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THE SERPENT

"Douglas Yeo has become the major public defender of the serpent. . ."

The Boston Globe, April 17, 1998


For many years I have been a student and performer of the serpent, the ancient wind instrument invented in 1590 to accompany chant in the Roman Catholic Church and which later moved into military bands, harmoniemusik ensembles as well as the symphony orchestra (Berlioz, Rossini, Mendelssohn, and Wagner, among others, wrote for the serpent).

Those interested in my various serpent activities are invited to read the explore the following articles and resources on my website that will give the reader more insight into this most unusual of musical instruments.


Serpent Photo Gallery

A good place to start to learn about the serpent is to look at some photographs of the instrument and its players. On this page, I have many photos of a variety of different shapes, sizes and forms of serpents, as well as individuals and groups that play the serpent. (Photo: Michael J. Lutch)

Complete Program Notes to my CD, LE MONDE DU SERPENT

I have produced a CD recording featuring the serpent, LE MONDE DU SERPENT. I have included, on my website, a page of expanded program notes for this album which has many photos of the recording sessions, composers and arrangers, as well as historical information about the serpent and the music I recorded. The page also contains links to an order form for the CD as well as a page of reviews of the recording.

Information about my DVD, APPROACHING THE SERPENT: AN HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL OVERVIEW

I have produced a full length DVD about the serpent, APPROACHING THE SERPENT: AN HISTORICAL AND PEDAGOGICAL OVERVIEW, that includes my playing many different instruments, giving a serpent lesson, playing duets (viewers can play along with the duets using PDF files that are included on the DVD) and much more. On this page of information about the DVD you can find links to two short video clips from the DVD that are now on YouTube.

SERPENTISTS IN CHARLES WILD'S CHOIR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF AMIENS, c. 1826

This resource is photo essay which accompanies my article of the same name which appeared in the 2001 Historic Brass Society Journal [Vol. 13] which shows a remarkable print of serpent players playing in Amiens Cathedral [France] around 1826 as well as photographs of the choir stalls where the serpentists played which show graffiti of serpents carved into the stalls.

P.D.Q. BACH AND THE AMERICAN SERPENT PLAYERS

In 2005, the American Serpent Players - Craig Kridel, Steve Silverstein and myself - performed at Peter Schikele's P.D. Q BACH 40 YEAR RETROGRESSIVE concerts in New York City. Our performance of P.D.Q. Bach's round for voices and serpents, O, Serpent brought down the house each night. This photo essay captures some of the zany fun we had on that memorable evening.

TEMPTED BY A SERPENT

This article is the text of a piece I wrote for the Boston Symphony Program Book when I first performed on serpent in the Boston Symphony in Hector Berlioz's Messe solennelle. This page also contains mp3 files of me playing serpent so you can hear the sound of the instrument.

SERPENT NIGHT AT THE BOSTON MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

This page is a photo essay about my gallery talk at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1998) about their collection of serpents and related instruments. The museum owns several rare and unusual forms of serpent that are shown; the page also includes a photo from a more recent gallery talk at the MFA in 2010.

A MUSICAL SERPENT JOINS THE BSO

Here is the text to an article by Andrew Pincus of The Berkshire Eagle, detailing my love of the serpent, written when I organized a music of Harmoniemusik which included serpent with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1998. It also contains an interesting photo of me with four different sizes of serpents that accompanied the original article.

DOUGLAS YEO: TCHAIKOVSKY'S 1812 OVERTURE ARRANGED BY CLIFFORD BEVAN, PLAYED ON 26 SERPENTS

In 2005, I recorded all of the parts to Clifford Bevan's arrangement for serpent ensemble of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. This page includes a link to the recording. I did this as a gift to Cliff, who is a friend, who had arranged the work for the Serpent Celebration of 1990 that was held in London to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the serpent. The recording was made in the home recording studio of my Boston Symphony Orchestra horn section colleague, Richard Sebring, and is complete with cannon and church bells.

REMEMBERING KEITH ROGERS

This article is a tribute to my friend, Keith Rogers, who from 1992 - 2007, made nearly 100 serpents for Christopher Monk Instruments (England). His death in 2008 was a great loss to the serpent community and to me personally, and this tribute to a generous man, expert craftsman and dear friend is a way I can help perpetuate his memory.

SABBATICAL DIARY

In 2009, I was granted a six month sabbatical from the Boston Symphony, during which time I engaged in a great many diverse activities. Among them were many performances and research trips devoted to the serpent. My sabbatical diary includes many photos as well as commentary about my serpent related activities during that time, including a visit to the grave of serpentist Thomas Maynard whose gravestone (1807) has an exquisite carving of an English military serpent.

DOUGLAS YEO: HISTORICAL INSTRUMENTS VITAE

Here I have uploaded a PDF copy of my historical instrument vitae, detailing the most significant concerts and recitals I have taken part in as well as articles and papers I have written about historical brasses, especially the serpent and ophicleide. This resource will be updated periodically as I undertake new activities.

After exploring the serpent related pages on my website, those interested in further information about the serpent are invited to visit the website of Berlioz Historical Brass which is maintained by Craig Kridel, and The Serpent Website which is maintained by Paul Schmidt.


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