theremin major

notes from me and my moog etherwave pro

Hands Off 2007. Day One. July 31, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenhammaker @ 11:16 pm

bushey station

Bushey, Herts.

I haven’t been out of the country since 2000. So what better reason to break this US-streak than to go to Hands Off 2007, A Theremin Symposium. The symposium was held in Bushey, Hertfordshire, about 45 minutes northwest of London. I figured out how to get there using busses and trains and eventually, my own two feet, which took me on a 20-minute walk through the lovely countryside, theremin in tow, to The Purcell School.

purcell closer
A real-live British boarding school, The Purcell School is “Britain’s oldest specialist school for gifted young musicians.”

I arrived at around 1:15pm and found that I was one of the first to arrive. I chatted with the few others that were there including the Symposium Officiant, Gordon, and watched a bit of magic from a fellow thereminist named Mark, including a trick where he transformed a normal fork into a mangled piece of art right before my eyes! By sheer mindpower! Mark not only goes to Theremin Symposiums, he also attends Magic Symposiums!

After helping thereminist and sound technician JD unload his sound equipment and greeting the others as they trickled in, I was shown to my room by Maya, Gordon’s wife, who also happens to be a superstar.

“It’s not unlike Hogwarts, in’it?!” AGREED.

Here’s a view from the lofted bed.

I always wanted to go to boarding school. I still wish I had gone to boarding school.


In the English Countryside!

All the private dorm rooms double as practice rooms, too. Some even had pianos! FUN!

After I got back downstairs, I was called upon to help Maya pick up some items from the store, namely alchohol. As we were leaving the Star Thereminists arrived. Lydia Kavina, Carolina Eyck, Barbara Buchholtz and Charlie Draper all carpooled. Adorable.

But Maya several new friends and I went to the Costco. That’s right, I said Costco. Now, I’ve never been to a Costco in the US, but I have been to a Sam’s club.

Not much difference, except for the general names of foods. My job was to look for Cheese Biscuits and Cocktail Sticks.

I didn’t find either.

We were there for a really long time.

Back at the School the attendies trickled in and got settled. I chatted with just about everyone, I think. My jetlag induced in me some kind of fearlessness enfused with giddiness and I found myself rather punch-drunk. Nerdy hilarity was flooding the building but we were all mutually aware of it.

“I recognize you from your mypace page!!”

“Are you ‘Hammy’ on”


I was pleasantly surprised that there were a fair number of my contemporaries there, all doing fascinating things with music and who shared my fascination and respece for the theremin: Coco, Tracy, Kevin, Robert, Christian and others. . .

I don’t think I’ve ever been so comfortable in a room full of complete strangers.

While we were mingling, the attendies were setting up all of their equipment. There were a number of faschinating instruments in the room as well as synths and effects the likes of which I have never seen. Thus began the sound of the Symposium.

Throughout the weekend, there was a constant drone of theremin in the background. So much that there were reports of waking up in the middle of the night to hear it still wailing on. Maybe someone was playing at 4am in the dorms, but it’s most likely that all of our ears had acclimated to our environment.

All meals were served in an adorable cafeteria. My fears of cafeteria-cliques faded as there was a consistent dinnertime mingling of thereminists. Only once did things get a little tense as I almost dropped my tray on Barbara Buchholz as I got up from my cafeteria bench. The disaster was averted, thankfully, and I avoided her for the rest of the evening.

After dinner, the magician Mark provided the entertainment in the form of a show during which he narrowly avoided impaling himself with a large nail. Later, announcements were made and there was a wine and beer party, providing a pleasant forground to the constant “woooooooooo” background. As things became winefuzzy, I remember daring Jon Bernhardt to stand on a table and turn a crank that we all supposed closed the curtains. Instead, it lowered a microphone. The curtains were then closed by a fellow named Robert, who found the way to the balcony and the curtain pulley. After that and another glass of wine, I made an embarrising but telling statement about how I found European thereminists to be INFINITELY less creepy than American thereminists. That’s just the way it is. Finally, I think we coined the term “Theremin Face” that evening. Everyone has one. I know this because I have photographs.