Meet Coline-Marie Orliac, Harpist for A Feast of Carols

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Coline-Marie Orliac joins Mendelssohn Club as our solo harpist for A Feast of Carols on December 11th in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  She took a moment out from her busy recital and audition schedule to talk about her career as a harpist and her upcoming performance.

Why did you decide to study harp ?
I fell in love with the Boieldieu Harp Concerto at the age of 7. A couple minutes after hearing it for the first time I went to my parents and said: “Mom, Dad, I want to play the harp!”. And a couple days later I became a student of Mme Fontan-Binoche with whom I studied until I went to Curtis in 2006, at the age of 16. At the age of 3, I also wanted to play the harp, but who knows why?! Then at the age of 5, I was offered to study piano and here it all started!

What’s been your favorite performance to date?  Have you ever played the Ceremony of Carols before?
I was extremely privileged to play with the Berliner Philharmoniker in the summer of 2009. We were 6 harpists and played the Wagner’s tterdämmerung. The cast was absolutely unbelievable, not to mention the orchestra and its conductor Simon Rattle. The dream lasted for about 3 weeks…
I have never had the opportunity to perform the Ceremony of Carols until now. The piece, for some reason, never gets to be performed as much as in the United States; it is simply not as popular as it is here.  I am very delighted to finally play it and especially with such a gorgeous choir.

This concert features works by our Composer-in-Residence Donald St. Pierre, who has been with us 15 years.   How do you go about learning new works that do not have recordings or performance tradition? I have had the pleasure to know Donald St Pierre since my first year at Curtis in 2006. It is an honor and a privilege to be the harpist of his piece! I deeply love learning new works, it requires a complete different approach and it just fascinates to me.

Is there something unique that you would tell audiences to listen for during your upcoming concert with us?
The harp is the solo instrument in two pieces. The balance between the voices and the instrument is quite interesting and … striking I must say. The harp has always had that reputation of having a “sweet, heaven-like, soft sound” but in reality… Oh well, I am just going to let you discover it by yourself!

To buy tickets  to this performance, visit

Coline “Harpist Coline-Marie Orliac played a strong role in balancing the inner workings of this ensemble, adding shards of color, then sweeps of force.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer Harpist Coline-Marie Orliac has enraptured audiences with her flawless technique, rich tone and compelling artistry in over fifteen countries since her first public performance at age 7 in her native Antibes, France. In spring 2010, at age 21, Ms. Orliac has freshly emerged from the Curtis Institute of Music, having already won top prizes from five international competitions. As an orchestral harpist, Ms. Orliac has performed with some of the world’s greatest orchestras. In December 2009, she was invited to perform with The Philadelphia Orchestra in concerts conducted by Neeme Jarvi. In July 2009, she participated in the harp section of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Simon Rattle at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. In 2006 Ms. Orliac was invited by Claudio Abbado to tour Europe with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. For this 2010-2011 season, she was named a finalist / first substitute of the New World Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. An active chamber musician, Ms. Orliac has appeared at distinguished chamber music series and festivals. She performed at the Tenth World Harp Congress in Amsterdam, and at the Académie Européene de Musique, where she performed chamber music with cellist Jeremy Findler and violonist Luiz Filipe Coelho. She is a member of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, a highly praised ensemble founded by flutist and Artistic Director Mimi Stillman, in which she performs with a core of artists who are mostly fellow Curtis Institute of Music graduates and members of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Back in 2006, Ms. Orliac was also invited to perform as a soloist for the Spivakov Festival in Moscow. Among Ms. Orliac’s numerous prizes and awards are top prizes at the Seventh and Tenth USA International Harp Competition, where she was twice awarded the Mario Falcao Prize for best performance of the newly commissioned work, first prize at the UFAM International Harp Competition, and second prize at the Vera Dulova Harp Competition in Moscow – the first French harpist ever to receive this award. She was a prizewinner at the Concours International de Harpe de la Cité des Arts de Paris, where she garnered a special prize for the best performance of Damase’s “Thème and Variations”, and she was a finalist in The Philadelphia Orchestra Albert M. Greenfield Competition. Ms. Orliac received her Bachelor of Music from The Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Judy Loman and Elizabeth Hainen. At Curtis, she held the L. Daniel Dannenbaum Fellowship and was awarded the Joan Hutton Landis Award for Excellence in Academics. Her teachers also include Elizabeth Fontan-Binoche and Judith Liber, former principal harp of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. She has pursued a serious interest in piano performance in addition to her career as a harpist. At the National Conservatory of Nice, where she studied before Curtis, she graduated with first prizes in both harp and piano.

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