The Mandolin in Madeira, Portugal : with Norberto Gonçalves Da Cruz
He was born in Caracas (Venezuela) in the year 1979 of Portuguese origin. He began studying the mandolin as a child with his grandfather Jorge Gonçalves and later with prof. Virgílio Caldeira. It was shown for the first time at 9 years for RTP Madeira (portughese television) in the program "Sábado ao Vivo". In Portugal he collaborated at the age of 18, as soloist, with the Orquestra Clássica da Madeira under the direction of conductor Roberto Alejandro Perez, performing "O Verão" by A. Vivaldi, gaining success by the public. Exposing the full potential of the mandolin as a higher level instrument, he also collaborated with other chamber formations with repertoire proposals from the Baroque period, classical and romantic and projects with names of the Madeiran world music, for which he recorded several Cd's released on television and radio .
In 1999, at age 19, considered one of the most promising Portuguese virtuosos of the classical mandolin, he won a scholarship from RAM to study in Italy.
He has performed as a soloist throughout Italy and in several countries such as Austria, Spain, Bulgaria and Estonia, collaborating with various orchestras and chamber ensembles.
During his career in Italy, he regularly collaborated with important symphonic institutions such as the Teatro Alla Scala, La Fenice Theater in Venice, Teatro Massimo in Palermo where he was under the direction of great maestros such as Riccardo Muti and Mstislav Rostropovich.
As a soloist, he collaborated with different Italian composers, either on exhibitions or for recordings of music for films such as Luciano Bellini, Carlo Crivelli, Nicola Piovani and Roma Sinfonietta with Ennio Morricone and he participated in several television and radio programs such as RAIUNO, Sat 2000, Vatican Radio.
He founded together with Emanuele Buzi and Valdimiro Buzi the "Quintetto a plettro Giuseppe Anedda". Today, the Quintet, in its format, is one of the most recognized in the mandolinistic panorama and was exhibited in the "Cappella Paolina" of the Quirinal, palace of the Italian Republic in Rome. The concert was broadcast live on Radio 3 and was often replaced by Filodifussione Rai.
He completed his degree in mandolin in 2006, with a maximum grade and honorable mention, at the Conservatory Alfredo Casella of l'Aquila where he studied with one of the most important bandolinists in the world, Dorina Frati.
Since 2008 he has been artistic director of the Association of Bandolins of Madeira (ABM), through which he has promoted, under his direction, three stages of mandolin orchestra, comprising more than 70 musicians, directing as conductor from 2008 to 2010.
In 2016 organizes the 1st International Mandolin Festival of Madeira.
He is a Master in Class of ensemble and Music Formation by ESART and Specialist Professor by the Polytechnic of Setubal.
He is currently a mandolin teacher at the Madeira Conservatory School of Arts and President of the Madeira Mandolin Association.
Hello Norberto, you live in Madeira (Portugal) and in your beautiful Island there’s an incredible concentration of mandolin players.
How you can explain that?
Madeira holds its mandolin tradition from more than a century.
I believe that one of main reasons is because it’s an island (in the North Atlantic, 978 km southwest of Lisbon and 700 km west from the north African coast) and for many years, was isolated from new technologies and musical influences, like radio (Esteireiro P. 2010). At that time only a certain group of people from higher classes had this available, specially in the first half of the XX century, which helped to preserve the interest in a great number of concerts and music production on the island, throughout the century.
From this reality, we produced over time hundreds of compositions and arrangements for mandolin orchestras, mandolin was teached from generation to generation, new instruments from local luthiers and also orchestras and ensembles were born, like the Septeto Passos Freitas, as a highlight for this period, that in 1928/29 was invited for several recordings for the prestigious english label "His Master's Voice" resulting for a tournée in Paris and London.
In Madeira this was very high regarded and helped even more to establish this instrument on the island music culture for all the classes.
This tradition background, and a fact that this instrument represents an excellent pedagogic application for children in musical groups, helped to maintain and preserve a great diversity of players, orchestras and music scores until today.
From where and when mandolin arrived in Madeira?
It's believed that it arrived in the late nineteen century from the academic environment.
This period is considered a golden age for mandolin diffusion in Europe and ensembles that included not just mandolins, but also other instruments like violins, guitars, etc. This movement originated musical groups called "Tunas" and they became very popular.
The first one was the Tuna Academica from the University of Coimbra, and afterwards ensembles like this, with mandolins, started to appear in Madeira in the late XIX century. After that time we already talked about it, but of course there are much more interesting facts and thoughts from many musicologists that could be added to a further conversation and investigation on how Madeira's mandolin story can have similarities and connections and which role this culture has in the history of the mandolin globalization.
