Monday, May 11, 2015

Kevin Breit - Ernesto And Delilah

The Upper York Mandolin Orchestra, c. 1915
Mandolin orchestras were very popular in the early 20th Century and were commonplace in many towns and cities, even several schools had one. The stimulus to create mandolin groups often came from travelling mandolinists and teachers. Immigration from Europe to other parts of the world resulted in the concept spreading rapidly, with movements beginning quite early in America, Japan and Australia. An example of such a mandolin orchestra is the Candian Upper York Mandolin Orquestra, shown at the photo above.

Thomas Dooley III conducting the UYMO (photo:Cathy Merenda)
The Upper York Mandolin Orchestra was founded in 1909 by Thomas Dooley, who was an Irish immigrant with a passion for mandolin orchestra music. Dooley met many  musicians interested in being a part of the orchestra, so he set up weekly sessions in his home, often going through the night and into the morning. It wasn't too long before these informal sessions would turn into concert performances throughout the province of Ontario. His son, Thomas Dooley Jr., also joined the orchestra and continued the directorship after his father passed away in 1956. With the birth of rock and roll, membership decreased drastically, but Dooley Jr. wouldn't let the orchestra cease. Eventually, the orchestra performances became infrequent but always well attended by mandolin orchestra enthusiasts. After the death of Dooley Jr. in 1979, the orchestra took a 16 year hiatus. In 1995, however, Thomas Dooley's youngest son   decided to recreate his grandfather's legacy and the Upper York Mandolin Orchestra was reborn and is still active today under the directorship of Thomas Dooley III. (- info excerpted from the web of UYMO, unfortunately no longer accessible).

Kevin Breit (photo: Martina Breit)
Canadian mandolinist and long time fan of the mandolin orchestra tradition, Kevin Breit met with Dooley in 2009 to discuss a possible collaborative project. This proposal led to the successful recording of a CD titled 'Field Recording', released 2013 and containing material composed and performed by Kevin Breit accompanied by the Upper York Mandolin Orchestra (- you may listen to this collaborative work in streaming audio at Bandcamp, here). Kevin Breit and the UYMO continue the collaboration on the just released 2-CD set,'Ernesto and Delilah', shown below

Ernesto And Delilah (Poverty Playlist, 2015)
The double CD set contains two distinctly different albums, the 'Ernesto' disc is instrumental and features arrangements of Brazilian composer Ernesto Ciari's works by the UYMO and Kevin Breit. The 'Delilah' disc is a folk roots album of songs written by Kevin Breit and performed with vocalist and actress Rebecca Jenkins accompanied by the UYMO. The instrumental disc contains eleven works by the mysterious composer Ernesto Ciari and is certainly the most interesting in my point of view, as this is a first time recording of the compositions by Ciari.

Ernesto Ciari, c. 1971
Some info about Ernesto Ciari is quoted here, excerpted from the website of UYMO (- no longer accessible):

Ernesto Ciari (1938-1972) was born in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Romero, was a doctor, an educated man of Portuguese extraction, an author, an amateur astronomer and musician. Ernesto was attracted to music, but had no formal training. After a few abortive harmony lessons, he immersed himself in music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father. He learned himself to play the piano, the guitar and the mandolin. When his father died suddenly in 1948, he earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras in Rio. - Around 1958, Ciari started explorations of Brazil's "dark interior", absorbing the native Brazilian musical culture. After this period, he gave up any idea of conventional training and instead absorbed the musical influences of Brazil's indigenous cultures. His earliest compositions were the result of improvisations on the piano and mandolin. - Ciari played with many local Brazilian street-music bands; he was also influenced by the cinema and Ernesto Nazareth's improvised tangos. For a time, he became a mandolinist in a Rio opera company, and his early compositions include attempts at Grand Opera. Encouraged by Arthur Napaleo, a pianist and music publisher, he decided to focus his attention fully on composition. Plagued with deep depression, he would disappear for weeks without any contact with his family and friends and would eventually reappear, as if he had stepped out for a stroll around the block. Ciari's writing was sporadic but at the same time focused and intense. - Ernesto Ciari is largely unknown and the tragic circumstances of his death loom larger than his creative output. Ernesto took his life on what would be the premier of his most ambitious work, "O Círculo da vida". 

The eleven featured compositions by Ciari at the 'Ernesto' CD are arranged by Thomas Dooley III for mandolin orchestra and have Kevin Breit as guest performer together with Cyro Baptista on percussion and Gregoire Maret on harmonica. The music is a strange mixture of different influences from Brazilian popular music, classical tradition and other fields difficult to identify. The rhythmic pulse of the music, however, sounds more American than Brazilian compared to what is usually performed in Brazil. Nevertheless, a fascinating soundscape is created at the disc and the complex music is well performed by the UYMO and Kevin Breit directed by Thomas Dooley III.

You have the opportunity to listen to (- and buy) the 'Ernesto and Delilah' double cd-set at Bandcamp, here. - The CDs including other recordings by Kevin Breit are also available for purchase at his official website, here

Inserted photos are copied from the Ernesto and Delilah CD set (Poverty Playlist, 20015)

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