|Born||in Little Falls, New York, USA|
|Died||in New York City, New York, USA (kidney disease)|
|Birth Name||Casper A. Reardon|
Mini Bio (1)
Casper Reardon was born to a vaudeville family in Little Falls, New York. At the age of five he trouped with his parents. His father, who was of Irish descent, presented him with a small Irish harp on his eighth birthday. His début as soloist was with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. As a result of winning a scholarship, he became one of the most brilliant pupils of the illustrious Carlos Salzedo at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Graduating in 1926, he became first harpist of the Cincinnati Symphony under Fritz Reiner for five years, and head of the Harp Department at the Cincinnati Conservatory. Newspaperman Edwin H. Schloss wrote (July 19, 1939), 'In Cincinnati, some of Reardon's Southern pupils interested him in jazz and he fell in love with the music of W.C. Handy. He found the percussive harp to be as well suited to Gershwin as to Debussy and the rest is history, mostly made via radio.' On his own, Reardon devised a technique of playing 'jazz.' The precedent for jazz music on the harp had not been explored to a significant degree. It wasn't unusual for a dance orchestra to utilize the harp for texture. (The dance orchestras of Leonard Joy, Richard Himber, Victor Young and Raymond Paige used harp regularly.) Reardon thought the harp had more potential than the usual flourishes and interludes that were expected of him. When he became a regular feature on the powerful Cincinnati station WLW, he used the nom de radio "Arpeggio Glissando," so as to not shock his classical harp students. He moved to New York City in 1931 and immediately created a niche for himself and his instrument. On September 18, 1934, he recorded an unprecedented long harp solo on the Jack Teagarden recording of "Junk Man" for Brunswick Records. Although his name does not appear on the record, determined music lovers soon found out who the swing harpist was. By 1936 he recorded some dance records as Casper Reardon & His Orchestra, for Liberty Music Shop. He became known as the "Swing Harpist." He was immortalized as "Cousin Caspar" [sic] in Alice Faye's film You're a Sweetheart (1937). He was a regular on radio shows such as 'Saturday Night Swing Club' with the orchestra of Bunny Berigan, and was often featured by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. George Gershwin featured Reardon on his popular Feenamint broadcast in 1934. Casper Reardon met Dana Suesse in nineteen thirty-nine, through their friend, Gus Schirmer. Suesse told this writer, "Casper told me about having an engagement with the Philadelphia Symphony and wanted me to write something for him. At the time, Young Man with A Horn was a best selling novel." It seemed logical to create a concert piece called Young Man with A Harp. Alexander Smallens, who would always be remembered as the original conductor of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, conducted the concert at the Robin Hood Dell in 1939 Dana and Casper repeated their Young Man With A Harp on February 25, 1940 with Guy Fraser Harrison conducting the Rochester Civic Orchestra. The program was made up almost entirely of harp and orchestra pieces: Debussy, Couperin, Salzedo and Suesse. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Norman Nairn) boasted there was a "pleasurable evening for a large audience which 'ate up' the swing music of Mr. Reardon. " After these favorable responses, Dana and Casper wanted to make a recording of their effort. What better place to try than their friend, Gus Schirmer, Jr. and his new recording studio. In 1940 Reardon performed with Suesse at a Cabinet Dinner for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family. Reardon became ill and died on March 8, 1941. He was 33 years old.
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