When the band Leaf Rapids appears at the Make Poverty History Manitoba fundraiser (March 16, at the West End Cultural Centre), you’ll have the rare treat of seeing and hearing a theremin.

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This article was published 10/3/2017 (1776 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When the band Leaf Rapids appears at the Make Poverty History Manitoba fundraiser (March 16, at the West End Cultural Centre), you’ll have the rare treat of seeing and hearing a theremin.

There are few thereminists anywhere. Not only does Winnipeg boast one in Keri Latimer (also a Juno award winner with the band, Nathan), but she’s a versatile virtuoso of this earliest, most challenging, electronic instrument.

Keri Latimer will play the sweet, eerie theremin March 16 at the Make Poverty History Manitoba fundraiser at the West End Cultural Centre.

PHOTO BY DAVID FIRMAN

Keri Latimer will play the sweet, eerie theremin March 16 at the Make Poverty History Manitoba fundraiser at the West End Cultural Centre.

The theremin — which resembles an antenna-sporting box with legs — is a touchless instrument. Music is seemingly drawn from thin air by the player’s floating hands, which command pitch and volume by disturbing an electronic field.

The plaintive sound has been called ghostly, voice-like (operatic) and, by music critic Harold C. Schonberg, like a "cello lost in a dense fog and crying because it does not know how to get home."

In the folksy group Leaf Rapids, Latimer layers the theremin, through a looping pedal, with her singing and guitar. "It has a spacey roots kind of sound," she says. 

Last month, she appeared as theremin soloist with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Fazil Say’s Mesopotamia Symphony, the finale of the weeklong 2017 Winnipeg New Music Festival. The prominently-featured theremin concluded the rousing 55-minute symphony as an angel’s voice.

The next morning, Latimer performed with her theremin at the post-festival, 12-hour drone event, held in a floor hockey arena near the Concert Hall. Drone is minimalist music, characterized by sustained or repeated sounds with little harmonic variation.

"Those two performances were complete opposites of my theremin spectrum," said Latimer.

"With the symphony, I was concentrating at my maximum level on the various time signatures, coming in at the right spot, playing the right notes with the expression they deserved, and… breathing!

"At the 12-hour drone, I was free to improvise, so I was able to let the instrument lead, and wander and explore the layering tones. It was a sweet release."

Latimer modestly expresses gratitude to Matthew Patton, Winnipeg New Music Festival curator, for the opportunity to play in programs in both 2016 and 2017. Personally, I’d recommend a hometown thereminian hat trick.

Keri Latimer has studied with world-renowned New York-based thereminist, Rob Schwimmer. But first, she was self-taught after acquiring her theremin 14 years ago.

Before all that, she and husband/bandmate, Devin, were Wolseleyites: "We lived on the main floor of a rented house on Arlington Street in 1999, for a few years. Our band, Nathan, would often practise in the basement."

Gail Perry is a community correspondent for Wolseley. She can be reached at: gailperry.writer@gmail.com

Gail Perry

Gail Perry
Wolseley community correspondent

Gail Perry was a community correspondent for Wolseley.