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article imageWilliam Close and the Earth Harp Collective honor FDNY in song Special

By Kathleen Creighton     Sep 12, 2014 in Music
New York - Last night, in a small alcove beside the Ritz Plaza apartments, just off Time Square, William Close and The Earth Harp Collective paid a beautiful and moving tribute to the fallen heroes of 9/11/01.
It is amazing how many hidden spaces there are in Manhattan, especially ones in Midtown. Last night, in one those small, intimate spots, the world's largest stringed instrument mourned losses, celebrated life and for a brief moment, created a family.
The evening began with the arrival of a contingent from Engine 54 Ladder 4 Battalion 9, the company being honored. In his introduction, Michael Stern, creative director for Stonehenge NYC, owner/operator of the Ritz Plaza, explained that this battalion is the station that serves the Ritz Plaza's neighborhood and is the one that lost the most members of any one house on 9/11. Fifteen of their brothers died in the disaster. Two members of the battalion took the stage, one reading the names of the fallen while the other rang the traditional fire bell to commemorate their service. Then William Close took the stage with drummer Richard Sherwood and played their arrangement of "Amazing Grace". Stern, still acting as the MC, mentioned that William and the Collective had given a private concert earlier in the day for the families of Engine 54 Ladder 4 Battalion 9 and had opened it with this same song.
"Amazing Grace" set the tone for the rest of the performance and the gathering of people who were a part of it. The tiny piazza, already a sacred space, filled with the rich sounds of the Earth Harp, played by William Close and his wife Sarah Werrin , strung to the side of the Ritz Plaza, the thunder of the 'drum cloud' made by Richard Sherwood, the sweet tones of a violin drawn out by Hannah Thiem, the brightness of a guitar played by Thomas Hjorth and powerful, angelic praise, prayers, thanksgiving and blessings of the human singing voice delivered by Rafe Pearlman. Later, in a personal conversation with Stern, it was learned that this small alcove had been specifically built as a memorial to the fire house being honored. Even before The Earth Harp Collective added their spirituality, this serene stone garden with a small fountain at its center, was created as a place to mourn, reflect and find peace. William and the other performers along with their instruments took that to a much higher level.
In one of the breaks in the music, Close noted how the night was also made special by the number of "family" members in the audience. He went on to clarify that they were not all biological relatives. As one familiar with the "tribes", this reporter observed that there were more than a few representatives of the New York metro area contingent of the arts tribes, many of whom had just returned from Burning Man. But then Close pointed out that all in attendance were family, even if just for the brief time gathered there. That temporary family consisted of every race, more than one faith, and spanned the ages from the very young to the elderly. There were able bodies and some disabled, very wealthy and those just getting by. It was a microcosm of the human family that came together for a few hours in a spirit of peace and love.
Of course the majority of the night was about music and what glorious music it was. From modern classics such as Peter Gabriel's "Blood Of Eden" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to classical classics like "Moonlight Sonata" and a brilliant fusion of Johan Pachelbel's iconic Cannon with U2's "With Or Without You." The Earth Harp Collective just re-released their album Behind The Veil so their set included other tracks from the record including "The Great Superior" and their set closer "Love Reign O'er Me". William did take up the solo position on the Earth Harp, playing a harmonic medley to calm spirits down at the very end.
Words really cannot do justice to this event. This reporter has previous Earth Harp experience, but this one was unique in so many ways. It is highly recommended that anyone who has not experienced The Earth Harp Collective, needs to. It is something they will not soon forget.
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