Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, August 12, 1999

Mariko Anraku and William De Rosa

Making beautiful
music together

By Burl Burlingame


For all we know, it might have been love at first sight for Mariko Anraku and William De Rosa, but getting their instruments together is a different matter entirely. Anraku plays the harp, that tall, stately instrument with the glissando of twinkling notes, like a fall of stars, while De Rosa plays the cello, the merry, sub-woofer of the string family, given to lion-sized purrings.

"There isn't a lot written for the harp and cello together," says Anraku. "We've had some original pieces written for us, and reworked others. The cello sounds so beautiful, though."

If they played, say, washtub bass and spoons, they'd have an easier time. But they're both world-class at their respective instruments, she as a principal harpist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and he as "one of the most brilliant cello talents in the world," according to the late cellist master Leonard Rose.

So why do they stick it out?

Love, love, love. De Rosa and Anraku first saw one another at a party, and have been making beautiful music together ever since. (Sorry, some cliches are absolutely irresistible!) And if their names are even vaguely familiar, it might because they were supposed to perform here last summer, but ...

"We were hit from behind in a terrible accident," explained Anraku. "I got whiplash and William got -- well, I don't know what they called it, but some of his limbs were numb."

Concerts vanished while they recuperated. That's the bad news. The good news is the couple that bruises together cruises together: they're engaged.

Now Anraku and De Rosa are back on the road. While he travels with a 300-year-old cello, Concert Grand harps are bulkier and far more awkward and fragile. She'll have to use a pick-up instrument.

"Every instrument has it's own personality, from the tone quality to the tension on the strings, so every new instrument has to be gotten used to," said Anraku. Harps are made in in Chicago, Germany, France and Japan and last about 40 years. There's no such thing as an old harp. "Not with the tension of 47 strings on them," Anraku said. "Although it hasn't happened to me, I've heard stories about harps shattering in the middle of the night, all on their own."

She owns three herself, but is particularly attached to one formerly owned by her teacher in Toronto. "I grew up with that instrument, so I have a sentimental attachment to it," she said.

There's no date set for the marriage, so in the meantime, she plucks while he saws. Do they ever just boogie-woogie, eight to the bar?

"Sorry -- there's not a lot of jammin' in classical music!" laughed Anraku.

Mariko Anraku and
William De Rosa

Bullet In concert: 8 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Venue: Orvis Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Bullet Tickets: $15; $12 students, seniors, faculty and staff
Bullet Call: 956-3836

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