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“You are an absolute wizard!”
— Erich Kunzel, Conductor, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

 
“The theremin [was] masterfully played by specialist Charles Richard Lester.”
— Rita Moran, Ventura County Star

 
“Theremin virtuoso Charles Lester had the audience transfixed as he moved his hands over the instrument like a magician.”
— Gary Ginell, Thousand Oaks Acorn

 
“With mouths agape, the throng observed Charles Lester make his instrument literally sing. He covered many bases of precision, melodic theremin interpretations.”
— S.L. Duff, Los Angeles City Beat

 
“You were fantastic! Everyone was quite pleased and amazed at your ability. Thanks for an awesome performance.”
— Douglas Pipes, Film Composer

 
“When Charles Lester took the stage, he kept the whole venue entranced with challenging pieces from his classical repertoire. He played them beautifully. It was very impressive.”
— Buck Sanders, Film Composer

 
“Charles, you’re a wizard!”
— Joel Siegel, Good Morning America

 
“Charles Lester is considered Los Angeles’ top professional theremin player.”
— Steve Hochman, Los Angeles Times

 
“Charles Lester is a space-age magician who conjures music out of thin air.”
Gazette Journal, Gloucester, Virginia

 
“‘Phono Royal’ is super. This musical work relates to contemporary music in the same way the Bauhaus concept of ‘Form follows function’ relates to the picturesque and playful lightness of ‘Art Deco.’ Theremin-virtuoso Charles Lester also knows how to play the fatal chord. Hazelwood Music produced this splendid sound track in stereo with a great theremin virtuoso.”
EFA Media, Frankfurt, Germany


 

 

The theremin could be viewed as the great ancestor of electronic music: Virtually every electronic instrument traces its roots to the theremin’s inventor, Russian physicist Leon Theremin (1896-1993), who produced his first instrument in 1918. Furthermore, the theremin was the first electronic instrument with virtuoso performers playing solo and concert repertoire written specifically for it by major composers.


Leon Theremin

Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of the theremin – apart from its mysterious sound – is the way it is played:
     — There are no keyboards,
     — no finger boards,
     — no strings, valves, hammers or pipes.
     — There is nothing to blow on, or into.
The performer literally “plays the air” around the instrument, making absolutely no physical contact with it.

The electronic components of the theremin set up low-power, high-frequency electromagnetic fields around the two antennas, one controlling pitch and the other volume. The player’s hands alter the fields by varying their distance to the antennas. The tone-producing portion of the circuitry is known as a beat-frequency oscillator.

 

 


The Theremin and Me

I set out on a new and totally unanticipated musical journey when, in 1995, I discovered the theremin (or, more aptly, IT discovered ME). I became totally enraptured by this enchanting instrument upon watching the documentary about its inventor, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.


Charles Richard Lester

 

 

 

Here are some of my theremin adventures.

“Storage Wars” — -- Season 8, Episode 19. ("There's No Business Like Snow Business")

Each week, a group of people gather at a storage facility to bid on abandoned storage lockers.

In the show I was on, one of the regular bidders, Mary Padian, found a strange device in one of the storage lockers she won.

The show's producers looked for an "expert" (that would be me hahaha!) to identify and appraise the device. Yes, you guessed it -- the "strange device" is a theremin.

The segment was shot in a renovated, historic warehouse space just east of downtown Los Angeles, called Loft Ensemble.

 


La Mer Celebration at Siren Studios, Hollywood

I was one of a number of musicians hired for a spectacular, amazing aquatic-themed multimedia event commemorating the La Mer company's 50th anniversary. Words escape me.

Celebs Glitter As La Mer Celebrates 50 Years in LA

Here are some photos of guests trying out my theremin. (The guy in the last photo is Gavin Salmon, drummer for the group String Theory. I don't recognize any of the other people.)

“A good time was had by all.”

(Photos courtesy of  T. D. Mitchell).


