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History of the Orchestra

A photo dated ca. 1940s of Phil Skinner (far left) and his Neapolitan Orchestra.

The Sydney Mandolin Orchestra was founded by Phil Skinner in the early 1930s and is currently the oldest running mandolin orchestra in Australia. At its inception it was known as Phil Skinner’s Neapolitan Orchestra, which was later changed to The Sydney Mandolin Orchestra. In the early days the group also contained other plucked instruments such as banjos and Hawaiian guitars. Phil Skinner lead the orchestra for 53 years until 1985 after which the orchestra reformed as the North Sydney Mandolin Orchestra, before reverting back to The Sydney Mandolin Orchestra.

An excerpt from a short solo mandolin piece that Phil Skinner composed.

Since then, the orchestra has been under the leadership of a number of conductors including Charles Thackrah, Leo Zbierzchowski, Malcom Paix, Nikolai Sokolov, Bruce Menzies, Christopher Keane, Margery Smith, Darryl Rule, and is currently under the direction of Werner Ruecker.

The Sydney Mandolin Orchestra in 2013 under the direction of Christopher Keane (back row, wearing a blue tie).

Research about mandolin orchestras in Australia and specifically the West Australian Mandolin Orchestra (WAMO) has been collected and edited by Geoffrey Barber in a book describing the first 40 years of WAMO available here.

The Sydney Mandolin Orchestra in 2019 under the direction of Werner Ruecker (third from left, wearing black shirt).