Today’s topics are: The German Cardworkshop 2023
These are The Magic Memories 113, gone online Sunday, February 26th, 2023, at 0:07h sharp.
All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020 can be found HERE.
German Cardworkshop 2023
I’m back from the German Cardworkshop (CWS) that took place in the beautiful city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, from SUN, FEB 19th to TUE, FEB 21st.
Origin and Organisation
You’ll notice that these are unusual dates, as the CWS is not held on a week-end, as one might expect, but on week-days. The reason is interesting and has to do with the shift in the kind of people who attend.
When the CWS was first held in November 1975, practically all the attendants were amateur magicians. In the photo below taken ten years later, in 1985, and one of the first I was part of, not one single member was working magic professionally.
Even Wolff, Baron von Keyserlingk (seventh from the left in the back row), who later became a successful professional, at that time was still earning his living as an attorney. And I went professional a few years later, in 1988. For years Wolff and I were the only ones.
I call this the “First Period of the CWS”.
You’ll also notice two more things: First, that almost everyone wears a tie, a hint at the formal aspect of the event. Second, the elegant ladies in the front row 🙂
The gathering was also understood as a social event, were several brought their wife, and the wives among themselves formed a community that had as much fun as the men had with discussing “card tricks”. (Interesting to note that to this day, 2023, there has not been one single woman in the CWS, not because it is an all-men gathering by constitution, but because never ever has a woman asked to be part of it – if she had the competence required, she would be welcome.)
Below you can see a group photo of today’s CWS-attendants (FEB 2023).
Interesting to note that now, from the 15 participants, well over half are full-time professionals, and the others very busy amateurs. You’ll also notice the lack of ties, and the missing ladies! This is, btw, the main reason why the meeting shifted to week-days, and during the German Carneval, as nobody gets work in that time…
I call this the “Second Period of the CWS”.
The only ones who are still there are Reinhard Müller (3rd from the left, front row), and myself. Magic Christian (2nd from the left, front row), although an early member of the CWS, did not attend often, as he was very busy professionally, but now, semi-retired, attends often.
In the first few years, the CWS gathered twice a year, but then found its current format, meeting once a year, limited to about 20 attendants, and over a period of three days.
What does it take to attend a CWS?
The CWS is essentially a meritocracy, were people are selected and invited according to merit, skill, knowledge and “social compatibility”.
So, the premier ingredient, if you want to get invited to a CWS, as it is by invitation only, is your over-all competence in the specialty of card magic, be it as an inventor, author, performer, historian, or a combination of all. People can apply by writing to the secretary, and the group then decides if the person gets invited for a first time, and can then stay or not.
Apart from a secretary (Jörg Alexander, 4th from the left, back row), there is no officer, there are no politics, there is no attendance fee (except the cost for drinks & food), and everyone pays his own expenses to travel and stay at a nearby hotel.
Similar to the Card Conference in Escorial (see The Magic Memories 97 of NOV 6th 2022), which served as a model to the CWS, no-one gets paid, but everyone pays his expenses to attend – quite astonishing!
Content and Schedule
Again, similar to Escorial, topics are decided at the end of each CWS for the next year.
In 2023 the topics were:
- Universal & General Card
- Kaplan, George, The Fine Art of Magic (book)
The topics for 2024 will be:
Frank Garcia (card material in his publications)
Card tricks that prepare or retain a set-up
Multiple Card Revelation
Card Magic of Japan
As you can see, the idea is to have a good mix between tricks, techniques, principles, theory, history.
The first session started around 5 pm on Sunday, and is called “The Personal Minutes”, an idea I had launched years ago, and which should give each one ca. 5 minutes to talk about anything “personal” that would be of interest to the group. This could be some personal achievements during the past year, a favorite book, a practical idea, invention or what have you, or simply the performance of a trick, technique etc.
In my part I gave a few insights into two of the bigger projects I had accomplished during the Pandemic Years, Sharing Secrets and Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction, as well as briefly talked about a booklet published by Tibor Vargas on card ripping, a relatively exotic subject…
These “Personal Minutes” have proven a great way to break the ice, to start the ball rolling, and to sort of “calibrate” the group.
This is usually followed by a first presentation on one of the subject selected in the previous year; this year it was the first part of “General Card”.
As so often before, Reinhard Müller, a founder member and the “grey eminence” of the CWS, gave a historical introduction into the subject, as he also gave later on the second subject, Kaplan’s book.
“The General Card” is not often performed nowadays, although it was one of the favorite tricks in the repertoire of parlor magicians of the 19th and 20th century: The versions of Hofzinser and Robert-Houdin are legendary.
