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Last modified: Friday, June 18, 2010

New WTIU documentary, 'Harp Dreams', chronicles musical journey of young harpists

June 18, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new documentary from Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Susanne Schwibs, Harp Dreams, will air on PBS June 23 at 9 p.m. EDT. The program is narrated by actress Blythe Danner and features an original score by Cary Boyce. It was directed by Indiana University lecturer Susanne Schwibs of the Department of Communication and Culture.

The film combines single-camera documentary techniques with multiple-camera concert footage. WTIU recorded the film in multiple countries over the span of six months in order to get to know each of the six harpists featured.

The film shows the harpists in practice sessions, rehearsals and performances as well as enjoying family and home life. The musicians featured in the film include performers from France, Japan, Russia and the United States. The competition also included performers from Argentina, Korea, China, Italy and several other countries.

Because the performers in this triennial competition come from all over the world, Harp Dreams also showcases the state of arts pedagogy and performance in other countries. Producers secured complete access to preparation, practice, judging and performance. Through the use of a single camera, video is unobtrusive, yet observant, capturing intimate moments usually hidden from the audience. Also included are interviews with judges, performers and event organizers for insights into what makes a world-class competitor.

Through the use of vignettes and transitions, the film also explores the technology and craft of building world-class harps, investigating their history and contemplating their future. The winner of the competition wins a one-of-a-kind harp created by the world-renowned Lyon & Healy Harp Company in Chicago. Experts at Lyon & Healy are seen in the film going through the process of the selection of exotic woods to the engineering of the 1,200 moving parts to the finishing and fine-tuning of the instrument.

Musical historians and others also briefly discuss the role of the harp in performance today, both as a solo instrument and as a part of symphony orchestras around the world.

The film examines the progression of the harp from a solo "folk" instrument to its current status as part of serious concert repertoire. Harp Dreams also portrays the rigors and rewards of a concert career, with an eye on the future role of the harp on the world music scene.

The Producers

WTIU's previous national programs include Beaux Arts at 50; Sugarplum Dreams: Staging the Nutcracker Ballet; Janos Starker: A Birthday Celebration; Circling Around: The Violin Virtuosi; and many others. WTIU's Executive Producer Steve Krahnke has worked in public television production for more than 15 years, creating or working on scores of award-winning programs.

A native of Germany, Susanne Schwibs (producer/director) has received an Emmy Award, the Cine Golden Eagle and several other prestigious awards. Together, Krahnke and Schwibs created Beaux Arts at 50, and American Horizons: The Photographs of Art Sinsabaugh, both of which continue to be aired nationally on PBS. Among her nationally distributed productions are Wilderness Plots: Songs and Stories of the Prairie, Spanning Time: America's Covered Bridges, Sugarplum Dreams: Staging the Nutcracker Ballet, and No Compromise: Lessons in Feminist Art with Judy Chicago. Currently, she is editing a documentary about the Cuban revolution, a co-production between Glenn Gebhard of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and WTIU. She has received grants from the Indiana Arts Commission, the Center for New Television, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to her work as producer and director, she also teaches film production for the Department of Communication and Culture at IU.

Blythe Danner (narrator) is well known to television, theater and film audiences. On stage she created the role of Jill Tanner in Butterflies Are Free for which she won a 1970 Tony Award. In 1972, she appeared as Martha Jefferson in the film version of 1776. In 2005, she was nominated for three Emmy Awards for her work on "Will & Grace," "Huff" and "Back When We Were Grownups." In 2006 and 2007, she won consecutive Emmy Awards for her appearances on the television series "Huff." Danner continues to perform on stage, on television and in feature films. In addition, she is committed to environmental and health care causes. Since the death of her husband, Bruce Paltrow, Danner has continued to raise awareness and funding for oral cancer issues. She is the mother of Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow.