Europe's Oldest and Youngest Mandolin Orchestra
Europe's Oldest and Youngest Mandolin Orchestra
Europe's Oldest and Youngest Mandolin Orchestra

The Madeira Mandolin Orchestra (MMO)® was founded on February 18, 1913 in the parish of São Roque (Funchal).

Composed of 30 musicians, aged 13 to 46, the Orchestra is recognized as the oldest and youngest Mandolin Orchestra in Europe due to its founding age and the ages of its performers. A distinction of relevance in a region of excellence within the European community.

Annually, the Orchestra performs about forty concerts distributed in the main show halls of Madeira. The concerts are included in the classical music programs of the weekly and special concerts, which have been developed for the last 25 years. Currently, the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra® has performed about 500 concerts, both nationally and internationally.

Belonging to the local association Recreio Musical União da Mocidade, its foundation aimed to engage and captivate local youth for a cultural and musical project. In its centuries-old history, the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra® has gone through two important stages.

The first stage occurred in the mid-1920s, during the time when Ernesto Serrão was the conductor. Ernesto Baptista Serrão, a career military man, also worked as a musician and composer. It was recognized, with all merit, the work he developed in the area of ​​Madeira’s music, producing about one hundred musical works and over three hundred arrangements. His spontaneous, bohemian, romantic character and his troubadour spirit regained common ground with Wagner, one of his idols.

Indeed, it was Ernesto Serrão’s commitment and creativity that contributed to the origin of the new musical compositions and were being spread by the sound of the mandolins. With Ernesto Serrão, the performers of the Tuna do Recreio Musical União da Mocidade, as it was known at the time, stopped playing by ear to start playing by music sheet, following the lessons of solfeggio that he teached.

The second stage took place from the 1970s when the Tuna resurged after a few years of inactivity. This resurgence had two relevant names: conductor Elmano Gomes (between 1978 and 1980) and conductor João Eurico Martins (from 1989).

Both played a major role in the development of allowing the acceptance of female elements, the focus on training through music schools and the internationalization. However, it was with the conductor Eurico Martins that two of these goals were pushed to the highest level and resulted in an enviable reputation of the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra®.

The two areas that made tremendous progress under the conduction of Eurico Martins were: the school, through the free lessons of mandolin and guitar, which became the solid basis for a continuous renewal and evolution of the Orchestra, thus improving the quality and the dynamics of it; and the internationalization, which culminated in the need to disseminate the work developed in Madeira and, whenever possible, to bring this work to national and international stages.

The first international trip took place in 1994, through the participation in the V International Festival of Orchestras “FRANCISCO TÁRREGA” in Valencia (Spain). Also noteworthy are the two tours in England in 2002 and 2009, that included concerts in places like The Playhouse Theater (Weston Super Mare), Wells Cathedral (Wells), Salisbury Cathedral (Salibury), Portsmouth Cathedral (Portsmouth), St. Georges Chapel (Windsor) , at St. Paul’s Church (London), Petersfield and Liss United Reformed Church, at Holy Trinity Huddersfield (Huddersfield), at The Grand Venue (Clitheroe), The Brangwyn (Swansea), Lichfield Garrick (Lichfield), The Forum (Bath) and St. George’s Church (Bristol). In addition to these, trips were also made to Austria and France.

Amongst the Portuguese territory, the stand out are: in 2005, in the commemorations of the 500 Years of the Jerónimos Monastery (Lisbon); in 2009, at the “Festival ao Largo” of the São Carlos National Theater (Lisbon) with the participation of maestro/composer Jorge Salgueiro and the tenor Carlos Guilherme (the Orchestra’s great friend); and in 2011 at the celebration of the 30 years of career of tenor Carlos Guilherme at the Cultural Centre of Belém (Lisbon).

More recently, in 2018, the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra® participated in the “Tasting Madeira”, an event at the European Parliament (Brussels).

In the curriculum of the Madeira Mandolin Orchestra®, we can highlight the various special performances of renowned singers and conductors in the concerts, a practice still in use today and that the Orchestra values. Indeed, the Orchestra proved to be a formation that allowed to show some of the new talents of Madeira Island.

Besides the Portuguese tenor Carlos Guilherme, a friend of the Orchestra, we can also highlight names such as the soprano Elizabete Matos, the conductor João Paulo Santos, the soprano Cláudia Sousa, the baritone João Merino, the fado singer António Pinto Basto, the singer Diana Quintal, the soprano Cláudia Sardinha, the conductor Armando Vidal, the singer Telmo Miranda, the singer Micaela Abreu, the singer Vânia Fernandes and the singer Madalena Vieira.

The Madeira Mandolin Orchestra® has already edited 5 CDs, 2 DVDs and 1 Book with CD and has two awards: from the Regional Government of Madeira, the Gold Medal, and from the Portuguese Republic Presidency, the title of Honorary Member of the Order of Merit.

Eurico Martins was ahead of the Orchestra’s destiny until 2014, the year of his death. During the years that was the Conductor of this formation, showed dedication and perseverance in the achievement of objectives in favor of “his” Orchestra.

The conditions for the continuity of his legacy had been created and, as happened when the passage from Elmano Gomes to Eurico Martins, the same happened when the Orchestra began to be lead by the new generation, a generation marked by João André Martins, Eurico Martins’s son, thus allowing a new story to be built.

For the Good of Art

A Bem da Arte