Musician brings 'electrifying' sounds to Ardmore Music Hall

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Mano Divina "plays" the theremin at a recent concert. The electronic instrument, invented by Russian scientist Leon Theramin in 1920, is played without physical contact by the musician.

You’ve heard the sound of the theremin, though you may not know it. Movie soundtrack-makers use it when the atmosphere called for is eerie or ominous.

At the hands of an artist with Ardmore roots, though, this early electronic instrument is the vehicle for music that moves beyond those adjectives to “ethereal,” “evocative” and even “mesmerizing.” He calls the effect “electricity singing,” and has made it the basis for a unique form of “21st-century classical music.”

Mano Divina, performing with his Divine Hand Ensemble, was to make a hometown visit for a concert Saturday, July 12, at the Ardmore Music Hall. Like the instrument itself, the concert would be something completely different for audiences.

Reinvented about a year ago as a Main Line music venue, the former 23 East (for its address on Lancaster Avenue) and Brownie’s, is first and foremost a showcase for rock. But Ardmore Music Hall’s partners have been looking to broaden options for audiences. The concert Saturday night would be its first “sit-down classical concert,” Divina said earlier this week, one that should appeal to an audience of different ages and interests. The emphasis, he said, is on making the music “accessible, non-high-brow.”

In other words, music lovers wouldn’t have to dress up and travel into Center City to hear a repertoire of chamber music, opera arias and sacred choral music – with the occasional Queen rock anthem mixed in.

For the Plymouth Meeting native, who spent his teenage years in Ardmore before attending and graduating from Villanova University and going on to perform extensively in Europe, Saturday’s concert would be a bit of a homecoming.

Divina said he comes from a large musical family, He himself learned to play nine different instruments.

In the 1980s, he recalls, “Ardmore hand a big punk scene,” and the timing was right for him to be a part of it. He played with a band called The Little Gentlemen, and later another band, Global Transmission.

In a full-circle coincidence, Divina remarks, he played both 23 East and Brownie’s in those earlier days. “This is my third band, and this is their third version.”

How he moved from those rock origins to becoming a “professional concert thereminist,” an elite club to be sure, is, in simplest terms, a love story. Continued...