Enigmatica – Ensemble Plectrophonic


Natural History (2021) The music of Catherine Hawkes
Enigmatica 3 (2014), Americana, with original music by the group.
The Blue House (2009), Pixinguinha, Stravinsky, Goodin, Carr Boyd, etc.
Enigmatica (2004), Villa-Lobos, Bach, Ware, etc.

Enigmatica began playing together in 2000, and are currently available for performances and recordings. Their music ranges from Baroque to Brazilian to contemporary to folk-inspired Americana.

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Enigmatica is a New England-based mandolin ensemble directed by Marilynn Mair. Part chamber orchestra and part plucked-string double-quartet, Enigmatica performs a variety of music: Baroque, Brazilian, eclectic contemporary, and Americana music written by group members and friends. The ensemble features instruments of the mandolin family — mandolin, mandola, octave mandola, and 6- and 7-string guitars. Ensemble members come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Their repertoire includes Baroque music by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and Purcell; Brazilian music by Villa-Lobos, Jacob do Bandolim, and Pixinguinha; 20th-century music by Stravinsky and Shostakovich; and recent music of composers Will Ayton, Jim Dalton, and Radim Zenkl. Original compositions for mandolin ensemble are rare, but Enigmatica is proud to play new works written for them by American composers Pam Marshall, John Goodin, Robert N. Martel, Catherine Hawkes, Adam Larrabee and Marilynn Mair.

“The sound of Enigmatica can be described as sparkling, effervescent, fluid, precise, and joyous. The clarity of line they achieve is breathtaking, completely the equal of any string quartet or chamber ensemble playing today.” – Mandolin Magazine

“Enigmatica wove an illuminated musical tapestry, rich in sound and vision.” – Rick Massie, East Bay Window

Director/Mandolin: Marilynn Mair
Professor Emeritus of Music at Roger Williams University, Marilynn has performed in over 1000 concerts all over the world, released two dozen solo/ensemble recordings and published 5 books on mandolin technique. Since 2007 she has been a part-time resident of Rio de Janeiro, balancing the ability to hold her own with saxophones at outdoor jam sessions with performing classical concerts at museums and palaces. She founded and has directed Enigmatica since 2000, and has enjoyed the group’s tendency toward compositional independence in its teen-age years. You will find her more traditional accomplishment information here.

Mandolin: Charlie Moser
Charlie started playing the mandolin one particular day in 1975, and has rarely missed a day since. He is sometimes distracted by the classical guitar, the electric bass, or his Fender Telecaster, and occasionally by his career as Charles V. Moser, Musician-at-Law. (BA in Applied Music from Keene State College, JD from UNH School of Law). He is veteran of many commercially unsuccessful but artistically outstanding musical groups, covering styles from classical to cowboy to rock ’n’ roll.  Early influences include Beethoven, The Tijuana Brass, and the My Fair Lady soundtrack. Charlie’s prescription for success is one perfect Manhattan for every two hours of mandolin practice, every day as needed.

Mandolin: Jim Dalton
Multi-instrumentalist Jim Dalton is also an educator, conductor and award-winning composer and arranger. As a performer, he specializes in historical and ethnic playing styles on a variety of plucked string instruments including guitar, mandolin, banjo, mandocello, Renaissance lute, and bouzouki. He performs as a soloist and in a duo with soprano and guitarist Maggi Smith-Dalton. Jim has performed with orchestras in the USA, Latin America, Europe and China, and his many compositions for a variety of soloists and ensembles have been performed and recorded internationally. Jim is a Professor of Music Theory at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in Boston.

Mandolin: Jacqueline Russom
Jacque fell in love with the mandolin as a teenager when she saw one in a shop window in Genoa. Her parents immediately bought it, hoping to nurture a musical talent, but it was many years before Jacque learned to play the instrument she carried a torch for. The lost Italian mandolin was replaced by a 1950s Gibson which has now been succeeded by a Phoenix, and Jacque has played with Enigmatica since its founding. A former linguistic software developer, she now works freelance for the Oxford English Dictionary, reading Middle English texts to find earliest occurrences of words. She literally wrote, or rather revised, the definition for “mandolin” in the OED to add the characteristic feature of paired strings.

Mandola/Recorder: Catherine Hawkes
Catherine is a Professor of Music at Roger Williams University, where she established and directs the Instrumental Ensemble. Her interest in Medieval music led her to Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, where she earned a Doctorate in Music, as well as pursuing studio work in fine arts textiles. She was a producer for IU’s Focus record label and wrote several seasons of the Public Radio program Harmonia. Catherine was a founder of the early music quartet Melusine and the Smiling Dog Band and has performed in genres ranging from opera to circus to jam band. She has appeared on numerous recordings, most recently, Natural History. an Enigmatica CD devoted to her music.

Mandola: Gayle Raposa
Gayle grew up with mandolin music. Her dad played in a popular local band at weekly Portuguese “Chamarita” dances and weddings. She preferred  piano and violin though, and in college singing in the chorus let her share her talent. In her thirty-five years of teaching third grade, she sang throughout the day. When students asked if there was a song for everything she answered, “If there isn’t one, I’ll make one up!” She started taking mandolin lessons to get her Dad to start playing again, and after a couple of years, her teacher suggested she switch to mandola. Voila! – she had found her voice in the mandolin family! Gayle has played with Enigmatica almost since its beginning and feels like she’s found her musical family.

