Friday, July 13, 2012

The Heart of a Mandolinist

After yesterday’s performance at the Christian Congregational Church in Lubec,ME I am still full of music. Being more of an admirer of traditional music I’m also a bit skeptical of a program consisting mostly of contemporary pieces.

But not so yesterday.

Every piece they played was so wonderfully full of harmonious melodies that I whispered into Bea’s ear: “It is like a wonderful dream”. Quite a few pieces were composed by the performers themselves. The heart of a mandolin composer must be breathing pure harmony and peace. How else could it be that even the most recently written pieces are transmitting so much harmony?

Music is something  everybody is relating to in one or the other way. Bea and I like harmonious music. But we are fully aware of that composers enjoy the freedom of writing music expressing their own feelings. The performance we were listening to 2 weeks ago stood in stark contrast to yesterday’s as it was written when the composer was imprisoned in a German Concentration Camp. He needed to express all his and his fellow comrades misery and agony. So the music was full of heartbreaking screams and sadness. But there were no guitars and no mandolins in his pieces.
That way it was still a great experience, but it has the potential to make us feel uncomfortable.

It seems like mandolins are instruments to be used when harmony and peace is present in the players mind. People playing mandolins seem to be generally happy people, even though the range of expressions is amazingly wide. Melancholy, idle pleasure, happiness and a wild dance can be performed – but it all carries harmony as its main ingredient.

I have a mandolin myself, but I have never played it. Sadly, I never learned to play any instrument. My mandolin belonged to my grandfather and I found it 50 years ago in a hidden-away storage in my grandfather’s house. At the time it had a few colorful ribbons tied to it. All the strings were gone. I left it as it was, but could never part with it as I know my grandfather played this mandolin when he was enlisted in WWI and was confined to the trenches in France. He might have played a simple melancholic melody on it or a lively dance when he was allowed to leave the horror of war to go home for 2 weeks. We don’t know what he really played on it, but I’m sure that his mandolin gave him a lot of comfort. I know that he had a girl friend – my grandmother. They were engaged when grandmother was 16 – married a year later.
In 1914, when WWI broke out, grandpa was 18yrs. My father has a picture of him in a soldiers uniform – this mandolin in his hand.


Grandfather’s Mandolin

Thanks for stopping by again!


  1. That mandolin is beautiful. You sure you don't want to learn to play it?

  2. Oh Peter. Your post just reached my heart and I could hear the mandolins playing along with you. I,too, used to own a mandolin but never learned to play it. Couldn't find anybody in Montana to teach me. And I so regret it. Do you suppose it's too late for us?

  3. the mandolin is a beautiful instrument..imagine the stories and songs it could tell?..definitely a family keepsake!

  4. that is one awesome mandolin...if only it could talk it would surely tell many is beautiful...we have one but it looks nothing like that..what a keepsake treasure...

  5. That was a wonderful story about your grandfather and his mandolin. Thanks so much for sharing it.


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