Mandolin Music

Candour, Goodness and Solitude

Among her domestic pastimes, we find her devoted at an early age to music, an art that reflected her own style of relating to others, overflowing with innocence. In addition to mastering the piano with ease, she was also fond of the mandolin. Her delicate fingers glided gracefully over the stringed instrument with its mother-of-pearl inlay, a gift from her father which she lovingly cherished for all of her 92 years. (Dona Lucilia p.82)

The Mandolin Concerto in C major, RV 425, Antonio Vivaldi - 1725

The pieces performed by the mandolin are imbued with a poetic spirit, filled with candour and goodness, but often misunderstood, and even rejected. Nevertheless, this isolation imparts a special beauty to the timbre of this instrument.

How many ideas, inspirations, sentiments and memories well up in our soul when we hear a melody performed, preferably by well-tuned instruments! This is because music is able to transport us to realities far superior to those seen with our eyes. It elevates our soul and draws us closer to the supernatural realm. In short, it transmits something of God Himself.

Some compositions, such as Gregorian chant, denote seriousness and a balanced spirit, others seem to impart consolation amid isolation and abandonment; still others open our minds to magnificent horizons and sublime panoramas… The world of harmony is so vast that it is impossible to describe it in words, for it speaks more to sensibility than to reason. Through music, souls perceive, smell, breathe and taste the intangible qualities of higher realities.

When spoken language falls short to transmit sentiments, the spirit begins to sing! How beautiful it would be to hear the melody of a soul at the peak of joy! How poignant and sorrowful to hear one absorbed in a Calvary of trials and desolation!

Popular piety tells us that the Angels and Saints sing in Heaven because words do not suffice to praise God and His Blessed Mother and to express the delight of heavenly society!

But the human need to express musically what is in the heart is such that voices are often not enough… and this is where instruments come in. Each one has its own “personality,” its timbre and traits.

Each seems to convey a particular state of spirit. For example the trumpet is strong and majestic, appropriate to a royal court; nobility and delicacy combine wonderfully in the violin; the the flute displays subtlety and refinement; and so on.

Now, let us take a simple modest instrument that often goes unnoticed even by music lovers. It is the mandolin. A sort of “mini guitar,” as benign as a dew drop, it also has its own characteristics – we could even say its own “little way”…

The pieces normally played on this instrument are imbued with poetry, turned toward the marvellous, replete with candour and goodness, but misunderstood and at times even rejected. Nevertheless, this isolation imparts to it a special beauty. Its sound is so subdued and mild that, if played with strong instruments, it goes almost unnoticed, but it still does not fail to mark the ensemble with its distinctive tone. 

The same could be said of misunderstood souls who are rejected by the world and even by those closest to them, for being faithful to God. They gradually form a reservoir of candour and goodness, contagious to those who approach them in a manner open to their influence.

If a mandolin could say – or better yet, sing – what it holds in its “soul”, it would describe itself as one who feels the pain of rejection, but who overflows with affection for others. “My timbre,” it would say, “is a reflection of souls who harmonize candour and goodness with the suffering that comes from solitude.”

Article by Sr. Giovanna Wolf, EP – Heralds of the Gospel Magazine, April, 2018.

⚜️ Why not take a few minutes to think about your home and family — choose one little musical “detail” to enhance this week, e.g. play a beautiful Vivaldi concerto, like the one with mandolin above, during the evening while you read, talk or enjoy a cup of tea together: just a little something that could elevate your home/family one step closer to being “truly Catholic” — an oasis of serenity and beauty…

Over the the coming months will be posting articles, ideas and practical resources to help families. If you would like to share something please email:

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