Divine Hand Ensemble
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Divine Hand Ensemble

Lansdale, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Lansdale, Pennsylvania, United States
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Classical Alternative




"Beyond Classical: Divine Hand Explores Aria 51"

In the summer of 2022, to simultaneously celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Terman's unique invention and the band's first decade, the Divine Hand Ensemble released their debut recording Aria 51. The Ensemble blends traditional classical instruments such as cello, violin, viola, and harps, with marimba, percussion, accordion, and Davina's theremin into a unique, kaleidoscopic classical sound. Their first ten years include performances for such dignitaries as Pope Francis, the Dali Lama, the Royal Family of Serbia, and the President of the UN.

"The title comes from the wordplay between the science fiction, alien legend of 'Area 51' and the fact that we feature the theremin singing opera arias. We're tying together the theremin's science-fiction sound effect and classical music histories," Divina explains. "Aria 51 covers everything from Disney to opera arias to Rimsky- Korsakov to Phantom of the Opera to Frank Zappa to David Bowie to "La Vie En Rose" and The Specials' 'Ghost Town.' You clearly hear the theremin as the lead singer showing the listener their melodies."

Arrangements by Dave Hartl (accordion, organ) and Jon Salmon (cello, bass) seem to magically translate all this different music into the eclectic spirit of this modern, beyond classical Ensemble. For example, in Frank Zappa's "Peaches en Regalia," the sound of vibes (Randall Rudolph) singing beside the theremin quite closely echo the voicings of Zappa's original. Surrounding harps and strings render "Peaches," the instrumental opener of Zappa's 1969 jazz-rock masterpiece Hot Rats (Bizarre/Reprise), as accurately and well-tempered as any classical ensemble—although you'd be hard-pressed to find any classical ensemble that includes the squeezable "honky-hogs" that help squeal out this version.

"Phantom of the Opera" lifts the curtain on the second half of this debut with deep and dangerous organ chords. Then strings introduce the melody to the theremin, and their sounds twirl into the chorus like an elegant dance, refined yet passionate, in a lovely arrangement that accents the shadows and lights in Andrew Lloyd Weber's composition. Theremin has the last word in a piercing voice that shoots through the ending like an arrow through the heart.

"There's never been a band that does what we do: a classical ensemble interpreting everything from Mozart to Motorhead with the theremin as the lead singer," says Divina.

"Ghost Town," which closes most Divine Hand live performances, stretches The Special's reggae/ska paean to urban decay into ten gooey minutes of thick dubbed-out bliss. Theremin opens unaccompanied, a lonely whistle walking past the boneyard, then the requisite reggae rhythm locks down on Salmon's bass. This deep, cavernous sound unlocks a round of solos which features every member of the Ensemble plus soloists David Kershner on trumpet and Marc Adler on flute with a sound that comes dancing straight from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, while Randolph's percussion keeps rattling in the background like skeletons tumbling up and down the stairs. (Written to reflect the economic frustration that devoured urban England in the early 1980s, "Ghost Town" climbed to Number One on the UK pop charts as riots began erupting across the country, and was unanimously named 1981 "Single of the Year" by the British music press.)

So how does a musician play an instrument they don't touch? "In essence, a theremin traps air molecules in an electromagnetic field between two antennas," Divina explains. "I use my hands to vibrate the air molecules in that field to match the corresponding frequency of a musical pitch. I vibrate the air one way to make a C and in a slightly different way to make a D.

"But I can only approximate where the notes are. They're not just 'hanging in space.' It's the proximity of my hand to the antenna and how I vibrate the air molecules that make the note. The interval between the two pitches is air, so it's constantly in motion. I train my hands to hit about where they are. But they could be in a slightly different position as more people come into the room or if we move from the rehearsal room into a bigger concert hall."

Lev Terman's motion detector has circled in wild orbit, a musical chameleon no one can touch, since he patented it as his theremin in 1928—from his protégé Clara Rockmore to Miklós Rósza to Brian Wilson, from Alfred Hitchcock to Mano Divina to Radiohead.

"I wanted to invent some kind of an instrument that would not operate mechanically, as does the piano, or the cello and the violin, whose bow movements can be compared to those of a saw," Theremin said in a 1989 interview. "I conceived of an instrument that would create sound without using any mechanical energy, like the conductor of an orchestra."

