Schoenberg and "Gretchen am Spinnrade" by Schubert.
An added benefit of this concert - both for the BMO members as well as for the audience - was the participation in it by Wayne Gebelein, grandson of Conrad Gebelein, the BMO's founder. Wayne augmented the guitar section throughout the concert, and, at this spot in the program, he played a composition written by his grandfather for solo guitar called "Romance." (Again, regrettably, no photo of this performance.)
The orchestra returned to play two pieces, one of them was "Song of Jupiter" by Handel, which featured Roger Price on the trumpet.
Bea finished the program with three pieces arranged for her by Kristin Turner: Sullivan's "The Moon and I," Menken's "God Help the Outcasts" and Arlen's ever-popular "Over the Rainbow." To extended applause, Bea encored with her signature tune over the years, "O Sole Mio."
The spring of 2020 brought significant change to the BMO (not to mention to the entire world!). We suffered the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic. We played the first concert in our spring season in late February, and then we had to cancel the remaining five concerts on our schedule. And, of course, we also canceled our rehearsals until further notice. Here's a photo of some of our members as we tried to rehearse via Zoom.
Musically, it didn't work too well. Socially, it was nice to get to see and chat with our fellow players once a week.
After also canceling our fall 2020 and early spring 2021 concerts, the BMO was back in May 2021!...albeit in a different form. We had been unable to rehearse as a group since mid-March 2020, but we had a concert scheduled for May 16, 2021, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, a date we really wanted to keep. We didn't play there last year because of the pandemic. The church had been doing a few live concerts with very limited attendance, but the concerts were also live-streamed over the church's Facebook page and YouTube channel, so a lot more people were able to watch the concerts virtually.
So we decided to do a concert featuring small ensembles of BMO players, since the entire orchestra was too big of a group to play at the church. The ensembles selected the pieces they wanted to play, found times and places to rehearse by themselves (or over Zoom). The church generously allowed our groups to come to the church on two Sunday afternoons to rehearse there, which was very helpful. Instead of conducting, our director, Mark Linkins, emceed the program, which came off quite well. Here's the link to the entire concert on YouTube, if you'd like to watch it:
We fully expected that we would have to wear face masks, but Maryland's governor had just lifted the indoor mask mandate the day before this concert took place, so all of us who were fully vaccinated could ditch the masks.
Here are the groups that played:
The program opened with a performance of the first movement of Carlo Munier's "Mandolin Quartet in D Major" by the Pioneers of the Mando for Kids program. From left to right they are: Toalima Tomasese, Sarah Rad, Hayk Manasyan, Leo Hickman, Laura Norris (Program Director), Abigail Cannon and Tony Norris (guitar accompanist).
Next was a mandolin duet by Carla van Berkum and Jim Blanchard. They played "Table Music for Two," attributed to Mozart.
They were followed by a sometimes-quartet, sometimes-trio called The Kirby Boys. The group consists of, from left to right, Chuck Levin, Jim Blanchard, Tom Morton (shown here as Prof. Augustus Isosceles, world-renowned triangle virtuoso) and Roger Price. They started with "Rag Time Chimes" by Percy Wenrich followed by "Dengozo" by Ernesto Nazareth. Tom Morton played the mandola for that second piece.
Next, bassist John Previti and guitarist Tony Norris played the Adagio movement from Nathaniel Diesel's "Suite in G Minor."
Soprano Beatrice Gilbert usually sings with the entire BMO backing her up. This time it was a trio consisting of BMO Music Director Mark Linkins on mandolin, John Previti on bass and Tony Norris on guitar. Bea sang "For Sentimental Reasons," "Maybe This Time" and "I Dreamed a Dream."
After the intermission, a mandolin quintet, led by Betsy Farrell, performed two hymns - "Lord, When You Came To the Seashore" by Cesareo Gabarain and "Pan de Vida" by Bob Hurd. From left to right: Carla van Berkum, Betsy, Rosanne Mooney, Jacob Hamidi and Tom Morton. Rosanne added a vocal at the end of "Pan de Vida."
Jacob Hamidi on autoharp and Tom Morton on mandolin performed next. They began with a medley of "Bury Me Beneath the Willow" and "Mole in the Ground." They followed that with "Bound for the Promised Land." Jacob added his voice to the last two pieces.
Next up: A mandolin and guitar duo. Jonathan Rudie and Chuck Levin took the stage to perform "O Cantiga de Perdidos," arranged by Allen Alexander.
Finally, we brought out a "reduced orchestra" (one player for each part) to play two contemporary original compositions: "Thema de Soto" by Mark Davis of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra and "Wye River" by our own Chuck Levin. From left to right the players are: Laura Norris, first mandolin; Carla van Berkum, second mandolin; Tom Morton, mandola; Chuck Levin, guitar; Tony Norris, mandocello (although he is playing guitar for "Thema de Soto" in this photo); and John Previti, bass.
There were about 80 people in attendance at the church, which is twice as many as they had been getting. The audience clearly appreciated the concert, because they gave us a standing ovation at the end. Bea Gilbert came out again to do an encore, an unusual arrangement of Henry Mancini's "Moon River."