Today’s topics are: The Austrian magic convention in Bad Aussee… and lots of topics triggered by it.
These are The Magic Memories 91, gone online Sunday, September 25th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.
I’m back from two eventful travels, and I admit that I really needed it!
For over two years now I have traveled very little, had almost no performances and lectures, and was somehow thrown off track. These two conventions reminded me how it used to be, and how it could be in the future. The rest of September up to the end of October things are again quite, but I hope that the global Corona situation will allow me to attend The Escorial Card Conference end of October – I’ll have something to tell you if I do 🙂
Before dwelling on the first convention I went to with a few comments you might find interesting, here is a brief flashback:
Post Scriptum on “Signing a Card”
Glad to see that my little essay on the topic of signing a card “To Sign or Not to Sign a card” from The Magic Memories (88) was well received, and several wrote in with additional comments.
Leo Hevia from Silver Spring, USA, wrote: “I first read about the importance of having a selection signed from Frank Garcia’s Exclusive Card Secrets back in 1980. He warns the reader that audience members who had a bit too much alcohol might deny it was their card if it was not signed. Garcia warned that a paid professional cannot afford to be wrong when the selection has to be verified at the end of the trick.” I agree that this is certainly yet another benefit of having a card signed: Nobody can argue that it is not the previously selected card when it is produced at the end of the trick – good point. And of course this also holds true if they forget the card, regardless of the reason 🙂 – once they see their signature, or whatever they wrote on the card, they will be reminded of its identity, and everyone else can confirm.
I said it before, and will repeat it here: As a general note my advice for anyone interested to perform before real people (“magicians” are also “real people”…) peruse the works of working professionals and extract not just their tricks, techniques and lines, but also their practical advice and bits of business. Once you master the technical and presentational part of a performance piece, these “little things” are the moments that separate the men from the boys, and the women from the girls, I should add 🙂
BTW: I’m curious to know how many lady magicians are reading these Magic Memories. If you are not male and reading this, would you drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org? I’m afraid it won’t be more than two, and if it is more, I shall be happy to mention this in my next The Magic Memories. And if it is less I promise to publish a short essay I wrote on the subject of why there are so few ladies in magic, and which I published years ago in La Circular, the official bulletin of the Escuela Magica de Madrid (that was ca. 20 years ago, and a lot has changed in the demographics of magic since – might be interesting to some).
Just reread the paragraph above and hope non-binary people will not be offended – it certainly is not meant to be.
The Austrian Annual Convention took place from THU 8th to SUN 11th of September, and I was invited to do a lecture and appear in their final stage show.
Stop-over in Salzburg
Barbara, having now retired from her job at the local public library, exceptionally decided to accompany me to the convention, and so we took off two days earlier and did a stop-over in Salzburg, Austria.
Below a view from the “Makersteg”, a bridge with virtually thousands of “padlocks of love” – talk about “Seven Keys to Baldpate”…
I’m sure most of you will know this city from the world-famous “Salzburger Festspiele”, in English simply called “Salzburg Festival”. Albeit a bit “touristy”, it remains a beautiful place and is worth visiting.
Speaking of the “Salzburg Festival”: The events mainly take place in the equally world-famous “Salzburger Festspielhaus”, that traditionally only allows music and drama. However, exceptionally, several years back, it hosted the “Dreiländerkongress” magic convention, a cooperation of the three countries Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
This tri-national convention was only held twice, in Salzburg and then in Zurich (Switzerland), before the organizers realized that such an undertaking posed more problems than there were solutions… I was the artistic director of one of them, but that’s another story, and I might tell it one day, when I have overcome the trauma it has caused to me 🙂
Anyway, Rico Leitner, who then was the president of the Swiss magic circle (Magischer Ring der Schweiz – MRS), called one day and asked if I would perform in the tri-national close-up gala. Not thinking much of it, I agreed. Turns out this was not a close-up gala but a competition!
My “act” (I never really had an “act”) was of course not geared for the occasion, but I remember it still got some attention, especially because of my performance of “The Nap Hand Deal”, the details of which you’ll find in my Stand-up Card Magic. Other than that, I only remember having done Patrick Page’s “Cards to Pocket” from Lewis Ganson’s Routined Manipulation Finale (p. 200).
The book is a blast, really, with some of the greatest tricks (e.g., “All Backs” by Elmsley, or “Hanky Panky” by Koran), and Page’s routine is a “worker”, for sure. I did it for a short period but then stopped after a while: It certainly was entertaining and had a good pacing, but it was not as deceptive as I would like a trick to be. You’ll have to find out the reason for yourselves 🙂
A bit I remember doing, and something you might be able to use in some similar context, was the way to show the right trouser’s pocket to be empty, whereas in reality it already contained the 3 Aces and 3 Queens for the last part of the “Cards to Pocket”.