Octave Mandolin: Lisa Abbatomarco
Lisa is and always will be an artist in search of redefinition. She moved from piano to guitar, and then harpsichord, before arriving at mandolin. Mandolin goes back in Lisa’s family to her great-grandmother, who played one “to meet boys” until her father smashed it against a telephone pole. Lisa eventually took to the octave mandolin, and now plays a tamboritza cleverly disguised as a mandola or mandocello depending on your theater seat. In other incarnations, she has been known to vocalize in experimental sound ensembles, jam with other nutbutters, and over-personify as cowgirl, Rambling Red, with the Blackstone River Riders. She also plays percussion accessories in The Extraordinary Rendition Band.

Guitar: Bob Martel
Bob began playing the guitar at the age of seven and turned his attention to the classical guitar some twenty years later. He has performed in concert with mandolin orchestras and chamber ensembles in the U.S., Canada and Europe. His compositions have been recorded and performed in North and South America, Europe and Australia; the most recent additions being performances in Slovenia and Croatia. In June 2017, he retired from a thirty-seven-year career as a public school music teacher. Grateful to have survived relatively intact, he’s now engaged in daily practice and composition sessions, books, herb gardening, cooking, genealogy, hockey games, meditation, volunteer work, and the occasional martini.

 7-string Guitar: Paul Dressel
Paul is a garage-band guitarist, living-room musicologist who, after hearing a Brasilian sete corde played up close, knew he had to learn some new tricks at an age when such things are more easily forgotten. His performing career includes a decade with the Americana rock band Shacklehands playing his Telecaster and lap steel guitar. He volunteered for Enigmatica’s long-neck section when guitarist-composer extraordinaire Bob Martel had to miss some concerts due to injury. Paul added some chords and low notes to help the band out, all the while learning to read those pesky dots and lines. The right place, the right time and a glimpse of fortune’s smile. He’s stayed on, covering guitar and mandocello lines.


Former members of Enigmatica include:
Fran Rivkin, Isabel Eccles, Joanne Taddei – mandolin
Eric Christensen – mandola, guitar
Adam Larrabee, Bob Asprinio, Robert Paul Sullivan – mandocello

Enigmatica’s self-titled debut CD (2004), The Blue House (2009), Enigmatica 3 (2014), and Natural History (2021) have garnered praise throughout the mandolin world for the group’s versatile and colorful sound.  A new CD is in the works, to be released in 2024. The group also appears on Nadando em Luz, Leave Something Unexplained and North Star Record’s “New England Yuletide”. Group members perform widely with other plucked string ensembles, most notably, The American Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra.

Enigmatica has presented its unique blend of chamber music in concert series throughout New England, including performances at the New England Conservatory, the SummerKeys Concert Series, Blithewold Mansion, the Providence Athenaeum, Roger Williams University, and Providence’s celebrated WaterFire. The group has been featured artists at the annual convention of the Classical Mandolin Society of America in Philadelphia, and the Cape Cod Festival of Mandolins.




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  • By Baby, It’s Cold Outside! | The Arts Room on December 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    […] welcomes We Make Music, a vocal ensemble with recorder and piano.  On Sunday December 5th at 3pm Enigmatica, a mandolin octet, will perform.  The concerts are free with admission to […]

    • “Smudging the lines between folk and classical is an intrepid endeavor… Mair’s a superb mandolin player who has brought the instrument to unexpected places…” – Jim Macnie, The Providence Phoenix (USA)

    • “Marilynn Mair has always had the keen ability to balance classical mandolin traditions and repertoire, while constantly breaking new musical ground…a superb and versatile mandolinist and composer.” – – Butch Baldassari, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    • “Mair travels by mandolin to Brazil and brilliance… her commitment to the music shines through.” – Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal

    • “Stepping back to the 18th-century masterworks gave her the opportunity to highlight her technique with a fresh light… her playing is thoughtful, vibrant and a delight to listen to.” — Terence Pender, Mandolin Quarterly (USA)

    • “She’s a fabulous player with a wonderfully clear and lyrical sound.” – The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

    • “Mair displays an exceptionally gifted approach to this music, using her formidable mandolin technique with grace and sensitivity… It’s the next best thing to a trip to Rio.” – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    • “Marilynn Mair performs Brazilian mandolin music… she plays the mandolin as an instrument for all occasions.” – Vaughn Watson, The Providence Journal (USA)

    • “Bring a talented ensemble of gifted musicians together playing some of the great concertos and chamber music pieces of the 1700s, present the extraordinary classical mandolinist Marilynn Mair front and center, and you have a rare combination of the right musicians performing the right music at the right time.” – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    • “Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita” — Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)

    • “Mair is unstoppable… capable of evoking any landscape, past or present, you’d care to conjure.” – Mike Caito, Providence Phoenix (USA)

    • “Marilynn Mair on mandolin…touches the deepest and most engaging reaches of the ancient and passionate ‘Latin soul’.” – Carlos Agudelo, Billboard Magazine

    • “A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…” – Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (USA)

    • “The final repeat of the melody transmitted a strong feeling of peace and tenderness that escaped no one in the audience. It is this sensitivity and subtleness that characterized the overall performance.” – Brian Hodel, Guitar Review (USA)

    • “A brilliant concert from beginning to end…The performance was extraordinary.” – La Rioja (Spain)

    • “A sparkling concert… absolutely brilliant!” – Guitar Magazine (England)

    • “Marilynn Mair acquits herself very well indeed, a most accomplished player, able to deal with the many intricacies the repertoire demands of her.” – Chris Kilvington, Classical Guitar (England)

    • “Marilynn Mair lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness.” – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)