Writing the June newsletter about playing the harp on movie soundtracks led me on a trip down memory lane. It inspired me to see what else I could find on the internet about some of my other early harp projects. This month, I'm telling you a bit about some of my television work in the 1980s.
I gave several concerts in Chicago in 1982 as part of my solo concert tour in the mid-west. Michael Hirsch, an Executive Producer at the Chicago PBS Station WTTW saw one of these shows. He really liked my
Harp of Brandiswhiere
suite, and he hired me to create the music for his 30 minute TV documentary, "Chicago's Secret Wilderness." He flew me and my harp out to Chicago for three days to record the soundtrack. At his request, I improvised most of the music from my
The show aired on October 27, 1982. Here's the description that was in WTTW's monthly television guide magazine, "The Dial."
Within forty-five minutes of Chicago, there are prairie lands, woods, streams, canyons, marshlands, and wildlife as they existed before anyone dreamed of a city. Against a background of railroad trestles and factories, with the city's skyscrapers in the distance, the redwing blackbirds take fligh
t, egrets and herons breed, a fox hides out in the underbrush, and deer make tracks in the snow. "Chicago's Secret Wilderness" was a revelation to its producers, and they share their "unexpected and pleasant surprise" with viewers in this WTTW production. The seldom-seen beauty of Chicago's wilderness inspired the words of a famous poet: "The prairie sings to me in the forenoon and I know in the night I rest easy in the prairie arms on the prairie heart." So wrote Carl Sandburg, a man familiar with the moods of these lands. Studs Terkel reads Sandburg's verses in "Chicago's Secret Wilderness," while Sylvia Woods, who plays the Celtic harp, provides the background accompaniment she composed especially for the program.
I recently did an internet search to see if I could find a copy of this old program and came across the mediaburn.org website that said: "this videotape is not yet digitized. Please email us to let us know you're interested in watching it, and we'll see if we're able to make it available online sooner." I emailed them, and two days later they sent me an email saying "
Chicago's Secret Wilderness has been digitized and is now available" Wow! That was quick!
I asked Media Burn to tell me about their company, so I could share their vision with you, and here's their reply:
Media Burn Archive is a nonprofit organization in Chicago that collects, preserves, and distributes documentary video produced by artists, activists, and community groups. This particular tape came to us from Studs Terkel's collection of his appearances on TV shows and movies that he donated to us before he died.
1982 was a long time ago, so I don't remember a lot about creating this soundtrack. But here are a few things I do recall.
#1. When I showed up at the TV studio, the recording engineer said: "I'm an expert at recording harps." He then stuffed the entire sound box of my harp with fist-sized pieces of foam! I tried to stop him, but he said that he knew what he was doing, that he was in charge of sound, and for me to shut up. When the producer arrived, and I played my harp for him, he said: "Your harp sounds terrible!" I told him that was because his idiot engineer had filled the harp with foam! The producer made him take it out . . . and my harp sounded great! What was that guy thinking?????
#2. Some of you may remember the Sara Lee desserts jingle from the 1980s:
"Everybody doesn't like something. But nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."
At one point in the documentary, a muskrat is eating a "frozen fish dinner" from the lake. The narrator says "Dinner's over. So, it's back to the icy water to look for dessert." The producer suggested that I play the "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" tag line here. You'll hear it about 13 minutes into the show, followed by a glissando as the muskrat dives into the water.
#3. While I was in Chicago, the producer set it up for me to be interviewed on Studs Terkel's daily WFMT radio show that was syndicated around the country. I'll tell you more about this in the July newsletter. So, stay tuned for more!