Rare chance to see performance with early electronic instrument at the Harris

Posted on - 30th September, 2019 - 3:30pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, City Centre, Music, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Things to Do in and around Preston, What's On in Preston
ondes Martenot
The ondes Martenot was first showcased in 1928

A live musical performance using one of the earliest electronic instruments is coming to the Harris.


Josh Semans will play the ondes Martenot as part of the Harris Live programme of events.

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Along with Josh on the ondes, Joshua Gidney will feature on piano. They will play pieces by various composers, plus some original and improvised material, but Josh says one piece will be the star of the show.

“The event will take place in the round, and with the exceptional acoustics of the Harris Museum’s beautiful vaulted atrium, this is sure to be an experience that will appeal to all music lovers.

“The centrepiece of the event will be ‘Oraison’, a beautiful piece for four ondes Martenot that I will be presenting as a virtual quartet, using multi-channel audio recordings to create an immersive and unique experience.”


First showcased in 1928, the ondes Martenot was invented by Maurice Martenot, a French cellist who became fascinated by the musical potential of the valve-based radios he was using as a radio operator in the First World War.

While it can be played with keys like a traditional keyboard, the ondes is distinguished by a string running along the length of the keyboard, which can be moved by means of a ring worn on the right index finger.

Read more: Preston pianist to play homecoming gig at the Palace Cinema

Described as ethereal and otherworldly, it is one of the few electronic instruments to have been adopted by classical and contemporary musicians alike, and has also featured in a number of film soundtracks such as Lawrence of Arabia, Ghostbusters, There Will be Blood and The Revenant.

Josh, who lives just outside Preston, is looking forward to sharing his passion for the ondes Martenot with a new audience.

Josh Semans playing the ondes Martenot
Josh Semans playing the ondes Martenot

He said: “I don’t remember exactly how or when I came across the ondes, but I know that it found its way into my heart very quickly.

“In my college days, I spent every available moment researching it. The more I learned about it, the further I fell in love with it. I started conversations with some of the world’s leading ondistes, which proved very useful when I started actually playing the ondes. 

“I’ve found, as many ondistes do, that my ondes has become a part of me. I find it very difficult to spend extended periods of time away from the ondes. It is, undoubtedly, a part of who I am as a person, physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

“Now, I’m working hard to bring the ondes Martenot to people in new and different ways. I am deeply passionate about this instrument and the history, legacy, preservation, and proliferation of it.”

The performance takes place at the Harris on Wednesday 2 October from 7pm to 9.30pm. Tickets are available from Eventbrite. Find out more about Josh on his website.

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Will you be going to see this rare performance? Let us know in the comments below.

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