At the moment, how many mandolin orchestras, ensembles and mandolin players are in activity?
We have many local institutions working right know and we believe that it can grow more in the future, here´s some of the most known:
Madeira Mandolin Orchestra, Camacha Mandolin Orchestra, DSEAM Mandolin Orchestra, Camara de Lobos Mandolin Orchestra, Tuna "Amadis" Gaula Mandolin Orchestra, Ribeirabravense Mandolin Orchestra, Machico TCM Mandolin Orchestra, Ponta do Sol Mandolin Orquestra, Tunacedros Ensemble, São Roque do Faial Mandolin Orchestra, and many others that are currently rather renewing themselfs or being born. For example, you have orchestras that were named more than a century ago, but in the last year two new groups were born for the first time, one in Serra de Agua with a wonderful new orchestra and in a region called Curral das Freiras, a new born orchestra with 25 students, whit a remarkable work from many people, specially artistic directors and teachers that I really invite the international mandolin community to get to know them, their work is amazing.
Where we can learn this instrument in Madeira?
you can learn the instrument in many different context, students can find mandolin lessons in schools (not as many as I would honestly like), in the orchestras and ensembles where it’s teached for their own artistic purposes. The Madeira Conservatory of Music and Arts has a certified mandolin course, with professional formation and certification.
The most important thing, is that all these different realities are covered by protocols and partnerships between institutions, for students mobility, so they can have all options opened for the future, have access to information and references, gain consciousness of the mandolin culture reality and how they can contribute to make the local projects even better, with a open prospective. We truly hope that this will help to have more future professional madeiran mandolinists, proactive in the global mandolin music industry.
What is your personal mandolin story? when you started to play mandolin and what is, until now, your mandolin way?
I’ve started to play the mandolin as an infant at home, with my grandfather Jorge Gonçalves, a great mandolin lover who also grow up knowing mandolin music and always tried to research and talk to musicians for what he could learn, just for the simple love of the instrument.
The memory of seeing him at home, next to his bed, with his mandolin and with his scores that he gathered through his life, playing in a real state of happiness is one of the most beautiful memories that i have as a child.
After some time, when I was nine year’s old I was introduced to a mandolin orchestra (DSEAM), my grandfather took me to classes, where I started to have lessons with Professor Virgilio, a violinist who played also the mandolin, who was the maestro of the group.
This was when I got to know the classical music, specially composers like Vivaldi, I simply fell in love with music.
Very soon I understood that this is what I wanted to do for my life and the more my mandolin skills were increasing the more I wanted to make it a profession for myself. The problem was that in those days we where very isolated, we didn't have access to information about the mandolin world and courses.
Google didn't exist yet, so it really took some time to hear about mandolin courses in Italy, where I afterwards started to study with Dorina Frati.
Thanks to her I was able to become a mandolin concert artist, having the opportunity to play in important concert halls like the Teatro all Scala for many years, with great directors and musicians and to be part of the Quintetto Anedda together with Emanuele and Vladimiro Buzi, grandsons of Giuseppe Anedda.
To get there in the beginning, was really difficult and I had to work really hard to make it happen but fortunately, I achieved this gold and started to make a beautiful career and became the first Portuguese to get a degree in mandolin, after having studied in an Italian conservatory.
I felt that the mandolin connection between my home and the world was reestablish, the bridge was made again.
Since that, it was possible to open the first mandolin course in the Music Conservatory in Madeira, where I teach today.
We made a working team that I’m leading, the Madeira Mandolin Association, so the Madeira can be forever connected to the mandolin international panorama, that it deserves. For that we have created the Madeira Mandolin Festival, already in it’s third edition, where artist like Dorina Frati, Hamilton de Holanda, Mike Marshall, Edu Miranda, Caterina Lichtenberg, Emanuele Buzi participated and got to know the big mandolin community that happens here.
When they saw mandolin players from 6 to 90 year old they where amazed. It means the world to me to see this such an important cultural meeting.
About my grandfather Jorge, he is 86 year old now, he still plays his mandolin next to his bed.
There’s one mandolin CD that you love more then others or one who changed your mandolin vision?
Hard to tell, for me, one of the most significant characteristics of the mandolin musical language is it's wonderful diversity, from the Brazilian choro, samba and jazz, you go from Hamilton de Holanda work to European classical music with Dorina Frati and Giuseppe Anedda, from America's folk music you have Chris Thyle and Mike Marshall to the the incredible Japanese Orchestras; I can´t decide for one.
Mandolin culture is a culture that gathers many, that's what I love the most and that's the focus of our local work so we can put the Portuguese identity in the mandolin culture, and madeiran for its exponency in this worldwide connection.
If you had to choose a word that represents or defines the mandolin, which would it be ?