Contrabass Serpent Photo Gallery 

Here are a few selected photographs showing each of the contrabass serpents that have been made.

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The Original Contrabass Serpent: "The Anaconda" [1840]


The person who probably has the most time playing The Anaconda is Andrew van der Beek of The London Serpent Trio. He has used the instrument for numerous concerts and recordings.


The person most familiar with contrabass serpents after Andrew van der Beek is Doug Yeo of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. This picture shows Doug with The Anaconda during his only visit to the instrument's home in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The 2nd Contrabass Serpent: "The American Anaconda" [1986]


In 1986 (?) instrument maker Steven Silverstein made a unique contrabass serpent from sections of PVC water and drain pipe. It was presented at the 1986 Amherst Early Brass Festival, where is is shown posing with serpent maker and London Serpent Trio member Christopher Monk (L) and its builder Silverstein (R).


This photo shows The American Anaconda on stage at the First International Serpent Festival (1989), Columbia, South Carolina, where it was played by Ronald Davis.

The 3rd Contrabass Serpent: "George" [1990]


On commission from Philip Palmer and in preparation for the 400th Anniversary of the Serpent Workshop & Celebration (1990), Christopher Monk and helpers made another unique contrabass serpent. It's shape was a simple scale-up of the regular church-style serpents normally made by the Monk Workshop, but it's critical dimensions, including bore length, bore size, and finger hole positions and sizes were based on the original Anaconda. 

This photo shows the instrument, held by its maker, after carving was completed but before the brass bocal, brass trim, key work and leather covering were completed. Since it reached this stage close to St. George's Day (a British holiday), it was dubbed "George".


This photo shows Philip Palmer with his newly delivered instrument, after a concert at the London Zoo, part of the week-long 1990 Celebration.


On the way back to the van after the Celebration's zoo concert, 'official' "George" escort Paul Schmidt, soon to take over editing and publication duties of The Serpent Newsletter, strolls past the camera. 


After the death of original owner Philip Palmer, Doug Yeo bought George. He has become expert with the instrument's idiosyncrasies, and has used it in performances in the Boston area. Here he poses with George and another odd creation of Christopher Monk's, the unhistorical soprano serpent "The Worm", during a performance at Tanglewood.

The 4th Contrabass Serpent: "George II" [199?]


After the death of Christopher Monk, Keith Rogers took over serpent making duties at the Monk Workshop. In the late 1990's, probably 1996 or 1997, on commission from Matthew Bettenson, Keith reused George's tooling to make a copy called George II. This new instrument is identical to George, except that the key mechanism is set up to open the keys when the buttons are pressed, as opposed to closing them when pressed.

This photo is from several years later, when Doug Yeo was on a concert tour with the Boston Symphony, and stopped by the Monk Workshops in London. Bettenson brought George II to let Doug compare it to his earlier version.

The 5th Contrabass Serpent: "Patrick" [2003]


As part of a year-long project to come up with construction plans for simplified versions of serpent related instruments for the Serpent Website, Paul Schmidt designed three successful instruments. First was a bass serpent related horn called The Squarpent. Next came a wooden ophicleide, called the Box-O-Cleide, using the techniques and shortcuts first used with the Squarpent. Finally, the contrabass serpents of the past inspired a contrabass Squarpent design. 

This photo shows the instrument, held by its maker, during its first test blow in March of 2003. Since it reached this stage close to St. Patrick's Day , it was dubbed "Patrick".


This photo shows Patrick once it has been cleaned up for its press release. It is being played by it's maker, Paul Schmidt.

The 6th Contrabass Serpent: "Sylvester" [2004]


In 2004, Bill Broom in England followed the Serpent Website plans for "Patrick" the Contrabass Squarpent. After forming the basic tubing sections, he decided to arrange them in a straight-ahead layout, as opposed to Patrick's fold-back layout. This made construction easier, but made for greater overall dimensions. Bill also used a direct keying system, a concept originally considered but ultimately rejected for Patrick.

Bill named the instrument after both Saints Sylvester, whose days are celebrated on November 26 and December 31; the instrument was started late in December 2003, in between these two holidays, and following the tradition of naming contrabass serpents after the saints whose holidays align closest with the instruments' construction milestones, "Sylvester" was chosen.

Gabriel with Monk bass serpent

The 7th Contrabass Serpent: "Gabriel" [2014]


In 2013, JC Sherman of Bedford, Ohio, completed his version of a Contrabass Serpent, and dubbed it "Gabriel" since it was given its first blow on St. Gabriel’s Day, September 29.

Gabriel's 42" bocal, shown in the photo with a brass finish, was hand fabricated from sheet brass. The remainder of the instrument, shown in the photo with a black finish, is assembled from curved sections taken from various tubas, and the large large curved section at the bottom is from a brass Sousaphone. The bell rim is hand fabricated. The mouthpiece receiver takes a standard tuba mouthpiece. Gabriel is pictured next to a normal bass church serpent by Monk.

In early 2014, Sherman completed the keywork, making the instrument fully playable. The tone hole cups were hand made, while the key levers, hinges, and springs were re-purposed from modern ritary valve instruments.

JC Sherman with Gabriel


This photo shows Gabriel being played by it's maker, JC Sherman.

Two videos of Gabriel being played may be watched on YouTube, by searching for:

First Test: Contrabass Serpent "Gabriel"

or using the URL


Annie Laurie on Contrabass Serpent "Gabriel"

or using the URL

The Serpent Website: Return to Index

Copyright Paul Schmidt 2002
revised March 2014