At the time I simply used a double-pocket sown into the right trouser’s pocket – that’s the safest solution. But you can also use a white handkerchief, which you open up, put in your pocket, and then simply pull out its center to simulate the lining of the pocket. Don’t know whom to credit with this devilishly clever idea, but if you didn’t know it, it is worth its weight in gold (but you can send a ham or a salmon, that’s fine, too). Into the pocket I placed a normal folded handkerchief, one of those collapsible rubber beer bottles made by Norm Nielsen, and a small handful of sand.
So, when the moment came to prove that the pocket was empty, I reached into the pocket and first took out the hank, as expected from a pocket, then hesitated, reached again into the pocket and took out the beer bottle. This caused quite a reaction. As an additional bit I laconically remarked: “Oh, this is from last night’s party on the beach.” (Salzburg doesn’t have a beach… just the river Salzach.) This is when I reached into the pocket for the third time, grabbed as much sand I could, and then let it flow from my hand in the style of the “Salt Pour Trick”.
A bit of preparation is required, but this is certainly the most impressive way I know to say loud and clearly (without saying it), “I have NOTHING in my pocket!” I’m not sure, but I believe Henk Meesters (see The Magic Memories 85) told me Fred Kaps used this idea in some kind of trick where he needed to show his trouser’s pocket being empty.
All this said, the benefit of it was that for years I could put in my curriculum that I have performed (with a contract and a fee!) at the Salzburger Festspielhaus! Nowadays, nobody cares…
Another thing you might have heard of are the acclaimed “Mozartkugeln”, a small, round sugar confection made of pistachio, marzipan and nougat, covered by dark chocolate. Some smart confectioner took advantage of the fact that Salzburg was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and created the “Mozartkugel” to commemorate this fact (and make some money along). There is the industrial version, which has to be avoided, and the handmade one, which is “highly recommended”, as the magic reviewers would say.
The convention took place in the town of Bad Aussee, the birth place of magician and mountebank Joseph Fröhlich (1694 – 1757). More info on Wikipedia HERE (unfortunately only in German). He was the court jester and magician of Augustus the Strong for many years.
I leave it to you to discover more about this remarkable person, but all that matters for us is that Hanno Rhomberg, the convention organizer and president of the Austrian magic circle (Magischer Ring Austria – MRA) managed to convince the political and economic decision makers of this small town in the state of Steiermark (Styria in English) to sponsor a Magic Festival taking place every year, and every second year hosting the Austrian national convention. So, they get some money, the facilities, and a lot of goodwill. That’s the way to do it, really, and it is similar to what Magialdia does in Vitoria in the Basque country, and about which I will report next week.
The difference between such an event and another traditional magic convention is that the latter is a “closed event” catering to magic aficionados, while the former has an “open format” that communicates magic and its characteristics to the public. A lot of lip service is paid to making magic a recognized art in the perception of the public, but most conventions, not even FISM, do anything to support this formidable idea, other than doing a public performance or two live and for TV. However, as I’ve mentioned various times before, to let the public see performers in theaters or TV does nothing to add to what they already know about magic. I repeat myself… and few care.
As for the convention itself, there were three things that I would like to comment on and which I believe are good ideas that could be picked up by other magic convention organizers.
1. The Leitmotif
Hanno Rhomberg and his team had the idea of giving the convention a “leitmotif”, in this case “The Magic of France”, focussing certain events within the convention on the magic of France and French magicians. Practically, they gave “carte blanche” to a team of talented French magicians who put up an excellent evening stage show on Friday. Considering that these artists had never worked together in this particular composition, and that they only had a few hours to rehearse in the theatre (as in every magic convention where budget and time are tight), it was a remarkable accomplishment and pleased the audience. I’d love to tell you more, but limited space and time do not allow this here. More info on Hanno’s blog (see below).
However, I would like to say that this idea of having a “leitmotif” for a convention is a very good idea that adds an extra dimension. It doesn’t have to be a nation, it could be any other subject, such as an influential individual or a group of people, a time period, an instrument etc.
2. Aladins Surprise Bag
Aladin is the official organ of the MRA – I have a column in it 🙂 So, it is a double entendre that refers to Aladin’s Wonder Lamp and their magazine.
This was a 90-minute segment presented in front of all in the theatre and consisted of short talks, all with a different subject.
As an example the trailer of the Erdnase film was shown, and then various were asked to give their opinion. When I was asked I said something to the subject that “Erdnase”, meaning his book The Expert at the Card Table, albeit being a classic of the magic literature, of great importance in its time that also marked the shift of the supremacy of European magic literature to the New World, it is absolutely not indispensable nowadays, neither to understand magic, nor to become the world’s best card magician – the book is simply hugely overrated. There is a bit more complexity to it, as always, but that’s my opinion, generally speaking. You are of course welcome to disagree 🙂 The film, BTW, doesn’t focus on the book or its content, but mainly on the mystery around the person writing it – and that’s a different conversation.
