The Louisville Mandolin Orchestra

By Joyce Trammell

The sound of the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra floats like a summer breeze through delicate lace curtains. Sometimes that sound is as playful as a kitten, sometimes as light as a dragonfly that skips across a placid lake and sometimes so melancholy that it hurts. Thanks to Mike Schroeder, this sound has returned to Louisville.

This town's present orchestra was started in April of 1988. But the Gay Nineties, according to an article that appeared in The Courier-Journal on Sunday, December 27, 1940, was the heyday of the Louisville Mandolin and Guitar Club. Josephine and Richard Potter in this article state that the "music and members were sought after. They traveled by steamboat, making appearances in the local opera houses where coal oil lamps served as footlights for their one-night stands." Most often the proceeds were donated to charity.

According to the Potters, the club "enjoyed unparalleled popularity for some six or seven years." James Whitcomb Riley recited at one of its performances.

"The club broke up as its varied personnel scattered far and wide. The co-managers, Aldoph Klauber and Richard Langan, went to New York, Klauber as an actor and Langan as drama critic for The New York Times. Morris Robinson became manager of the Waldorf-Astoria. Henry Burck played first violin in the Cleveland Symphony. Others joined various business enterprises."

Jim Bates, director of the present orchestra, says that his personnel includes university professors, an advertising executive, a librarian and high school students, among others.

Bates also stated that music was not hard to find. Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven, for example, all wrote for mandolin.

Mandolins, he says, correspond to other strings in an orchestra: mandolin/violin; mandola/viola; mandocello/cello.

The present mandolin orchestra consists of six firsts, six seconds, five mandolas, one mandocello, six guitars and one string bass.

Thanks to Mike Schroeder, Jim Bates and members of the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra for bringing back a sound that should never have been lost.

Their next performance will be held in the lobby of The Kentucky Center for the Arts on October 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for the benefit of The Kentucky Opera book sale.