Aurora Mandolin Ensemble fills Sunnyside Conservatory with eclectic music

The Aurora Mandolin Ensemble. Conductor Josephine Pelligrini is seated on the left of the sign. Photo by Michael Waldstein

By Bonnee Waldstein, Glen Park News

When was the last time anyone heard someone sing the lyric “When the moon hits your eye like a bigga pizza pie — that’s amore!” ??

Those who came to the Sunnyside Conservatory on Friday evening can lay claim to hearing that bit of musical nostalgia, and to taking part in the sing-along finale, led by vocalist Bob Rizzetto. Prior to that, however, the ensemble performed a varied selection of standards from around the globe, including Italy, Spain, and Russia, plus show tunes, opera and contemporary selections.

Bob Rizzetto wraps it up with a rendition of "That's Amore!" Photo by Michael Waldstein

The original Aurora Mandolin orchestra was founded in 1936 and revived by Gino Pellegrini in 1970, after its near death in the forties and fifties. The orchestra has up to thirty professional and amateur musicians and is based on a symphonic string orchestra.

Gino taught the instrument to his wife, Josephine, after they married in 1994.

With Gino’s passing, Josephine took up the conductor’s mantle and travels the Bay Area introducing folks to the wonders of the music from this plucky instrument.  On this night, the small ensemble of players consisted of three mandolins, a mandocello, mandola, guitar and flute.

The mandolin is part of the lute family and originated in Italy in the 1600s with six pairs of gut strings. It is round or teardrop-shaped.  The modern instrument dates to the 1800s and has four pairs of metal strings.

The mandola, which means little violin, is a precursor to the mandolin and is to the mandolin what the viola is to the violin.  The mandocello is also larger than the mandolin and is to the mandolin what the cello is to the violin.  (For more detailed explanation see our friend Wikipedia.)

At any rate, it all sounded magical together, especially with the added benefit of the splendid acoustics of the conservatory, its beautiful space, and generous goodies at intermission.  Admission was pretty much up to you, ranging from free, to donation, to ten dollars for a ticket in advance — which is par for the cultural events at the conservatory.

In between selections, Josephine Pellegrini gave the audience tidbits of mandolin lore in her NewYawk/Lon G’Island accent.

The next musical event will probably be in the summer, when the Temescal Quartet will have its second performance at Sunnyside Conservatory.


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