The magic of an evening with Mandolin Orange

Americana folk duo Mandolin Orange played a virtual benefit concert via live stream on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook Sunday. With a range of featured instruments including the guitar and mandolin, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz reflected an eclectic modern and traditional bluegrass musical style.

The duo donated half of the evening’s contributions from fans to the Compass Center, a service center in Chapel Hill, N.C., that provides critical resources to people experiencing domestic violence. The cause follows the rise in domestic violence occurrences; an article from The New York Times pointed directly to a rise in calls to domestic violence hotlines with abuse reports as a result of the pandemic. 

After tuning instruments, Marlin and Frantz’s performance began with an older track “One More Down” from their 2010 album “Quiet Little Room.” Frantz played the guitar while Marlin was on the mandolin. While playing together, the duo displayed a unique sound that brought in elements of late 19th century American roots music typical of bluegrass and folk genres. Sitting behind a large glass window in their house, with rain pattering down in the background, Marlin and Frantz’s performance was intimate and warm.  

At the end of the song, Marlin noted how nice it was to play with no microphones. The two went on about the differences between live performance and virtual concerts. 

“[It] feels weird when the song ends and there’s no applause,” Frantz said. Seeing the tiny rainbow hearts coming in on the screen from fans on the virtual live show helped, she added. 

“The thing about playing a normal show is that we have to choose what instrument we’re going to play before we walk out on stage, actually before we leave for tour, and the dangerous thing about this scenario is that we can switch instruments at any time,” Frantz said. “I guess that’s fun though, right?” 

Throughout the night, the two traded smiles and sang harmoniously on some of their classic records. The harmony of the vocals between Frantz and Marlin was incredibly beautiful and touted their obvious musical connection as they played their iconic records such as the second selection of the night, “Old Ties and Companions.” 

When trying to decide Sunday night’s setlist, Mandolin Orange revealed that the two came up with a mixture of tunes from their past and present work, one of which they hadn’t played in a show in eight years. The song, “Lonely All the Time,” fit the present atmosphere as the country practices social distancing. With lyrics like “There was a time when I was able / To sit down at the table / With the ones that I love most in life / Now my days have grown so bitter / Lord knows they get no better / I’m so tired of being lonely all the time,” the duo encapsulated feelings of yearning and solitude. 

Frantz told viewers the group could hardly manage to get through a previous rehearsal without laughing because they kept thinking about the  song’s relevancy. 

When the duo began playing “Lonely All the Time,” comments on Instagram and YouTube flooded with support, showing love from all around the country, with people reminiscing on old memories, weddings and times spent with friends. One comment from a viewer on YouTube read, “Your music is making every day a little easier through all this.” 

Mandolin Orange’s song selection encompassed a range of emotions throughout the evening. Tones of longing, nostalgia and hopefulness filled the night. Most of the emotion that came from the duo had to do with the sentimental and reminiscent undertones of Marlin and Frantz’s songs as they shared their personal accounts and experiences in their lyrics. 

The duo also performed “Turtle Dove and the Crow,” which Marlin wrote for his father. During the selection, Frantz switched from guitar to the violin, adding a whole new layer to the duo’s performance as it echoed their vocals. The violin, often found in classical music, created a rich, deep, lyrical accent for this song in particular. 

Following “Turtle Dove and the Crow,” Mandolin Orange played “Hey Stranger,” “The Wolves,” “Lullaby,” one of their newest songs “Belly of the Beast” and “Take this Heart of Gold.” The performance ended on “Amsterdam,” with Mandolin Orange then thanking viewers and expressing hope in “seeing” them again soon with another virtual live performance. 

The live stream video of the concert is on Mandolin Orange’s YouTube channel.