The Simpsons — “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner”

The Simpsons go to Diz-Nee-Land where the lines for the rides are terrible, except for a rocket called “Rocket to Your Doom” that takes them to the home planet of Kang and Kodos, Rigel VII, where the inhabitants try to eat Homer in a giant fondue. Air date: January 4, 2015

The Simpsons, now in its 26th season, is the the longest-running scripted series in television history. This is the seventh episode of the Simpsons I've played for.

(See simpsonswiki.com/wiki/Charles_Richard_Lester.)

Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.


Photo courtesy of Carol Farhat


Photo courtesy of Carol Farhat


Photo courtesy of Carol Farhat

 


The Simpsons “Simpsorama” — Futurama meets The Simpsons crossover episode. Air date: November 9, 2014.

This is the sixth episode of The Simpsons I've played for.

Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.

 


The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

This is the fifth episode of the Simpsons I've played for. Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.

 


Studio session with film composer Christopher Young, more music for the film Gods Behaving Badly.

The screenplay was based on a best-selling novel by Marie Phillips. The film features a cast full of stars (including Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Sharon Stone, Rosie Perez, Alicia Silverstone & Ebon Moss-Bachrach). It has gorgeous cinematography and a stunning score (by Mr. Young); however, for whatever reason, it absolutely tanked. It's not even going to receive theatrical distribution but is going straight to DVD and video-on-demand.

But not all is lost, music-wise: Because Mr. Young wrote such a beautiful score, the soundtrack is going to be released on audio CD by Varese Sarabande. The session I played for today was for additional music that he wrote but ultimately didn't record for the film.

He's a fascinating person and a brilliant musician who has an uncanny knack for weaving together the sounds of many seemingly disparate instruments into a jaw-droppingly beautiful sonic tapestry. It's always a great pleasure to work with him.

(See officialchristopheryoung.com)

 


Live concert with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and The Page LA Choir at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, in a concert of Danny Elfman's music from Tim Burton's Films, John Mauceri, conductor. I played the theremin on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mars Attacks and Frankenweenie.

The 7,100-seat theater was packed full for all the shows, and the audiences were all very enthusiastic and excited. There were many rounds of thunderous applause and cheering, especially when Danny Elfman came onstage and recited Jack's monologue from "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Oogie Boogie." And the crowd went wild when Tim Burton came out at the end of the last show!

I actually had a cheering section out there for the last concert! When I took my bow, a group of people sitting about halfway back on the stage-left side jumped to their feet and started yelling "THEREMIN! THEREMIN!!" I don't know who they were; as far as I know none of my friends came to see the show.

Here are two reviews of the concert:
Primitive Screwheads
L.A.Weekly

 


The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror XXIV”

The Simpsons, now in its 25th season, is the the longest-running scripted series in television history and has has won 27 Emmys. This was my fourth recording session for the Simpsons. Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.

This session, as with two of the previous Simpsons shows I worked on, was recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox, Culver City. The Newman stage has been home to many, many film and television recording sessions over the years. See Hollywood's Historic Newman Scoring Stage for a brief history of the stage, and Newman Scoring Stage at IMDB for a list of recent productions.

During one of the breaks, I went out to the Green Room to get something to drink and nibble on. As I walked down the hallway I gazed at a row of photos lining the walls of some of the Hollywood Greats who had recorded at the Newman stage. There was Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Temple, Samuel Hoffman.

Wait a minute ... Samuel Hoffman? Yes, Dr. Samuel Hoffman, the legendary thereminist who played for many films from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s. While I was impressed to see the photos of the many great performers, I have to say I got a bit of a tingle down my neck and spine when I saw the photo of Dr. Hoffman. To think ... the score for The Day the Earth Stood Still was recorded on this very stage!

 


Played on the score for Gods Behaving Badly, a comedy from Big Beach Films production based on the 2008 novel of the same name by British author Marie Phillips.