"It was a science fiction sound effect. It was aliens, it was ghosts. It was electronic hooks in 60s psychedelic music. It was a retro, futuristic instrument for hipster bands," Divina muses. "And now it's come full circle to being a classical instrument, because we perform opera and classical music with it." - All About Jazz

"Interview with Divine Hand Ensemble"

Hello Divine Hand Ensemble. What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?

A lifetime of music study. I studied music with Sun Ra from 1987 to 1993 and Tito Puente from 1993 to 1998. Over the years, I’ve played in numerous bands, mastering nine instruments from percussion to bass to turntable. I offer my music to the audience, playing from the heart, not the ego.

Who inspired you to make music?

Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, my musical family.

Your latest release is 'Aria 51'. Can you share with us the background of its creation and did any unusual things happen during its creation?

The title comes from the wordplay between the science fiction, alien legend of 'Area 51' and the fact that we feature the theremin singing opera arias. We're tying together the theremin's science-fiction sound effect and classical music histories.

Can you shortly describe each of the tracks that are on the album?

Peaches en Regalia: We start with a bang; our take on Frank Zappa’s dizzying jazz-rock-fusion composition

Opera: A faithful version of a song by an Italian progressive rock band

Wild is the Wind: A theremin sings Bowie as if Bowie were a ghost

Man Who Sold the World: A bright, inventive cover that gently grooves and eerily sways

Who Wants to Live Forever: A sensitive and stirring rendition of a song from the movie Highlander

Phantom of the Opera: A theremin and a violin play the roles of Christine and the Phantom

La Vie en Rose: Our take on the Edith Piaf classic, replete with romantic accordion

Hushabye Mountain: Little-known song from Disney’s 1968 movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Aria 51: The theremin sings opera and shows you quite a range

Ghost Town: A fan favorite: “Even ghosts know this slaps.”

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest musical trends?

I’m open to any and all styles of music, but I don’t try to stay on top of trends. I have a ton of friends who turn me on to new and new-to-me music. But to be honest, I’m usually the one turning people on to music.

What makes you different from others?

I don’t know of any classical ensemble that’s led by an electronic instrument you play without touching it, with a repertoire as diverse as ours. Plus, you'd be hard-pressed to find a classical ensemble that includes a squeezable honky-hog.

What’s an average day like for you?

I usually practice my theremin in the morning and do band business like fill orders and hunt for and book gigs. Then I listen to as much music as possible from my extensive collection of actual CDs. I know it’s “old fashioned,” but I love to hold a CD in my hand, and appreciate the physical experience of the packaging and content. I have over 4000 CDs in my collections and I never get tired of listening to favorites over and over again.

Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans.

We love our hand fans! When fans buy merch, we encourage them to snap a pic of themselves in the t-shirts which we share on our socials. My personal favorite thing is when a new fan comes up to me after a show and says, “I never heard of you or a theremin until my friend dragged me to a show and I’m blown away by your performance!” Seeing and hearing people’s reaction to our live performances thrills me every time. I love getting feedback from the audience!

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Pick an instrument that you can see where to play the notes! If I was just starting out, I wouldn’t start with a theremin.

What are your plans for the future?

Right now, we’re making music videos from a live show we recorded at Sellersville Theater. We’re also recording our next album, which will be our take on Astor Piazzolla’s tango classics. - Lost in the Manor

"Aria 51 by Divine Hand Ensemble"

Those who manage to find 50 minutes of their day to give this album a listen are in for what may possibly be the best 50 minutes of their entire week.

Led by Mano Divina Giannone, a concert thereminist, Divine hand Ensemble consists of the man himself, backed by a string quartet, two harps, which is better than one harp, a vibraphone, and an accordion. Based in Philadelphia, the ensemble plays mainly covers, arranged for their unique outfit of instruments, with the theremin always playing a leading role, in spite of its charming limitations.

Here, we should stop for a moment and have a talk about the theremin. Invented in the 20s, the theremin was the first ever musical instrument whose function was purely electronic. Popularized by its eccentric utilization by Jimmy Page to play manic and spacey sci-if solos in many Led Zeppelin songs and performances, a lot of people who are already familiar with the instrument in this regard will be astonished to find out what’s possible when the theremin is used in its proper setting. Played by moving the hands to and from specialized metal rods to control the pitch and volume by altering magnetic fields surrounding those rods, the theremin playing involves no physical contact, making its aesthetic as mystical as its sound, and making its limitations just as profound as its capabilities, as it is all literally in the hands of the player.

