Young, talented and in the company of pros
Heidi Gorton assumes the first Elise Christianson Memorial Intern Chair
By ADAM TANOUS
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
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 Mozarts
"Symphony No. 34" and Elgars "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 ValleyVan Hoesen has been here for
eight yearsthey became friends. "We were all very close," Van Hoesen said.
Van Hoesen, who has been her daughters teacher up until recently,
said that it was "unusual for someone Heidis age to have this kind of
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, "thats where my Dad comes in. Hes the harp
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
daughters 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, raftingyou name it, mostly with a good friend she met through the
Van Hoesen told a story of her daughters being interviewed on Public
Radio International about a month ago. The interviewer and pianist, Christopher
ORiley, pointed out that Gorton had traveled all over the world: to China, the great
cities in Europe. What was her favorite place? Without a moments 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. Im more excited than
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, "Ive been
bitten by the bug. Now I have to go to Broadway."