The Mandolin Orchestra of Niagara (MOON), formerly known as the Welland Mandolin Orchestra, presented a musical journey Around the World in 90 Minutes last Wednesday afternoon at the Bethany Church concert hall in St. Catharines.
Performing a selection of traditional and contemporary world selections from Europe, Asia, South America and ending in North America, the orchestra of 15 mandolin players accompanied by bass, piano, guitar, and drums, conducted by Sylvia Hlywka Brabson, delighted the full-house audience with a cultural smorgasbord of favourites.
Brabson had a wonderfully relaxed approach to her concert and welcomed the audience participation, turning from her players and conducting the crowd instead. Even though it was a very large concert hall, with Brabson, it felt more like an intimate setting where every voice mattered.
Crossing the English channel, MOON pulled out all their tricks for Planxty O'Carolan, featuring Kelly Buckley on penny whistle, and Betty Ann Baker on Bodhran - a bass-rumbling drum-type rhythm instrument.
The penny whistle gave the Irish reel a haunting sound, cutting through the shimmering mandolins and castenets. But the real thrill was when Buckley joined in with the majestic bagpipes, coming up the aisle and through the heart of the auditorium. Baker's vocal solo of Mummer's Dance, - recently recorded by Loreen MdKennitt - was lovely and lilting as well. Truly, it was a spectacular trip through the U.K. with MOON.
There were a lot of talented players, vocalists, and special guest musicians in Around the World in 90 Minutes, that made the show shine with spirited energy. But in my opinion it was the unsung connection between audience members and musicians, and relaxed, appreciative ambiance that really made this performance special.
At one point during the show, Brabson opened a conversation with the audience asking where they'd been bussed in from, and received replies from cities in New York State to Toronto.
It's quite a devout following MOON has built during its relatively young 10-year reputation. But hearing is believing, and MOON's marvellous musical journey around the world in 90 minutes truly spoke (or musicked) for itself.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE WELLAND TRIBUNE FRIDAY DEC.1, 2006, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO OBTAIN A COPY TO READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW WHICH WAS WRITTEN BY LYNN PEPPAS.