Thursday, July 26, 2012

We can say we knew him when: William Close & his Earth Harp voted into semifinals on “America’s Got Talent”

Musical artist and friend of UAB’s Alys Stephens Center William Close and his Earth Harp Collective have made it to the semifinals on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” thanks to votes from fans and despite intense competition, it was announced last night. The Earth Harp is an out-of-this-world instrument created by Close, and the strings run from the walls of the theater to the harp’s base. When Close plays the harp, he literally turns the theater itself into a musical instrument. In September 2010, UAB’s Alys Stephens Center brought Close and his MASS Ensemble to Birmingham for a week-long residency and performance that wowed everyone who saw it.

After his performance Monday night, host Nick Cannon could only say “wow” over the booming applause of the audience. “I’d have to say this might be the biggest and longest standing ovation we’ve got,” Cannon said to a smiling Close, who pumped his arm in the air. Judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne also stood to applaud and lavished praise on Close.

“I’ve been here three years and I’ve got two words: we’re done. I think you won. I think you won this whole contest,” Mandel said above the roar of the delighted audience.

Fans in Birmingham and folks at the Alys Stephens Center are especially thrilled, because Close and his collective are returning Sept. 24-28 for another residency, this time for a brand-new, original show developed with the center, “Cirque Alys Aerial Music.”

“Cirque Alys Aerial Music” will feature the experimental instruments created by Close, along with aerial performers, musicians and light effects. This one-time-only evening Friday, Sept. 28, will begin inside the center with a performance featuring the audience seated underneath the giant Earth Harp, floating percussion machines and dream-like air cirque performers suspended from silken ropes.

The audience then will move to the center’s outdoor plaza for the grand finale, performed on a 25-foot high truss sculpture that will become both the instrument and the structure for an aerial performance. The week-long residency will include free, outdoor demonstrations for the public, culminating in the massive, mind-blowing performance and a season-opening celebratory after-party featuring MASS Ensemble’s resident DJ.

And if Close and his group win “America’s Got Talent,” they’ll head straight from the “AGT” finals to the Alys Stephens Center for a week of amazing artistic creation, a million dollars richer. “America’s Got Talent” returns for the live semifinals Aug. 14, and votes will determine the winners. Get more details at

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