Edward J. Harrison, Timpani
Hometown: Milton, New Jersey
Joined Lyric Orchestra in 1998
Education: Masters from New England Conservatory where I studied with Vic Firth, B.A. in Percussion Performance from Rowen University
Ed Harrison is Principal Timpanist of Lyric Opera. He is also Artist Faculty and Head of Percussion at Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. In addition to timpani and orchestral percussion, Ed is an active jazz vibraphonist, performing regularly in the Chicago area. He is known internationally for his contributions to solo maraca playing (believe it or not!) and has had numerous concertos written for him. He is married to Melanie Kupchynsky, Chicago Symphony violinist, and has three great kids, Nick, Laura, and Gregory. When not playing music, Ed is an avid ice hockey player for Team Black of the Oak Park Adult Hockey League.
What work coming up in future seasons are you most looking forward to performing?
The opera literature is rich with great timpani parts but Rosenkavalier is one of the top two or three. The timpani function like an arco bass at times and a solo voice at other times. The grand waltz features one of the most intricate pedaling passages (changing pitch with the pedals) ever written.
Who is your favorite composer?
I think my favorite opera composer is Richard Strauss. The textures vary from beautiful and serene to hair-raising energy and tension. The melodic and harmonic material is thick and sophisticated but always meaningful and emotional. The timpani parts are some of the most challenging in all of the opera and symphonic repertoire.
What was the scariest thing that ever happened to you in the pit?
Getting the timpani job, and it’s still scary. Playing timpani in an opera orchestra is like being on an island in the dark, navigating through a minefield, but the mines keep changing locations!