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The Magic Memories (97)

Hello everyone!

Today’s topics are: Escorial Card Conference 2022; Michele Isenburg does magic; Remembering Max Maven.

These are The Magic Memories 97, gone online Sunday, November 6th, 2022, at 0:07h sharp.

Escorial Card Conference 2022

After having taken a forced pause of two years, due to the Pandemic, the Escorial Card Conference is back and took place at the Hotel Lanceros in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, from Friday 28th to Sunday, 30th October 2022. This is a three-day meeting, by invitation only, of ca. 50 of the most talented magicians in the universe of card magic.

Escorial 2022 – Group photo 8photo: Consuelo Lorgia

I write “talented”, because some who have attended the “Jornadas”, as the event is called among the attendees, are truly world-famous, such as Alex Elmsley, Arturo Ascanio, Herb Zarrow, Bernard Bilis, Reinhard Müller, Magic Christian, Paul Wilson, Rafael Benatar, etc., and, of course, the initiator himself, Juan Tamariz. Many, though, would be names you’ve never heard of, most young Spanish virtuosos who, nonetheless, are among the best in the world when it comes to the pasteboards.

This photo made it into the national newspaper “El Mundo” (ca. 1990)


You might be interested how this meeting, that started in the mid-Seventies, came about in the first place.

You can read about the history of the Escuela Magica de Madrid (EMM) in one of the lengthier essays I published in my Ask Roberto, available as an e-book at a very modest price, but here it is in brevis:

In the early Seventies Juan Tamariz attended a magic convention in France. On his way back, thinking about what he had seen and experienced, he realized that magic, unlike other artistic disciplines, did not have any “schools of thought”, such as there would be in literature, painting, etc.

Inspired by the manifest authored by André Breton for surrealism, he single-handedly set down an original and never-before-done text that would serve as the foundation of a group of magicians then living in Madrid, and who would then call themselves “Escuela Magica de Madrid”, the Madrid school of  magic, with “school” not meaning an institution selling courses for money to beginners, but a “school of thought”, in the sense used in the arts and sciences.

With Juan’s permission and with my initial help, the text was translated for the first time in English for Dan & Dave’s Magic Con 2011. You’ll find it as part of my essay in Ask Roberto, but for your convenience, and as a gift to you, CLICK HERE to read and/or download it.

Escorial 2007: Listening to a talk (photo: Magic Christian)

The members of the EMM would meet at least once a week in the home of José Puchol, who was himself a very well-informed amateur magician with a huge library, and as the owner of a successful company a kind of sponsor who received the group in his beautiful home. I had the chance to experience his hospitality on one of my early visits to Madrid, together with Tamariz, Camilo, and others, among whom Flip from Holland. I don’t remember the magic performed then, certainly great, but I do remember Puchol served us a Siglo from Rioja, vintage 1927 (!) – this was the oldest wine I ever had, and it was absolutely delicious!

The group would study magic through all sorts of activities (see Ask Roberto), and at some point someone had the idea to find a way to extend the group beyond Madrid. This was when the idea was born to host a yearly meeting outside of Madrid – San Lorenzo de El Escorial at ca. 50 minutes car drive from Madrid was chosen – where other talented magicians could join the group in a three-day marathon dedicated entirely to card magic.

At first these were only magicians from Spain, but very soon they would invite experts from outside, among the first were Reinhard Müller, Dieter Ebel and Erhard Liebenow from Germany, Bernard Bilis from France, etc. I had the privilege of joining the “Jornadas” in 1979 for the first time, after having met Tamariz for the second time at FISM 1979 in Brussels and being invited to his home in Madrid. You can imagine this was quite something for Young Giobbi, then twenty years of age. In spite of the honor it meant, and the opportunity to learn from the best, being still a student it was a lot of money I had to bring up: I remember that a flight to Madrid at that time cost around $ 700 (!). Only today do I realize that this was not an expense, but an investment, and that the Art of Living consists, at least partly, in being able to distinguish one from the other.

Discussing topics for Escorial (2002)

Las Jornadas

The idea of the meeting is that various groups study a specific subject throughout the year, and then present it in a talk-demonstration at the meeting.