"Greek gods living in modern-day New York intervene in the lives of a young mortal couple. The intersection of the Gods and the mortals threatens not only the couple's budding relationship, but the future of everything else."

Starring Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Sharon Stone, Rosie Perez, Alicia Silverstone & Ebon Moss-Bachrach

Caroline Jaczko, Executive Producer; Mark Turtletaub & Peter Saraf, Producers; Marc Turtletaub, Director; Screenplay by Josh Goldfaden & Mark Turtletaub; Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto; Score by Christopher Young.

 


Beck's “Sound and Vision” Video Shoot

The video shoot took place at 20th Century Fox Studios in Culver City, California, on a huge sound stage where a full symphony orchestra -- plus a special group of musicians including two vocal choirs, drums, electric guitars, gamelin, mandolin, Moog synthesizer, piano, Hammond organ, theremin (that would be me!), four charangos (South American ukelele), musical saw, erhu (a Chinese string instrument), Alpine horn, a yodeler, and probably some others that I've forgotten -- were arranged in a huge circle around the outer perimeter of the stage. The audience was seated inside the circle of musicians, and Beck was on an elevated circular platform inside the audience.

Here is an interactive 360-degree video of the performance.

If the link above doesn't work for you, you can see a regular video on YouTube. (For best viewing results, change the resolution to HD-1080p)

(The following is excerpted from a press release about the project.)

"Sound and Vision" is a song about the writing process, the mystery of ideas and where they come from.

How do you re-create a classic song from one of rock and roll's greatest, most iconic, most revolutionary musicians ever?

You don't. You completely reimagine it. At least that's what Beck has set out to do.

Beck's been no stranger to reinvention throughout his career. He's seemingly reinvented himself with every release as he fuses folk, rock, country, funk and a dozen other genres into sounds that stay fresh after thousands of listens.

So it comes as no surprise that Beck's latest endeavor is no different. For Beck, the project isn't about taking Bowie's song note for note, but rather rebuilding the feeling and emotion of the song one note at a time into a symphony of sounds ranging from a horn section to a musical saw.

 


Studio session for The Simpsons annual Halloween episode, entitled "Treehouse of Horror XXIII," airing on October 7, 2012 on Fox TV. Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor. This was my third Simpsons recording session.

 


Recording session at the Christopher Young music studio in Culver City, California.

Christopher Young is a film composer with many projects under his belt, many of them horror films. His credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Invaders from Mars (1986), Trick or Treat, Hellraiser, Flowers in the Attic, Haunted Summer, The Man who Knew too Little, Species, Urban Legend, The Big Kahuna, The Core, The Country Bears, Swordfish, The Grudge, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Ghost Rider, Spiderman 3, The Black Tulip, The Hurricane, The Rum Diary, When in Rome, and Priest.

However, the project I worked on is not related to a film but a CD recording of 18 novelty songs. I played on four of them. The songs are whimsical, fun, not at all serious. One is a send-up of 1960s surf music; the other is in the style of a Russian folk song, the third has a Chinese feel, and the last one I'm not sure what you'd call it -- it was a cacophony of kazoos, animal sounds, percussions, banjos, electric organ, slide whistles, and ... theremin!!

 


Studio session for The Simpsons annual Halloween episode, entitled "Treehouse of Horror XXII," airing on October 30, 2011 on Fox TV. Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.

This was the first "Treehouse of Horror" episode for which a real theremin was used.

 


Recording of the soundtrack from Alfred Hitchcock's The Red House, arranged and conducted by Kevin Kaska with the 90-piece Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

This CD is available at Intrata, Screen Archives, and Amazon.com.

 


Studio session for The Simpsons episode entitled "Homer Scissorhands," airing May 8, 2011. Alf Clausen, composer, Dell Hake, conductor.

This session was recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox, Culver City. The Newman stage has been home to many, many film and television recording sessions over the years. See Hollywood's Historic Newman Scoring Stage for a brief history of the stage, and Newman Scoring Stage at IMDB for a list of recent productions.

