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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

Young, talented and in the company of pros

Heidi Gorton assumes the first Elise Christianson Memorial Intern Chair

Express Staff Writer

Symphonic music seems to be one of the few disciplines in the world in which excellence is identified early on in life. A case and point is found in 14- year-old Heidi Gorton.

Gorton will be the first intern to occupy the Elise Christianson Memorial Intern Chair established by the Sun Valley Summer Symphony in memory of the beloved violinist for the SVSS. She is the daughter of Jim Gorton and Gretchen Van Hoesen, two members of the SVSS who also play in the Pittsburgh Symphony.

The opening night concert of the SVSS, Sunday July 30 at 6:30 p.m. under the tent, will be dedicated to Christianson. The SVSS will play Mozart’s "Symphony No. 34" and Elgar’s "Enigma."

The honor of the internship is not only meaningful to young Gorton, but to her parents. In a telephone interview, Van Hoesen described Christianson as "a wonderful violinist and a wonderful person." They had met when Christianson played as a substitute member in the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Over the years of playing in Sun Valley—Van Hoesen has been here for eight years—they became friends. "We were all very close," Van Hoesen said.

Van Hoesen, who has been her daughter’s teacher up until recently, said that it was "unusual for someone Heidi’s age to have this kind of opportunity."

Gorton will play in two concerts, sitting side by side with her mother, on Aug. 6 and 13. Both have been practicing together at home in Pittsburgh, Pa., before they leave for Sun Valley on Sunday.

Van Hoesen said that her daughter started piano when she was 4 years-old. Early on, she realized her daughter was of exceptional talent because of her auditory learning abilities. "She is very strong in that way, she always tries to recreate what she hears."

And clearly Gorton heard a great deal of music as a child, as a small child, that is. She often heard her mother play the harp at home and during performances. Also, her father is an oboist.

For her seventh birthday, Gorton asked for a harp, which to her surprise, she got. It was a troubadour harp (Keltic), which was smaller and meant for children. Gorton has long since outgrown that instrument, although only metaphorically. The full-size harp she plays now stands a full foot above her head. When I asked her how she moved it, Gorton said, "that’s where my Dad comes in. He’s the harp mover."

Other than having an unusual talent, Gorton comes across as a normal, albeit busy, ninth-grader. Not only does she study music, but she teaches it. She now has two students, one who is 7 years old and one who is 8. Van Hoesen said that her daughter’s teaching has been very good not only for the students, but for Gorton herself. Van Hoesen sounded a bit surprised by this result.

During the school year, Gorton plays with a harp group called the Genetic Harps, with the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, and hopes to also play with the school orchestra when she enters ninth-grade this fall.

Gorton, who will be here for three weeks, described Sun Valley as "my favorite place in the world." When not rehearsing or performing, she will be out biking, hiking, rafting—you name it, mostly with a good friend she met through the symphony.

Van Hoesen told a story of her daughter’s being interviewed on Public Radio International about a month ago. The interviewer and pianist, Christopher O’Riley, pointed out that Gorton had traveled all over the world: to China, the great cities in Europe. What was her favorite place? Without a moment’s hesitation, Gorton replied, "Idaho," and proceeded to sing the praises of Sun Valley on national radio for another 5 minutes.

She is a girl who continues to surprise those around her with her poise and talents. Van Hoesen explained that her daughter "never sings at home." So when she and her husband went to watch a dress rehearsal of a production of "Guys and Dolls," they were astonished to see their daughter belting out the lead songs of Miss Adelaide. Van Hoesen added, "She is very at-home on stage."

Indeed when a reporter asked her if she was nervous about performing with such a high caliber symphony, she said, "No, not really. I’m more excited than nervous."

As to her singing, Gorton said, "I love it." And yes, if you had not guessed, while she is here she will take some voice lessons at the Hemingway School.

Gorton was quick to say of her acting and singing, "I’ve been bitten by the bug. Now I have to go to Broadway."


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Copyright 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.