Harpist Elizabeth Hainen on WRTI's Philadelphia Music Makers: Sept. 21 at 5 PM

Sep 18, 2014

WRTI presents the debut episode of Philadelphia Music Makers on Sunday, September 21 from 5 to 6 pm. Elizabeth Hainen, principal harp of The Philadelphia Orchestra, launches the series.

Most of the music for Philadelphia Music Makers was recorded at WRTI's state-of–the art studios or in the German Society of Pennsylvania in Center City Philadelphia, with its lively acoustics and beautiful Bösendorfer grand piano.

One exception was The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Principal Harp Elizabeth Hainen, since transporting a concert harp is "no piccolo."

Thus we headed to Elizabeth Hainen's own colonial-era home in Northern Liberties.

Thanks to its hardwood floors and wood paneling, the home’s acoustics are exquisite - and, in more than one room. In the end we chose to record the session in Elizabeth's large living room, rather than in her practice room as it gave her instrument an even airier, brighter sound that worked well for recording. 

Cosmo and Elizabeth

So, in the end, she did have to move the harp, but only about 20 feet!

I’ve watched Elizabeth Hainen perform with The Philadelphia Orchestra innumerable times in the Kimmel Center and in halls throughout America, Asia, and Europe, but this was different. Very different.

To sit alone in a room and hear this extraordinarily talented individual do what she does is transcendent.

The mics were in place, the recorders were running, I was seated on the sofa maybe six feet away as Elizabeth pivoted the harp towards her and began playing. As the first exquisite bars filled the room, Handel's concerto for harp in B flat major, I gasped.  It was as if I was hearing the harp for the first time. The beauty and complexity of the music that was being drawn from this huge instrument by this petite woman was astonishing. And the quality and sheer force of the sound...yes, force! From a harp?

And then she stopped. 

"Huh?" says I, like the puppy whose had the half-chewed slipper confiscated.

"Oh, Jim" says she, smirking, "that was just a finger loosener. Wait 'til I really get going!"

And I did, and she did.

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