This episode of "The Simpsons" was the first ever for which an actual theremin was used in the soundtrack. Previously, they had trouble locating a theremin player who could work under the time constraints of the recording sessions. Instead, they used a synthesizer keyboard to play a theremin sample - much to Matt Groening's displeasure. (He's a big fan of the theremin.)

The situation changed when a scene in 'Homer Scissorhands' was written to feature Milhouse playing the theremin. They had to find a suitable theremin player and I was hired for that episode.

 


Three live performances and a CD recording (on Telarc) of Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound Concerto at the Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel, conductor.

 
The live performances were presented with the Cirque de la Symphonie. The CD is entitled Vintage Cinema and contains excerpts from a dozen great film scores from the early 1930s to the early 1960s.

Here's a link to my photos and writeup.

 


Two performances of the Symphonic Suite No. 1 (adapted from the film score for Komsomol: Patron of Electrification) by Gavriil Popov -- with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Conductor, at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. This was the U.S. premiere of this work which was composed in 1932.

 


Guest appearance with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis, Indiana, Jack Everly, Conductor. Four performances October 29 - November 1, 2009.

 


Performed on the sound track for Monster House, an animated 3-D feature film scheduled for release in the summer of 2006. (“Three teenagers discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster.”) Produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, directed by Gil Kenan and starring Mitchel Musso, Jason Lee, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Kathleen Turner and Fred Willard. The score was written by Douglas Pipes.

The score was recorded on the huge Barbra Streisand Recording Stage at Sony Pictures in Culver City, California.

 


Performance live at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater in conjunction with the upcoming film Monster House (Spielberg / Zemeckis), the 3D animated Sony picture for which I played the theremin on the soundtrack. The film received a special pre-release screening as part of the 12th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival.

 


Performed on the sound track for The Zula Patrol, an animated children's series.

A group of animated aliens travel the galaxies to learn new and exciting things about science and space exploration. The series, targeted to pre-kindergarteners through third-graders, delivers astronomy-based science education as well as character-building lessons.

The Zula Patrol is stationed in the far reaches of outer space on the bright orange planet Zula. The group is always on the lookout for the villain Dark Truder. Dark Truder is incessantly masterminding plots to foil the Zula Patrol and frustrate their efforts to make the galaxy a better place in which to live. Perched on top of Dark Truder's shiny, bald head is his talking toupee Traxie. As Truder's conscience, she is always a bit leery of his nefarious plots.

The recording session, done in Hollywood, was a lot of fun. The score was written by Jeff Danna. The theremin parts were definitely high-camp but gently so. Of course, I provided musical motifs for the villain, Dark Truder!

Currently, the show is running on The Qubo Channel, where it's running every day. It is also airing on Telemundo (Spanish speaking network) Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m., NBC Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m., Ion Media Networks Thursday afternoons at 3:30 p.m., and American Public Television ("check your local listings). There is a lot of theremin in the show's sound track! You'll hear one particular riff repeated frequently: that's villain Dark Truder's "theme music."

There are a bunch of Zula Patrol videos on YouTube. I've found the following where you can hear my playing (and there are probably more):

Zula Patrol YouTube #1
Zula Patrol YouTube #2
Zula Patrol YouTube #3
Zula Patrol YouTube #4
Zula Patrol YouTube #5
Zula Patrol YouTube #6
Zula Patrol YouTube #7

 


Performance with organist Stewart Wayne Foster at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

I performed as part of a special memorial service for organist legend Bob Mitchell (1913-2009 R.I.P.).

 


Interview feature on Time-Warner SoCal News with Ben McCain. See abridged version at YouTube.

 


Two lecture-demonstrations at the Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena, California.

 


Three live performances (and theremin demonstrations) of Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound Concerto with the New West Symphony, Boris Brott, Music Director. The performances, entitled Movie Medley, included works by Leonard Bernstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Bernard Herrmann, Miklós Rózsa and John Williams.

