Nov. 8—The Tahlequah Mandophonics brought music and merriment to the Tahlequah Public Library on Nov. 3.

Ensemble co-founder Maxwell McCullough said the group has been together since 2012.

“I play all of the stringed instruments we have in the ensemble, but my part is the mandocello,” said McCullough.

McCullough said he’s been playing the that instrument since the folk music boom of the 1960s.

“My late wife, Francie Fite, and I had played with one of America’s oldest mandolin orchestras back in Virginia before we moved to Tahlequah, and we thought such an ensemble would fit in well with the rich musical scene here in Tahlequah,” said McCullough. “The initial challenge was finding musicians who could read mandolin and guitar music, but the music department at [Northeastern State University] proved to be very helpful in that regard.”

Thursday night’s performance featured oldies, as well as newer songs. McCullough explained how the group chooses what it performs.

“We’re patterned after the traditional mandolin orchestras that were popular in the early 1900s, and we can do full concerts with that material, but we’ve learned that our audiences really enjoy the music they grew up with and relate to generationally, so we pick pieces we think stand out from the second half of the 1900s that we think will ‘click’ with those memories,” he said. “Variety is important in keeping the audience engaged, and in intimate settings such as the library, a few sing-alongs help make the audience a part of what we’re doing.”

The Tahlequah Mandophonics’ next performance is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. at First Methodist Church in Tahlequah.

“We’ll play as a part of the ‘Hello, Holidays!’ program sponsored by the Arts Council of Tahlequah, which has been an annual favorite of ours since we started,” said McCullough. “The program will be totally different from last week’s, but will again feature a number of soloists and get the audience involved in kicking off 2022’s holiday season. Several other very talented groups will also participate in afternoon’s festivities.”

The Tahlequah Mandophonics currently consists of First Mandolin Farren Mayfield, Second Mandolin Tim Grear, Second Mandolin Jean Whelchel, Mandola and Octave Mandolin Neal Whittle, Mandocello and Guitar Max McCullough, Bass Micah Rodriguez, Flute and Vocals Sarah Thompson, Vocals and Percussion Sarah Whittle, and Guest Artist Joseph Nagle.

Thompson has been playing the flute for about 16 years.

“It was lovely to see the community coming out to support and enjoy,” said Thompson. “I had a great time, and based on the reviews afterward, people really liked it. The library staff are so nice.”

Mayfield, who has been playing the mandolin for around 12 years, said Thursday night’s performance was a lot of fun and had a wonderfully receptive audience.

Library Clerk John Dick said TPL is working on picking back up its live music events.

“Local talent is was we’re focused on,” said Dick. “Cherokee [Lowe] wants to focus on all different types.”

TPL’s next live performance, he said, will be from the Cherokee National Youth Choir.

McCullough hopes other artists join TPL’s concert series.

“I thought it went very well; the intimate setting at the library is a great way to really share music and engage with the audience, not just play it, and we salute the library staff for starting this concert series and showcasing it,” said McCullough.” We hope we’ll be invited back because it’s what we really enjoy doing, and we encourage other local musicians to support the project.”