Playing what’s in their heart, the Mandolin Orchestra of Niagara (MOON) stretches the limits of mandolin sound and technique.

Sylvia Hlywka Brabson, a leader in bringing the sound to the region, has conducted the orchestra and choir since its inception in 1996.

“I was a pianist in another group before switching over to the mandolin and I instantly fell in love,” Hlywka Brabson said.

“The variety of sounds we create makes for a perfect environment.”

The dominant sound of the orchestra is the mandolin and the mandolin family of instruments complemented by piano, guitar, percussion, and bass viol.

Special effects are added by an eclectic group of other instruments including violin, clarinet, flute, accordion, bandura, Celtic whistle, banjo, tuba, flugel horn, and even bagpipes.

All the bells and whistles have made the group a must-see concert. With previous shows featuring the themes of the Beatles and colours, Hlywka Brabson turned  this year’s concert series into a trip around the world featuring a variety of sounds, played on the often unknown instrument.

Each style of mandolin offers its own sound quality and is associated with particular forms of music, allowing the orchestra to be creative when producing a concert.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years now and have gathered a nice following. At the same time, we still meet a lot of people who have never heard of us,” Hlywka Brabson said.

The group – with members from Pelham, Welland, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls – won the 2011 Niagara Music Awards World Group of the Year but face the same challenges as some of the other performers in Niagara.

“The majority of the members are seniors who are extremely talented musicians. While we take playing seriously, we’re always looking for fresh faces to join the orchestra.”

Those interested in the mandolin can experience MOON at the Mandeville Theatre in Ridley College on Oct. 5.

They will performing Music Without Borders on Oct. 15 at the Welland Wellness Centre. Visit for more information.