Mano Divina Giannone is a wonderful thereminist. Having had an elaborate musical education and having mastered many instruments that range from bass to turntables, his heart turned towards the theremin in the late nineties and he never looked back, and with performances for the Dalai Lama, the Pope, and the president of the UN, it’s safe to say that his ensemble has found success with a wide reach of audiences. Aria 51 starts with a cover of Zappa’s jazz fusion cut, Peaches en Regalia, which sounds grand and whimsical, and spectacular as an introductory cut. Sounding like a mashup of fantastic animated film scores, this piece’s many twists and turns are gorgeously translated into the ensemble’s own sound and are arranged to perfection. The theremin starts to lead the party starting from the second cut, Opera. The haunting and melancholic composition makes perfect use of the theremin’s sweet and smooth delivery of the melody, with the pockets of light delivered by swelling strings and harps. Full of spectacle and wonder.

Following is a one-two set of Bowie covers. Starting with a cover of a cover, Wild is he Wind is as usual, dramatic, romantic, and beautiful, with the human quality of the theremin effortlessly replacing the need for either Bowie’s or Nina Simone’s voice, and it helps that the string arrangements are so wonderfully delightful and charismatic, providing a perfect backing for this lyrical masterpiece, thus highlighting the theremin and making it even more effective as a vocal replacement. The Man Who Sold The World is easy to cover and easy to enjoy and remains one of Bowie’s timeless classics, even in this delightful and peppy orchestral cover with a mad theremin solo. Their cover of Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever is emotive and spectacular, making it easy to see why this endured as one of the favorites among Queen’s die-hard fans, even if it gets considerably less attention than a lot of their other iconic pieces. Touching and Grand, the melodies move between the Theremin and the cello, with nuanced string arrangements that move gracefully between curious pizzicato sections to serene and lush legato passages. The grand and cinematic rendition of La Vie en Rose is as delicate, delightful, and moving as ever, with the human-like fluidity and smoothness of the theremin playing the lead role in delivering timeless melodies. There can be no better time than this quintessentially French piece for an iconic solo on the characterful and colorful accordion.

The 10-minute-long Ghost Town is perfectly fitting to the eerie quality that the theremin can, and does bring. A much-elongated version of another timeless classic by The Specials, this cut makes use of the iconic progression and its eerie melodies and make them a basis for a sprawling, orchestral jam, with elongated and brilliant improvisations from the lead violin, woodwinds, and brasses, even the harp get a cut in this action, playing simplistic lead lines that must have been difficult to nail. The flute solos are particularly attractive, and rich with technique and prowess. This entire sprawling soloing section showcases the immense talents of every single player in this aptly named divine ensemble.

The eccentricity of hearing a theremin lead such an ensemble of musicians across such a varied selection of pieces made Aria 51 an exceptionally enriching listen, full of unexpected twists and moves, all executed with mastery and attention to detail, vividly mixed and produced, for a result that’s simply sublime, and with a ton of replay value. This album is artful and fun and is extremely worth the time for a dedicated listen. - Sistra


Still working on that hot first release.



Led by concert thereminist Mano Divina Giannone, the Divine Hand Ensemble defies categorization. Mano Divina bends electricity with his hands to release voices from his fingertips while being backed by an exquisite string quartet, two harps, vibraphone, and accordion.

Described as “hypnotic, breathtaking, and mesmerizing, an amalgamation of magic, science, and music”, the ensemble is the world’s only theremin-fronted band. Over the past ten years they’ve performed internationally for diverse audiences as well as dignitaries such as Pope Francis, the Dali Lama, President of the UN, film directors M.Night Shyamalan and David Lynch, the DEA, and the Royal Family of Serbia.

Mano Divina studied music with Sun Ra from 1987 to 1993 and Tito Puente from 1993 to 1998. After mastering nine instruments from percussion to bass to turntables, he applied his musical prowess and opera knowledge to the theremin in the late 90s. Invented in 1922 by radio engineer León Theremin, the theremin is the first electronic musical instrument and is controlled without physical contact. Mano Divina is releasing Aria 51 in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the theremin in hopes of touching music lovers of all kinds with the unique beauty of singing electricity.

Band Members