Boston (Massachusetts), USA – She strides on stage with the energy of a rock star and pulls a soulful, electrifying power-chord from her harp.
If you think the harp isn’t "that" kind of instrument, it wasn’t until Deborah Henson-Conant got her hands on it – literally – and convinced European builders to invent a harp she could strap on like an electric guitar.
Now she takes center stage, her multi-colored braids flying, and plays in styles from Flamenco to Blues, with a musical-theatre-style singing voice and a narrative of storytelling and humor.The result: one-woman shows that blur the line between musical performance and theatrical event.
"The transformation of my harp is a metaphor for what happens when we break personal stereotypes and authentically express who we are," says Henson-Conant. "That’s what I try to do in every show."
In her latest work – the Invention & Alchemy DVD, Invention & Alchemy CD and TV special "Invention & Alchemy" – Henson-Conant collaborates with an 80-piece orchestra, reinventing the interplay of soloist and symphony into a more interactive and theatrical format she dubs "symphonic music theatre."
"I wanted to use all the power and the beauty of a full orchestra as an entrance to personal experience," says Henson-Conant, who wrote all the songs, stories and orchestrations.
The project continues to win awards, from a Grammy Nomination to first prize in the International Songwriting Competition, and is appearing on PBS stations nationwide.
Described as a "combination of Leonard Bernstein, Steven Tyler and Xena the Warrior Princess" by the Boston Globe, Henson-Conant has opened for Ray Charles, been featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, played the 17,000-seat Bercy stadium in Paris, won awards from NEA and "Meet the Composer" and been featured on shows from NBC’s "Today" to NPR’s "Weekend Edition."
Henson-Conant’s upcoming performances include solo shows in Boston and NYC, and orchestral shows in NY State and Florida. Her recent Science-Meets-Music series debuted at the Cambridge Science Festival.