Marilynn on Mandolin #9 March/April 2005


Brazil… where to start? The trip was incredible, busy, exotic, full of music, putting lots of faces to names from emails and CDs. But it was also so easy, comfortable, and welcoming, that, surprisingly, I felt I could have stepped right out of my life here and made this bright new world my home.

Everything good that happened was made possible by Paulo Sa, my friend, colleague, and bandolimist with the Rio Trio. I would never have discovered choro in Rio without him. He figured out how I could do everything I wanted and more besides, and everything was wonderful. It was hard to leave and come back to my familiar over-busy double- booked life and watch my daily routine inevitably overwrite the brilliance of Rio. But three weeks later I am more sanguine, cherish the memories, wonder at the intensity of the experience, and realize that I will find a way to return. This month I’ll put a photo journal on the website. But until then, here are some highlights for those of you who have asked how it all was. Briefly, a Top-10:

1. Performing with the Rio Trio in the Palacio de Cristal, built in Paris in the 19th century, shipped to Rio and assembled as a present for PrincessIsabela. We played choro, mostly new ones for me, and music by my friends Will Ayton and Luiz Simas. We put the program together quickly and well, and I got to play a duet with each of the three – Paulo on bandolim, Marcus Ferrer, guitar, and Henrique Drach, cello – in addition to our quartets. The audience loved it all: choro, Baroque, contemporary, and gave us a standing ovation. To play Brazilian music in Brazil with Brazilian musicians for a Brazilian audience, and to succeed so completely – well, it was a highlight of my life so far.

2. Spending 7 hours with Joel Nascimento – one of the greatest Brazilian bandolimists for the past 40 years, a student of the legendary Jacob, and a longtime musical hero of mine – at his house, listening to him play, playing for and with him, listening to CDs, talking – somehow through language barriers – about music, his career, getting pointers on how to make my playing more Brazilian by making it more personal – a startling and very freeing concept, meeting his family, and trading CDs, his signed “Para a Marilynn, elustre companiera dos cordasnova amiga, um abraco.”

3. Attending 3 different roda da choro – weekly sessions – one on Sunday hosted by bandolimist Bruno Rian’s group Sarau; one on Tuesday at Bip Bip – an informal whoever-shows-up jam; and one on Saturday, held weekly for 17 years at an open-air market. All were different, cool, alive with a panoply of performing styles, guests sitting in who were famous stars or aspiring students. Especially cool was hearing Deo Rian (bandolim contemporary of Joel & another hero) and Luiz Otavio Braga (7-string guitarist extraordinaire) playing a duet, and meeting everybody (thank you, Paulo!), and having Deo dedicate the first song of his set to me, in a long and elegant speech.

4. Going to UniRio at the invitation of Luiz Otavio on the first day of classes for the academic year. Meeting Silvio Mehry, the Director of the Villa-LobosInstitute, getting a tour from Luiz Otavio, meeting other professors, discussing research, teaching, collaborations that will soon get me back to Rio. Returning there at the end of the week to see the first session of the 9-5 weekly Saturday choro school and, amid 600 students and teachers, running into the one person there who I had met, 7-string teacher Rick Ventura, who took the time to find and introduce me to Luciana Rabello, Mauricio Carrilho, and Anna Paes, of Acari Records.

5. Going to the National Library, meeting Suzana Martins, who helped me with my online choro research in 1999, getting an overview of their immense holdings, and copies of some early band arrangements of choro to rearrange for my group, Enigmatica.

6. Staying for part of the visit in a hotel in Copacabana, 2 blocks from the beach, with fresh papaya for breakfast, and sunny 90+ degree days. Walking in the sand with no problems to solve.

7. Giving a class in “classical mandolin technique for the chorista” to Paulo’s excellent and enthusiastic students, one of whom rode the bus 8 hours each way to get there. Discussing technical style differences with Paulo, and playing our baroque duo from the concert to end the class.

8. Staying with Marcus, his wife Mirtes and daughter Gabriele for a couple days, and going with them to a “hype” (hippie) party in a beautiful mansion commune, to hear Messias, a musician down from the north who plays and sings a kind of Brazilian blues on a 10-string viola caipira. He’s a gallant grey-bearded man who I chat to, as we all hang in the sun drinking capirinhas. When the music starts he dedicates a song to me & asks me to play. So Marcus and I play a couple of choro and I noodle around happily for a few tunes in the session. A beautiful sunny day, and a definite 60’s California vibe.

9. Eating feijoada and bananada and drinking graviola juice at the house of Henrique & his wife Patricia. Meeting Psulo’s wife and daughter and hanging out at an after-concert party. Walking around Rio w/ Henrique, after his symphony rehearsals, learning the history of the neighborhoods, and how to navigate the subway. Going shopping for CDs & music books with Paulo – astonishing how many choices there were.

10. Going to the Museu do Indio, eating dinner on the beach, figuring out how to use the public telephones, wandering the streets where one would occasionally pass a deeply-tanned middle-aged man wearing only a black Speedo, flip-flops, and sunglasses, and attracting no attention in the crowd of more conventionally dressed people. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto…”

It was an incredible 10 days.


The application is online and the guest artists – Barry Mitterhof (mandolin) and duo-partner, Joe Selly (guitar) – are confirmed. There will also be concerts by Enigmatica, the fabulous faculty, other guests, and me, of course. And Friday night we’re having a 20th anniversary bash, with eating, drinking, dancing, and the music of Joe Blumenthal’s Klezamir. Don’t delay your application, because we’ve had a lot of inquiries this year and we’re still limiting enrollment to 50, to ensure you’ll get the full undiluted AMGuSS experience.


Check later this month for the Brazil blog. And If you’ve missed any previous issues of the newsletter, they’re all archived on the site as well.


My Mandolin Magazine column, “A Classical Approach,” will be out soon, and this month I begin a several-issue exploration of the style periods of music history, starting with with “A Dance for Renaissance Consort,” featuring a Michael Praetorius dance I’ve arranged for 4 mandolins.


Well, it doesn’t exactly correlate, but I’m excited to announce the brand new Marilynn Mair Mandocard on Mandozine. How cool is that! Big thanks to John Baxter! Check out the rest of his great site while you’re there.


I’d love to hear from you. If you know anyone who would like to get this update, have them send me their email. And thanks for reading!

The next issue of “MARILYNN ON MANDOLIN” will be out in May 2005. Until then, enjoy the flowers and lack of snow (fingers crossed on that one) and boldly begin your mando batting practice in anticipation of a great season.


Posted April 28th, 2005. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • 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)

    “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)

    “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)

    “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)

    “Mair travels by mandolin to Brazil and brilliance… her commitment to the music shines through.”

    – Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal

    “Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita”

    — Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)

    “A sparkling concert… absolutely brilliant!”

    – Guitar Magazine (England)

    “She’s a fabulous player with a wonderfully clear and lyrical sound.”

    – The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

    “A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…”

    – Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (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)

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

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

    “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

    “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)

    “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 lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness.”

    – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)