 


Recital at Buckingham's Choice, Adamstown, Maryland, with pianist Noel Lester.

 


"Out of This World - Music for the Theremin" -- Recital at Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, with pianist Noel Lester, Violinist RoseAnn Markow and Bass player David Lester.

 


Lecture/demonstration and performance at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

 


Performed on the sound track for Finn on the Fly, a family comedy about a dog named Finn and his owner Peter. Both their lives are changed when Finn is accidentally transformed into a human when a science experiment goes wrong. Directed by Mark Jean and starring Matthew Knight, Ryan Belleville, Ana Gasteyer. The score was written by Jeff Danna.

 


Played for an "Evening for World Harmony" at the Belair, California home of noted designer and co-founder of Global Vision for Peace Xorin Balbes.

 


Performed on the sound track for the upcoming The Simpsons Video Game (based on the Fox TX animated series The Simpsons). Score by Timothy Wynn and Christopher Lennertz.

 


Performed live at “SAUMA: Design as Cultural Interface” at the A+D (Architecture Plus Design) Museum in Los Angeles. See Fox 11 News coverage here.

 


50th Birthday Party for Kenneth Brecher, Executive Director, Sundance Institute (The Sundance Film Festival)

 


Appeared with the Bellflower Symphony, Bellflower, California. Featured on the concert was the world premiere of “Concerto for Theremin and Orchestra” composed by Benjamin Harris.

 


Appeared at GRAND PERFORMANCES, Southern California's largest presenter of free performing arts programs and a landmark nonprofit arts institution, in conjunction with the screening of Steven M. Martin's award-winning documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

 


Appeared on the worldwide-airing Country Music Television Channel (cable and satellite) program Most Shocking Ways to Make a Buck. The show profiles people with unusual, odd, strange, bizarre or disgusting jobs ... ranging from armpit sniffers [testing the effectiveness of deodorants], to midget wrestlers, to cattle artificial inseminators, to skyscraper maintenance people, to ... well, theremin players! This show is rebroadcast fairly frequently, so be on the lookout for it!

 


Noted photographer Nancy Ricca Schiff has documented me for inclusion in her book Odd Jobs 2 - a sequel to her best-selling first volume.


 


Appeared in concert with Stan Kann at Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton, California.

 


Played for a private reception (approximately twelve-hundred invited guests) as part of the Dedication and Grand Opening of the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

 


Played for a private APLA Fund Raiser at the historic Hollywood home of Global Vision for Peace co-founder Xorin Balbes.

 


Played for the score of the Hallmark Channel movie The Monster Makers. The score was written by composer Steve Edwards, who has scored over 45 movies and numerous television shows and specials including the series Push, Nevada. The cast includes Linda Blair, George Kennedy, Tim McCallum, and Adam Baldwin.

This film is now avaialble on DVD in Barnes and Nobles stores and also on-line at amazon.com.

 


Performed at the Bigfoot Lounge in Los Angeles, appearing with Seksu Roba and Project:Pimento.

 


Recorded with the German group Phono Royal for their album “Igelverteiler“. (Also see www.hazelwood.de/phonoroyal) The CD is available at Amazon.de.

 


Recital in Geisel Library, University of California San Diego.

 


Recital in San Jose, California at First Presbyterian Church.

 


Played and demonstrated the theremin for a screening of Steven M. Martin's documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood, California.

 


Performed with organist Fred Swann for the Noon Recital Series at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

 


"Command Performance" with Pianist/Organist Bob Mitchell in the home of Music Pioneer Don Leslie.

 


Performed in recital with my brother, pianist Noel Lester, at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.

 


Performed with the Southeast Symphony in Los Angeles.

 


Performed at the Moog-a-thon, a tribute to electronic music pioneer Bob Moog, at the historic Hollywood Athletic Club.