Another part of the format was what Hanno dubbed “Elevator Pitches” where otherwise unknown participants could present a product or idea of their own in 3 minutes.
Yet another part was a short interview with a few guests on a specific topic.
Briefly, this was my favorite event at the convention, and I think that any convention could benefit from a similar format.
3. Fröhlich Award
I hope you’ll forgive the immodesty of mentioning that on the occasion of the Saturday evening stage show, which had also a lay public participating, the “Fröhlich Award” for excellence in magic was bestowed upon me and Barbara: After all she did all the drawings and photos, as well as the layout on several of my publications, and if it is true that a picture says more than a thousand words, she deserves this accolade more than I do 🙂
Jokes apart, as I’ve mentioned above – and this completely apart from the fact that I received the award – such prizes are important to raise the image magic has in the eye of the public, as it tells them that there is a huge iceberg beneath the tip they keep seeing from performers, regardless how talented and good the latter are. I think few among laypeople, including leading intellectuals, realize what a complex world hides beneath the surface: That magic has a long and meaningful history that reflects all the cultural changes of the evolution of civilization, is based on all known scientific disciplines, arguably most of all on psychology, entails a sophisticated network of stagecraft, drama, communication, and of course specific principles of sleight-of-hand, as well as a large etcetera that is hard to put into words.
I firmly believe that all of this can at least be hinted at by making such awards public, and – believe it or not – this is the principal reason why I like to receive all these awards, but I deeply regret that nobody knows about them outside of the world of magic, and even within the world of magic only few care – but how can we expect the rest of the world to care, if we don’t? As Tamariz once said to me: “The problem is not that the public doesn’t believe that magic is such a profound art, the problem is that many who practice magic do not believe it.”
BTW: The award I was given is by far the most original of the dozen or so I have: They have casted a photo of mine in a lovely looking plexiglas block that is equipped with a light from below and really makes the person within “shine” – finally I can say to have received an award that guarantees Enlightenment (provided you operate the switch)…
The Lecture & Sunday Matinee
After over two years I have finally been able to give again a lecture in front of “real” people. About 150 attended my lecture on Stand-up Card Magic which lasted 90 minutes plus a few more minutes… As Thomas Otto, a good friend said in jest (I hope it was in jest…): “Roberto Giobbi is the only one I know who can answer a simple yes-or-no question with a lecture…”
I’m happy to say that nobody threw tomatoes, and everyone stayed until the end of the lecture… awake!
As part of the lecture I was finally able to personally perform (and fool!) “The Red Card” and “Prophecy”, and Barbara, who helped with sales, sold out of everything. After two years of almost zero shows that was necessary…
On Sunday morning (at 10 o’clock!), they closed the convention with a “magic matinee”. As Eugene Burger once remarked, “Magic should not be performed before sunset…” I fully agree with him. Nonetheless, everyone was there, and the show was very well received, Otto Wessely obviously being the “star”, simply because he’s a genius, and I regret we didn’t have more time to chat, because this man is as smart as he’s crazy!
As for my part, the MC choose to introduce me with these capricious words: “You know Roberto Giobbi as the author of, well, a few card books… so we asked him: Can you also do something else than cards. Yes, he can. And here he is – Roberto Giobbi!” I performed my take on Takagi’s Rope Routine, which he taught me decades ago and with which I’ve been opening my program for laypeople over the past thirty years, and I closed with Card Stab (see “Stickler” in Stand-up Card Magic).
I was a bit nervous before this show, as I had done just three or four shows in the past two and a half years, and also because my “professional tricks” are not necessarily what amateur magicians like to see at a convention, but I was glad to see I still could keep up the necessary pacing and connect with the international audience. I’m even a bit proud to have managed the first spectator, a lady, so well that after an initial hesitation she left the stage as happy as a clam (as my friend Mike Perovich would say). Getting a lady up at a magic convention where you know most of the magicians and their wives is not an easy task…
As I don’t have the kind of competition act that is expected at magic conventions, and my professional “show” is 40 minutes plus, I could just do two pieces from my program, but am happy to say that nobody physically attacked me after the show, and I even got a few expressing their admiration. The lady below even wanted to marry me…
Hanno Rhomberg, organizer of the convention and president of the MRA has a blog, and if you read German or want to practice it, you can get more details from his blog by CLICKING HERE.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little report, and that my opinions have made you think about this or that, regardless of whether you agree or not 🙂
Wish you a great week, and look forward to chatting with you next week in The Magic Memories (92).