Typically, there were four subjects: one technical (e.g. Riffle Shuffles, Glimpse, unusual Palms…), one related to an effect/theme (Card to Wallet, Thought-of Card…), one to a conceptual topic (misdirection, timing…), and one to some unusual subject (magic for TV, magic done by several…).

Occasionally, the entire Jornadas were dedicated to one single person, or to a single book. So, one year we had “The Card Magic of Alex Elmsley” as a subject, and Tamariz managed to get Elmsley to join us for three days of magical extravaganza. Another year we had Jerry Andrus, and yet another year we discussed Erdnase, well, his book, without the author…

From left to right: Alex Elmsley, Aurelio Paviato, Roberto Giobbi, Ron Wohl)

One of the most memorable presentations I was involved with, was about the Dr. Daley Notebooks, a three-hour presentation curated by Vanni Bossi, Aurelio Paviato and myself – we studied this most difficult work over the year, met several times in Italy and at my home in Switzerland, and then delivered a presentation with lots of performance pieces we had reconstructed and that found the favor of the group.

I still have the minutes of my part of the work, and if a few write in to manifest their interest, I will try to make it available as a readable PDF for the 100s anniversary issue of theses The Magic Memories.

Topics 2022

This year (2022) the topics were:

The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown

Unusual Trick Cards (no double-facers, double-backers or other current trick cards)

Magic Done by Several Performers Together (Two or More)

History of Card Magic in Europe (Countries Not Yet Discussed)

“The Magic of E. G. Brown”, a book written by his friend Trevor Hall in 1973, was presented by the Italian group, who focused on three of his best tricks: “The Poker Hand”, “The Twelve Card Thought Transition”, and “The Diminishing Cards”. Giancarlo Scaglia, one of the maybe lesser-known in the big world of magic, showed an excellent and original combination of “Diminishing Cards” and “Cutting the Aces”.

As usual there were quite a few comments from the attendees that complemented to talk. These “additional comments”, which come spontaneously from the (very knowledgeable!) group, is an internal part of the Jornadas.

I should mention that there is a beautiful new edition by Andi Gladwin of the book that I recommend. Personally, besides some excellent tricks, I found the transcription of Brown’s talks he gave at the Magic Circle of London to be worth the price of the book, especially his talk on the force is very, very good. Even by today’s standard this would be a splendid lecture.

BTW: This is a 25-page transcription that I have copiously annotated, and if it were not for copyright issues I should be happy to make it available… maybe someone wants to ask Vanishing Inc. (Andi Gladwin)?

Another subject with some remarkable contributions, especially from Argentina’s Hernan Maccagno, were unusual trick cards – amazing to see to what point Hernan has been able to put the most unusual looking cards to good use for astonishing and very entertaining effects.

Additionally, Camilo Vazquez presented a written contribution (a book!) that Reinhard Müller had sent, which gave a historical and panoramic view of the subject of unusual trick cards. Reinhard has been attending the Jornadas for almost three decades, but in later years decided to travel less. Nonetheless, every year he sends in a huge work were he extensively researches one of the topics, and his writings are a highlight for everyone attending to take home. I will ask him how you can get hold of at least some of his work, as I know some among you would be greatly interested in it.

Schär & Giobbi – La Cartomagia en Suiza

Lorenz Schär and I did a one-hour presentation “The Card Magic in Switzerland” as part of an ongoing study about the origin of card magic in Europe. Lorenz is the arguably most promising young magician in Switzerland, with a vast knowledge and skill (he helps Denis Behr curate the “Magic Archives”).

Lorenz created a very attractive PP-presentation to which I have added a few pieces of information, so that it now gives quite a comprehensive picture of how card magic developed from an early mention of card magic in 1367 (!) in Berne, to today’s modern card magic. We found several pieces of information most were not aware of, such as some of the earliest card books in Switzerland, or that Ascanio had been inspired to come up with his Ascanio Spread after seeing Swiss magician Jean Garance, or that Edward Victor was really a Swiss (family name Neuschwander), and lots more that would surprise you. Also, Erdnase might have been a Swiss! (I assure you that the theory behind this is not crazier than some others – see the entry below about the movie…).

Lorenz and I plan to complete the PP-presentation with a few more details and might then put it at the disposal of all interested – I’ll keep you informed.

