|Alice Chalifoux and her
personal dressing room
If you heard the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center Sunday evening (3 August 2008), you heard the legacy of an extraordinary musician and human.
Cleveland Orchestra harpist Trina Struble shared with principal clarinet Franklin Cohen the solo duties in Cleveland-born composer Eric Ewazen’s Ballade. Struble was one of the hundreds of students nurtured by the orchestra’s harpist from 1931 to 1974, Alice Chalifoux. So was Telarc recording artist Yolanda Kondonassis.
Chalifoux died Thursday in Winchester, Virginia, at the age of 100.
Along with some of her students, Chalifoux appeared as part of the Music from Stan Hywet series. These programs were broadcast on WKSU during the 1980s. Of course, she also played in countless Cleveland Orchestra programs. As harpist under five music directors — Nikolai Sokoloff, Artur Rodzinski, Erich Leinsdorf, George Szell and Lorin Maazel — she made many broadcasts and recordings with the orchestra. Hers is the solo harp you hear on the 1967 Boulez recording of Debussy’s Danse sacree et profane.
For some years Chalifoux was the only female member of The Cleveland Orchestra. Faced with concert halls that had no facilities for women, she would use her harp case as a dressing room. By the time she retired in 1974, thirteen other women had joined her in the orchestra’s ranks.
Chalifoux’s teachers included the great Carlos Salzedo. She inherited his school and taught for years at the Salzedo Harp Colony in addition to the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory, and Baldwin-Wallace.
She is survived by a daughter and a niece.