Certainly, the subject is not very clear to define, as I have already discussed in an essay in my Ask Roberto, there being a confusion of titles and terms along its development since its first appearance in the French literature in the 18th century, and one could even argue that the idea can already be found in Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, or in an Italian tractate of the 17th century that explains the idea of the “Tossed-out Deck”. If you are interested, you can find my essay of the subject from my Ask Roberto, HERE courtesy of lybrary.com and myself 🙂
In the past years the event has taken place in Stephan Kirschbaum’s “Wundermanufaktur”, a bijou of a small theater, that he has now been running successfully for the past ten years (learn more HERE).
Stephan is a great host, as he proved once again on this night, as he had hired a caterer who provided fine cocktails, wine, beer, and food for everyone, and after a most satisfying dinner we continued the talks about the “General Card”.
After that, well, it’s “open magic night”…
The next day we went into the second big subject, with various presenters talking about the various chapters in Kaplan’s book.
To study a book is always a rewarding undertaking, as you can discuss historical aspects, of course lots of tricks, techniques and lots more.
Kaplan’s book, published in 1948, and one of Juan Tamariz’s most recommended books, was an important book in its time, and it is still full of very good material.
The first part, which deals in detail with the short card and its applications, shows how a subject can be taken and studied. This alone is a great lesson, let alone the practical techniques, ruses, and tricks with it.
The second and largest part of the book is filled with tricks that do show the author’s concern for professional details, practical methods and affective presentations.
And the last part, which was not discussed here, as it has nothing to do with cards, deals with how to file material and construct an act – very interesting, I might add…
I will never forget, when as a twenty-year-old, I visited with Juan Tamariz, staying a week at his home at Lope de Rueda 3, and he took me to a show he did in a “pub”, actually a type of Spanish Café Theatre, in a town by the name of Guadalajara (very funny name to pronounce, and of obvious Arab origin, remembering that he Arabs stayed in Spain until the 16th century, the Alhambra in Granada being their last bastion, and that during their 800-year stay have left a lot of their amazing culture). If you ask me what was the most memorable show I’ve ever seen, then it would have to be this one. I can only remember two tricks he did: One was his mental slate routine described in The Magic Way, the other one was “The Lie Detector” from Kaplan’s The Fine Art of Magic.
Never before and never afterwards have I laughed so hard and so much, yet, been totally astonished. Later, I have tried this trick myself, with good success, but of course never as much as Tamariz had on that night.
Within this subject, I did a short presentation on the controversy created by Dai Vernon, who in his “The Vernon Touch” of July 1971 said that Kaplan has lifted most of the material in the book from Sam Horowitz.
In between the bigger subjects there is always room for other shorter talks on any subject, as long as it relates to magic in general, of course, and if possible to card magic.
This year we had Thomas Fraps with a short presentation on “Movies & Magic”, showing how plots and techniques from movie-making can be transported when conceiving and scripting magic tricks.
And Mirko Ferrantini, who’s an expert in all types of wallets, gave his third (!) presentation on his favorite subject, enlightening us on further applications of wallets in card magic.
Similar to “normal” conventions at least 50% of the fun is during the breaks between the formal presentations, the shorter and longer breaks, the lunches and dinners, which are usually spent together, but small groups are formed here and there, and very personal conversations are conducted.
The Tuesday Public Close-up Gala
In former times, when the gents wore ties and the ladies attended, and when the CWS was held on week-ends, Saturday evening was the “Gala Evening”, which started with a lovely Champagne cocktail, followed by a formal dinner with a set menu, and finally culminated with practically all the attendants performing in the legendary “Cardworkshop Close-up Gala”, the audience consisting of the ladies (!) and those not performing at the moment. For many, this was the absolute highlight of the gathering.
In the “Second Period” of the CWS, when the ties disappeared and the ladies vanished, it all changed. To the better or to the worse, I can’t say, but I’m certainly happy that I’m now one of the very few who lived in both “Periods”.
Now the CWS ends around noon on Tuesday, some leave, and some spend the afternoon together, private-sessioning, until the evening, when a paying audience of 40 guest enters the “Wundermanufaktur”, first being served cocktails and finger-food (as part of the ticket price!), and then, at around 8 pm, the “Cardworkshop All-Star-Gala” starts.
For the next almost three hours, with a break for more drinks and dessert finger-food, most of the attendants of the CWS perform to an enthusiastic audience, that already buys their tickets after the gala for the next year!
All in all it can be said that everyone was more than happy to meet again face-to-face, after the CWS 2021 and 2022 had been cancelled due to the Pandemic, and the “magic vintage” was a good one, not the best, but a good one 🙂
Wish you all a very successful week!
PS: Next week I’ll be in Paris, and the week after in Rome, with lecture and masterclass, so The Magic Memories will have to pause twice, but in exchange I might be able to tell you something of interest on my return… sorry not to be able to chat with you for two weeks, but happy that work picks up, at least a little, compared to b.P. (before Pandemic).