Isabelle Olivier – Harpist, composer, educator, and artistic director at Metamorphose


After 30 years of stage experience and ten records, Isabelle Olivier listens to this legendary and uni- versal song : Smile by Charlie Chaplin. One of the most beautiful melody in the history of music, ac- companied with a text that has an astonishingly contemporary resonance. This idea of smiling even when one’s heart is wounded enables us to apprehend the times we are living in differently. That is what triggered her new 2021/2022 project: ‘SMILE.’

Smiling is a wonderful way of communicating, a simple and yet revealing act of empathy and of the desire to share a ‘good time’. Here, pleasure – the founding act of music, performing arts and culture in general – generates positive emotions aimed at being transmitted to the public. Indeed, ‘playing’ music is both something playful and a source of happiness that often makes one want to smile.

SMILE Photo by Robert Levy

Selected video

Fifteen year after Isabelle Olivier’s first solo album Island #41 – which was nominated at the Vic- toires de la Musique in the ‘jazz revelation’ category for her solo – she chose to explore these sound textures, blending acoustic and electronic music, again. She gets her inspiration from her own emo- tional universe which she shares with her audience. By covering this piece which invites us to ‘smile through your fear and your sorrow... you will see the sun shining for you,’ her acoustic and electronic harp offers a journey towards light, to enlighten the spectators’ faces. The records are simple and elegant, surprising and bewitching.

For her eleventh album, she composes and explores this notion of openness to the other to present ten personal compositions and four covers – from Charlie Chaplin to James Blake, Ennio Morricone and Cannonball Adderley. She will start performing at the PianoForte Foundation in Chicago, and is likely to play some songs with guests.

This project started with an anecdote. In 1991, Jean-Louis Chautemps, a jazz saxophonist, met Isabelle Olivier for the first time during a concert of his group ‘Océan’ and said to her smiling ‘for a jazz musician, the first thirty years are the hardest. After that, you’ll see, it’ll be much easier’. Hence, thirty years later, Isabelle Olivier has the perfect opportunity to smile as she spends this anniversary with you. Let’s hope her smile will be contagious!