Last week I got back from Tacoma, WA where I had the joy of playing with the passionate (and sometimes unexpectedly comedic) musicians in Symphony Tacoma and their great new conductor conductor Sarah Ioannides – and to introduce the “Tacoma HarpBreakers” to the stage – a group of harp players of many ages from the Seattle-Tacoma area, who created an ensemble just for this show.

I also got to adventure into the sub-basement of the Pantages theatre to the storeroom of the old costume shop to search for a bowler hat for one of the piece – seeing the sub-basement is of those special things you get to do as a guest-artist that you normally can’t do.

The show was an Earth Day show that I developed specifically for this concert, with original music I’ve composed for orchestra, electric harp and voice (and sometimes audience — and Tacoma’s audience had some BEAUTIFUL voices!

We tried to give you a flavor of my experience in photos below.

Symphony Tacoma & Hip Harpist Deborah Henson-Conant

The marquee at gorgeous Pantages Theater …

Read all about it!

I got this great picture from Jessica Gallo (Thanks’s Jessica) and YOU can read the article by Christian Carvajal here.

On Stage Rocking out with Symphony Tacoma

The moment I love is when we get to simply PLAY – this was one of my favorite shots from the show.  I just love how much fun and enthusiasm concertmaster Svend Rønning brought to the show – and what you see here is just an example of how fun it was to play with this orchestra and their new conductor, Sarah Ioannides.

Remember that bowler hat I told you about?

This is the hat I found in the sub-sub-sub-basement of the Pantages – and the cover article of the Weekly Volcano. The title of the article is “Heaven, with Theatrical Flair.”

… and here’s a peek at the sub-sub-sub basement where I found it

Tacoma Harp-Breakers

During the show, I pointed out to the audience that there were a lot more violinists on the stage than harp players and the Harp-Breakers stormed the stage their instruments (elegantly of course) right after intermission to fix that inequity!  Then we played 3 pieces with the orchestra: New Blues, You Have a Voice, and a special Latin Party piece, “Califypso” – with the guest conductor … dressed as a toreador (darn! why don’t I have a photo of that???)

Below you can see the harp-breakers on stage AND at rehearsal.

Here we are in the rehearsal room working out some of the notes ….

… and the dance moves!

… and how to give the audience their cue …

And here they are on stage with the orchestra and our fearless guest conductor 

Ever Been to the Harp Petting Zoo?

The HarpBrekers didn’t just play — they also gave the audience a chance to see their harps up-close-and-personal in the HARP PETTING ZOO they held in the lobby just after the show.

The woman without whom …

 It was so wonderful to be able to connect the local harp community with the symphony musicians and the audience in Tacoma.  That’s part of my mission as a symphony soloist/composer: to be the catalyst for those kind of connections.  What makes it possible is a symphony staff who’s open to this kind of community collaboration – and what’s essential is a partner who pulls it together.

By the time I got to Tacoma, Pat Wooster had already put the ensemble together, rehearsed them, arranged rehearsal spaces and times with the symphony and sent emails about logistics to everyone in the ensemble.  Without that partnership, this part of the show simply couldn’t have happened. 

The Harp-Breakers themselves came not only from Tacoma – but also from more distant towns – so we could all be on stage together.  I’m so proud I got to work with all of them and that together, we were able to bring this whole new dimension to the show, and a whole new level of interaction with the community.  I can’t thank Pat, the HarpBreakers and the symphony staff enough for working with me on this part of the experience. This is us after the show, in the lobby.

More shots from the show!

Click on the images below to see them larger (and I’ll add more as they arrive)

So … it ain’t all roses …

I never travel without my harp-repair hit, to tighten up loose screws (in the instrument – I don’t have the right tools to tighten up the ones in me). It happens a lot because I work my instrument so hard and use the levers for pitch bends in ways they weren’t originally created to do. I discovered that the washer-dryer combo in my lovely AirBnB was the PERFECT repair-bench, especially if I used some of the music to cover the hole between the washer and dryer.

and I discovered that  a peak at my parts & scores ready for action, and the tub where all the scores and parts go after the show (ha! how inglorious!)


I also discovered that the resourceful music librarian at Symphony Tacoma uses a tub-on-wheels to transport the conductor’s score and all the players’ parts  after the show (ha! how inglorious!)

One of the hidden perks of being a guest artist!

One of the perks of being a special guest is you get your own shelf in the fridge

The way to a guest-artist’s heart …

The Pantages Theater crew chief, Warren, offered me a cup of coffee during our longest day of rehearsals and sound checks (that day ran about 12 hours for me) and that coffee was such a revelation that he sent me home with a little gift. How utterly fitting that this coffee that so inspired me also inspired Richard Wagner’s opera of the Valkyries.

How to chill out?

The next day I did a little decompressing before the flight back home.  I drove up to Duvall, a special place in my history – and walked up and down the Snoqualmie River.

Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who sent me pictures for this post: Nina Geiger, Steve Frederickson, Claire Jacobs, Jessica Gallo,  – and to everyone involved in this great project!  I wish I could have added ALL the amazing photos I got, but I hope what I’ve included gives you a taste of this — and THANK YOU TO ALL!


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