There was a highly emotional moment during this presentation when we talked about the few modern cardicians in Switzerland: Juan Tamariz rose and very kindly pointed out my merits in the matter, and then initiated a minute-long standing ovation. This is certainly something I’ll never forget, and I hope you’ll forgive the immodesty of mentioning this 🙂

Standing ovation at Escorial 2022 (photo: Christian Engblom)

On Sunday, the presentation about several magicians performing together done by a mixed group of German and Spanish magicians was highly entertaining and brought forth some very useful and unusual ideas – this is a lecture that would suit many a convention. I would even go so far as to say that about half of the presentations given would make attractive lectures at conventions, were it not for the fact that many convention organizers either do not have an academic interest in magic or they bother too much about thinking that the average conventioneer would not be interested in it – I think they are mistaken and underestimate the intelligence of their magic audience…

There were several other very interesting presentations, and the whole event would deserve a lengthy report, which I cannot give at this point, as I’m already preparing for my next “Giro d’Italia”, a ten-day tour from Milan, over Torino, Livorno, Florence, again Milan, and then back home, with lectures and shows.

To close, let me say that besides the most interesting subjects treated by some of the best cardicians on this planet (but not always presented with the same talent as they present their magic – because giving a talk is a profession of its own…), the possibly best part of it are the personal interactions as well as the great meals in some great restaurants, all at very moderate prices (compared to London or New York).

The photo below shows a typical late dinner – Spanish time – at 10:30 pm, so as to be back for 00:30 am to start the next session! From left to right, clockwise. Juan Tamariz, Consuelo Lorgia-Tamariz, Camilo Vazquez, Paul Wilson, Christian Engblom, unknown…

Escorial 2022 – Late dinner at Charoles

The talks used to start at noon, go until 2 pm, then lunch break, continue at 5 pm to 10 pm, then dinner break, and finish with a “gala” of many performing until 2 or 3 am. After that it’s sessioning… Now times have been adapted to the “Tamariz Rhythm” and the talks start at 7 pm and go until 4 or 5 am… Eccentric people, eccentric times 🙂

Escorial 2022 – Sessioning at 5 am
Andrus deals us in…
After Escorial 1995, at Ana Tamariz’ magic shop in Madrid

Michele Isenburg

In The Magic Memories (92) I reported about Roland Heuer using an idea from Secret Agenda to create Private Shows in his own home in a most creative way, combining his skills as a musician and a magician. Now my dear friend Michele Isenburg from Milan, Italy, sent in some photos and told me how he has adapted the idea by offering performances in shops.

Below you can see him perform at his Barber’s shop for the owners and a client. He’s about to perform “The Invisible Card” from Card College 3, p. 523, (you can watch a more recent version with additional details in Lesson of the Card College 3&4 – Personal Instruction videos).

“I’ll hang the imaginary card in the air…”

Below Michele performs a perennial audience pleaser:

…yet another happy customer!

Remembering Max Maven (1950 – 2022)

The magic world and I are immensely saddened by the departure of one of the truly most important and influential magicians in history, Max Maven, born Phil Goldstein, 1st November 2022.

Max was a friend and mentor since my early years, responsible for quite a few important moments in my professional career, such as booking me for the first time at the Magic Castle when I still was in my Twenties, or getting me to the possibly most important magic convention ever held in Japan in 1989.

Lots more to tell and say, and I promise to do it in one of the upcoming The Magic Memories in more detail, as this one is already quite lengthy.

Wittus Witt has put together a lovely special issue of his magazine Magische Welt with an interesting interview – it is available both in German and in English. Go to Witt’s homepage where you can read and/or download the English or German PDF on Max, CLICK HERE.

With Max & friends at Joan Lawton’s home

The Magic Memories (98 and 99)

The next two The Magic Memories 98 and 99, due to go online on SUN, 13th and SUN, 20th November, will both pause, as I’m on a small Italian Magic Tour. Again, provided I did not catch Corona before…

So, I look very much forward to chat again with you on The Magic Memories (100), on SUN, 27th November, as always at 0:07 o’clock sharp! This then being the 100s edition will be “special”, I hope 🙂

Wish everyone an excellent week!

All the best,

Roberto Giobbi

1 thought on “The Magic Memories (97)

  1. Roberto, you might check your download link in this article. I had no luck with it. Hope you are doing well.

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