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The Voices of Vern Nash

A portrait of an elderly jazz man and his long battle with schizophrenia - Vern has multiple voices that speak to him - and he talks right back to them

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4.1/5 (57 ratings)

Documentary Maker: Thelon Oeming

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The Voices of Vern Nash

The day Thelon Oeming moved into an apartment in a working class area of Toronto, he saw a hunched-back man shouting to himself in the middle of the street.

Soon after that, the sounds of an accordion filled the air and Thelon discovered that this apparently tormented man was Vern Nash, a talented musician and his new neighbor. Thelon’s instincts were to record Vern, and maybe even to help him.

'The Voices of Vern Nash' began in 2005 as a personal essay made for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) about Thelon Oeming's unusual friendship with his neighbour Vern, an elderly jazz man suffering from schizophrenia.

Thelon continued to record Vern over the years and this documentary, which started as a way of preserving Vern's music, is the result.

Vern often visited Thelon to play his accordion and talk. Over time Thelon was able to piece together the disjointed parts of Verns story, and gradually the scale and tragedy of his experience became so compelling that Thelon knew his was an important story to tell.

In making 'The Voices of Vern Nash', Thelon wanted to understand the delusions that plagued Vern, and to understand how it informed his life, both internally and externally. He wanted to understand the logic of what most people would consider 'crazy talk', so he let Vern explain it in his own words.

Vern was incredibly open in sharing his experiences with Thelon and they built up a great trust and friendship.

Narrated and produced by Thelon Oeming.

Originally Broadcast on CBC Radio 1.

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