 


Numerous performances for the Los Angeles County Dept. of Recreation and Parks in Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Eagle Rock.

 


Performed with organist Fred Swann for the “Bach Birthday Bash” in the Crystal Cathedral Arboretum.

 


Four recitals at Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles, California. (2010, 2006, 2002, 1998)

 


Participated in the First International Theremin Festival in Portland, Maine.

 


Participated in a theremin workshop at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, with electronic music pioneer Bob Moog and world-renowned theremin virtuosa Lydia Kavina.

 


Appeared on Good Morning, America. with Joel Seigel, Charlie Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas.

 


Gave a theremin recital and workshop in Las Vegas, at the Orleans Hotel, for the 79th annual convention of the National Association of Negro Musicians.

 


Was featured in a full-page article for the Outlook, Santa Monica California’s daily newspaper.

 


Played the theremin for the score of Rag Doll, a film produced by Big City Pictures, starring Freda Payne, Score & soundtrack recording produced & mixed by Booker T. Jones III.

 


Played the theremin for three television commericals: McAfee VirusScan, Dell computers and Michelob beer.

 


Performed the theme for the Discovery Channel — National Geographic show Animalicious. (“Wild Kingdom Meets National Enquirer”!) Score by Mick Muhlfriedel.

 


Played the theremin in Munich, Germany for a live performance of the “radio space opera” Odysseus7.

 


Was featured in Los Angeles Magazine's “Best of L.A.” issue (1998).

 


Gave two concerts in San Francisco, California, as a part of the “Noontime Concerts” series at the historic Old St. Mary's Church in Chinatown.

 


Featured artist for the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum Grand Reopening.

 


Appeared in concert with the Continental Consort at the Playhouse, Sierra Madre, California.

 


Featured artist for the L.A.International Airport “Encounter” Restaurant Grand Reopening.

 


And many more adventures as well, some of which you can read about in my Updates and How I Fell in Love with the Theremin pages.

 

 

Promotional flyer

 

 
Other theremin-related pages on my site, also in no particular order:

A Brief History of the Theremin

Hear Some of My Work

How I Fell in Love with the Theremin

Theremin Updates

A Fun Theremin Gig in Ojai

Dr. Samuel Hoffman

The First International Theremin Festival

An Outdoor Theremin Jam Session

A Theremin Rogues' Gallery

Miscellaneous Photo Gallery

Bob Moog Makes a House Call

The Man of a Thousand Faces?!

Dr. Albert Polsky

A Mysterious Tube Theremin

Albert Glinsky Book Signing

“Command Performance” for Don Leslie

The New Moog Etherwave Pro

My First Corporate Sponsor, QSC Audio

Bela Lugosi, Thereminist?!

 

 
 

More Information About the Theremin

Albert Glinsky’s compelling biography about Leon Theremin, Theremin-Ether Music & Espionage is a must-read for those interested in the history of the theremin. It can be obtained directly from the publisher, Indiana University Press.

The documentary (Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey) mentioned above is generally available for rent or purchase at your favorite video store; or you can buy a copy from amazon.com. Moog Music also sells theremins, effects pedals, and other electronic music gear, as well as a variety of videos, CDs, etc. pertaining to the theremin.

And, not surprisingly, the Internet contains a vast wealth of information. Just start at your favorite search engine (I like google.com) and you will find plenty of information about the theremin and its history.

A number of recordings are available featuring various thereminists including Clara Rockmore, Lydia Kavina, Pamelia, James Coleman, Project:Pimento, Seksu Roba, and others. Most of these are available at the various on-line record stores or through other web sites such as www.MoogMusic.com.

Another great theremin resource is “Levnet,” a list-server dedicated to theremin enthusiasts. For more information on Levnet, go to Levnet Information.

How would you like a mouse-operated “theremin” on your computer? A fun shareware program called “Mousing” is available from Sagebrush Systems.

 
 



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