(This is from an note I just wrote to members of the Seattle-Tacoma harpist community)

Play-Date with an Orchestra

I’m excited about coming back to the Seattle-Tacoma area and thrilled to play with the Tacoma Symphony Sunday, March 27 at 2:30 pm! Seattle-Tacoma is a hotbed of harp activity in the U.S. and we’ve been in touch for years looking for just the right time and the right orchestra program — and this is it!   Details below about tickets, program, etc.  But here’s the story of how this happened…

What’s so cool about this concert is that, every time I play with a symphony, it’s the realization of a vision. Really!  A vision!  It happened one New Year’s Eve about 20 years ago:  I was sitting on my porch in Boston, shivering in my parka and I saw a vision of myself playing an electric harp in front of a full orchestra. The harp was strapped on and each string I plucked soared with the brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion of the orchestra.   I could see it all very clearly — and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

There was just one problem:  no harp like that existed, and I had no idea how to write music for orchestra.

But I had a friend who played in a string quartet, so I asked if she’d perform a concert with me, she agreed, and I played that concert on an old acoustic Wurlitzer with a little pickup to amplify it.  But it was a beginning.   Little by little, I kept learning to write scores for more instruments — by taking ‘lessons’ from other instrumentalists, and getting them to show me how to write for their instruments, and to critique the parts I’d written for them.  At the same time, I kept talking to all the harp builders I knew, trying to get them to build me the kind of harp I’d seen in my vision.

Harvey Felder, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra conductor

Harvey Felder, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra conductor

Many builder friends built me beautiful ‘harp-monsters’ trying to find a way to recreate the one I’d envisioned. And I wrote many orchestra and chamber music scores that almost worked, but that I had to rewrite many times until they started sounding the way I heard them in my head.

In the same way, CAMAC Harps kept building and rebuilding, changing and testing, investing  years of research, new technology and new models between the time they handed me the first one, made of wood, with thick plastic levers – to the streamlined, silver-levered, carbon-fiber model I play today, and that carries my own name, the “DHC Blue Light.”

This journey to simply having the ingredients for this wonderful artistic feast — the journey of learning  how to compose for orchestra, and to finally having the instrument I imagined – has been an amazing one, not always fun, and definitely not easy!  And  it’s taken over 15 years!   So when I walk out on stage now, wearing that gorgeous 11-pound electric harp that CAMAC built me — and when the conductor raises his baton and the orchestra plays their first notes — I feel like I’m finally stepping into the vision I had that New Year’s eve.  It’s like the end of a journey to where I wanted to begin … and the beginning of a huge new musical adventure.

I  hope you’ll be there to share it with me, and that while you’re in the audience,  you’ll envision yourself on the stage … because my next vision is seeing YOU up there playing these pieces.

Almost all the music I’m playing is original, all of it features the harp and I’m working to publish all of it so you’ll be able to – literally – get your hands on it!   That means that I’ll be very interested to hear from you all after the show about which pieces you most want me to publish first — which ones you can most see yourself playing. And all the music on this program is playable on both lever and pedal harp.

Right now the program includes Cosita Latina, Minstrel & the Wild Harp, Belinda, The Nightingale, Dance with Me, Siana’s Dream, and Way You Are Blues  — all in full-orchestra versions – as well as Nataliana as a solo.  Sometimes the program changes as the date nears. AND … it’s possible that we might even be doing a full-orchestra version of “New Blues” with not one harp, not two harps — but … well … as many as we can get on stage! (More on this as it unfolds!)

I’ll be playing my wonderful new 32-string, 11-pound carbon fibre “DHC Blue Light” which has a gorgeous sound and looks like something out of a science fiction novel.

Please make sure you’re on my mailing list and a fan of my Facebook page, because if I can, I’ll also be trying to share some solo harp versions of the music from the show ahead-of-time on line.   You can join both from my homepage: www.HipHarp.com.

I’m hoping there’ll be a chance for me to connect with all of you when I’m out there, let you see the harp up close and personal and just hang out a little bit!  I’ll also try to come a day or two early to be available for lessons, so if that’s something you’re interested in, please email my office (info@HipHarp.com).

(I’ll also be in Eugene later that same week performing a solo show so Oregonians, you can chime in, too!)

So…. I’m hoping all the harpists in the Seattle-Tacoma area can come to this show because the program is harp, harp, harp and harp.  Oh, and also harp!  And because the concert’s at 2:30 on a Sunday – March 27 – you’ll miss any rush-hour traffic by a good 16 hours!  I’ll see you there!

Sun. Mar. 27, 2011 – 2:30 PM
Pantages Theater – 901 Broadway – Tacoma, WA 98402
Deborah Henson-Conant, Electric Harp with The Tacoma Symphony
Harvey Felder, Music Director
Buy Tix: (253) 591-5890 / http://bit.ly/gh8d1K
Tix: $24, $42, $62, $77 – Discounts available for groups of 10 or more

More info about the show on my website

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