I just wanted to let you know about some really exciting events I've got planned for next month to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the world's first electronic instrument; the theremin.
Invented by Russian physicist (and alleged spy) Léon Theremin around 1919, it is the only instrument that's performed without physical contact— without strings, frets, or keys, the player coaxes its haunting voice from out of thin air !
Owing to its remarkable novelty and the stirring performances of its first virtuoso Clara Rockmore, the theremin enjoyed wild success in the 1930s, but fell into obscurity thereafter. Relegated to the spookyorchestral scores of Hollywood's sci-fi films of the 1950s, it's thanks to the late electronic music pioneer Robert Moog that awareness of this unique instrument has slowly but steadily increased.
Today, a handful of talented musicians have continued to push its artistic and technical possibilities, including the wildly talented French virtuoso Grégoire Blanc, with whom I have the pleasure to share the stage for the ‹‹ Ether Weekend ›› events on August 23 and 24. In his first North American appearance, Grégoire joins me in giving workshops (all ages and levels), masterclasses (advanced level), and a concert of new chamber music for theremin, two violas, cello and piano that I've written for the occasion. Performances of my pieces aren't particularly rare, but this is the first time an entire concert programme is dedicated exclusively to my music, and Grégoire is one of very few people on earth who could even attempt to tackle the repertoire.
I do hope you'll be able to attend !
⚡️ Introductory Workshops (open to all ages/levels) ⚡️
Held at the prestigious Schulich School of Music at McGill University (in room C-304), the workshops for children and adult beginners (no musical experience required !) will introduce this unique and seemingly magical musical instrument, its history, and technique in small groups. Exploring science, music and movement, the theremin workshops are sure to spark the imagination— whether you are young, or simply young at heart !
° Instruments will be provided for each participant (BYO headphones)
° Duration is 60 minutes and taught in both English & French
° Each workshop is limited to 10 students
° 40$ per participant
⚡️ Masterclass ⚡️
A masterclass for intermediate and advanced level students will give each participant the opportunity to perform a short prepared work with piano accompaniment (provide) and receive helpful feedback from the instructors.
° Students must bring their own instrument
° Duration is 120 minutes in total and taught in both English & French
° Masterclass is limited to 6 students 60$ per participant
⚡️ About the Instructors ⚡️
French thereminist Grégoire Blanc is widely considered among the best theremin players in the world today, with frequent invitations across Europe and Central Asia accompanied by orchestras, chamber ensembles and pianists.
Read more at gregoireblanc.com
Aleks Schürmer has over 19 years of teaching experience, maintaining a large studio of mixed-level students on theremin, flute, piano, composition, and productions. On theremin, he has been a soloist with the Orchestre de la francophonie, has appeared in concert and on television with Klô Pelgag and recorded for Cirque de Soleil virtual reality projects.
Read more at aleksschurmer.com
⚡️ Concert ⚡️
In his first North American appearance, Grégoire Blanc performs new chamber music for theremin, strings and piano by Montréal composer Aleks Schürmer with the ensemble Hadron.
The title ‹‹ À ses pas, entrant dans la boue ›› takes its inspiration from the iconic words of Neil Armstrong, but with a decidedly less optimistic tone. Reflecting on the 21st-century's grim 24-hour news cycle, the unnecessary reboots of fascism, populism and nationalism, and the Atomic clock's hands ever advancing towards midnight, ‹‹ À ses pas ›› is both gravely serious and tongue-in-cheek. With an introduction by author Sean Michaels (Giller Prize recipient for his novel, Us Conductors).
"[Schürmer's works] are major discoveries. It is very rare to run across pieces of music on this sort of collection that strike the same emotional chords you normally experience when listening to your choice of favorite "greats", but this was exactly my response on first hearing" —American Record Guide
Special thanks to the Schulich School of Music at McGill University and the Bob Moog Foundation.
Hadron is a chamber group of variable geometry founded in 2009. Named after the world’s largest and most complex particle accelerator, the Hadron ensemble thrusts together different historical periods, instruments, genres and disciplines in search of the unknown. Like the byproducts of the particle accelerator’s high-energy collisions, Hadron’s performances are ephemeral and aim to answer fundamental questions about the nature of historical performance practice. Hadron’s collaborators come from multidisciplinary backgrounds, equally at home on period instrument performance, contemporary classical performance, improvisation, electronic music and pop music.
Grégoire Blanc, theremin
Aleks Schürmer, piano Jennifer Thiessen, viola Pemi Paull, viola scordatura Kyran Riccardo Chin-Assing, violoncello scordatura