about the
dvd & cd

One-Sheet (pdf)   •   Press Release (pdf)   •   Liner Notes (pdf)   •   Who's Who (pdf)
Read Apple.com Articles
(pdf) : No Harping on Stereotypes   Flexible Tools Enhance Creative Process


“Invention & Alchemy” was created first and foremost as a DVD. It was filmed in hi-definition with multiple cameras during three days of live performances. With an Emmy-winning director, Grammy-winning sound engineers, an irrepressible star, a celebrated and multi-talented conductor, award-winning composer, an exuberant and masterful orchestra, “Invention & Alchemy” breaks the barrier between music video, PBS-type broadcast and narrative film. The 13 titles fit together like a collection of short stories, with the Henson-Conant as narrator, tour guide and musical inventor.

The CD is a companion disc. Created to play like a radio play, the CD allows you to bring the DVD experience with you wherever you go and includes most, but not all, of the scenes from the DVD. Unlike a standard music album, it's not just a collection of musical numbers, but a series of stories told in words and music.

The DVD includes all the music and stories from the Grammy-Nominated CD plus the following bonus features:

  • An 18-minute Behind-the-Scenes movie by Rick DiGregorio
  • 12 “White Rabbit” Clips – Interactive links that allow viewers to slip through ‘rabbit holes’ in the program, go behind-the-scenes and learn about the pieces' specific techniques and back-stories in the pieces
  • Additional tracks, including:
    • “Healing the Waters” - an intimate ballet created especially for this DVD by Gordon Pierce-Schmidt, creative director of the acclaimed Grand Rapids Ballet company
    • “Nataliana” for solo harp (it’s used under the credits in the DVD)

by Michael Belcher

Deborah Henson-Conant has been called many things – the “wild woman” of the harp by Doc Severinson, “a combination of Leonard Bernstein, Steven Tyler, and Xena the Warrior Princess” by Ed Siegel of The Boston Globe, and “Innovative, ground-breaking, boundary-pushing, flat-out brilliant!” by the Sonoma County Independent. However, no label fits Deborah Henson-Conant better than her very own name – herself – the essential “her.”

Ever since she put a classical instrument on the map in the jazz field with her unique, custom-built, strap-on electric harp, Henson-Conant has been forging a path for musicians striving to not merely represent their instrument, but finding a way to make their instrument represent themselves – who they are. She has managed to chip away the connotations that the harp is simply a classical instrument and she is simply a classical musician and reach some little, tiny thing inside that is “her,” and she has found a way to build that back up to the tour-de-force talent she is today. Now she and her craft can be something other than what they’ve always been. Something magical. A new idea. Something like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

All of these notions of innovation, creativity and rebirth are alive in her DVD, Invention & Alchemy – a revolutionary endeavor that takes the beauty of classical music, warps it with daring nuances of the blues, flamenco and even a Mexican street band and then enlivens it with storytelling and an exuberant theatricality. Nowhere else will you see an entire orchestra in stark white lab coats or a stage transform into a set piece from 1001 Arabian Nights and a renowned conductor become a vengeful Sultan. The DVD gives a whole new meaning to crossover classical.

Deborah Henson-Conant is the writer of the stories, the music, the lyrics and the orchestrations. It all truly comes from one woman’s mind. With the seed of a musical idea, Henson-Conant collaborated with the Grand Rapids Symphony to bring it bursting to life. Each piece garners its power from the integration – the alchemy – of the orchestra and the solo performer. With the help of a brilliant conductor, an Emmy-winning director and a Grammy-winning sound engineer and producer, each aspect of the DVD – the orchestra, lighting, direction, camera work – becomes the living, breathing body of a single, irrepressible soul.

Yes, Invention & Alchemy may only be a DVD, but it stands for every person with an idea; every person who wants to tell a story. Deborah Henson-Conant has a story to tell. The Grand Rapids Symphony becomes her world – the emblem of the world that lets each person become who they want to be; who they’re meant to be. The you inside of us all.

Mike Belcher 2006