In the short time I have lived in Seattle, the inclusive nature of the Seattle classical music scene has been obvious from the very beginning. The myriad of civic orchestras, training orchestras, and niche performance groups seem to effectively compliment the performances of the more established Seattle Symphony. Even so, the work of these ensembles has always felt distant from the cultural and musical pulse of the city.
I suppose some of the blame lies with the press which, in my time in Seattle, has seemed to favor the Seattle Symphony at the expense of other groups. Even the alternative weeklies have largely glossed over the work smaller orchestras bring to the table. With changes at the Seattle Weekly, classical coverage is growing even more sporadic. Our local classical station KING FM tries, but I have hunch that KING's audience probably prefers the glamour of the Seattle Symphony over the plucky Seattle Philharmonic.
I must admit that my forays into performances outside of the Seattle Symphony have been sporadic and to the best of my memory confined to Seattle Baroque, the Seattle Philharmonic (last season the SPO gave a meaty performance of Stokowski's orchestrated version of Pictures at an Exhibition) and the now defunct Northwest Chamber Orchestra (I heard a positively scintillating performance of the Mendelssohn Octet performed by NWCO members back in 2003).
Added to these excursions have been regular stops to hear the wonderful performances at St. James Cathedral. Hearing Mozart's Requiem on All Soul's Day has become one of the moving moments of my religious and musical life here in Seattle.
Yet, there are still other bands out there doing great stuff. This season, Orchestra Seattle has a robust schedule with performances of Mendelssohn's Elijah and Britten's War Requiem. The Cascade Symphony Orchestra, in Lynwood (slightly north of Seattle) is worth a look too. The Thalia Symphony will be giving the Seattle premiere (albeit overdue) of Edvard Grieg's Symphony along side Grieg's Piano Concerto performed by George Fiore (Fiore retired from his duties with the Seattle Symphony Chorale at the end of the 2006/2007 Season and is an accomplished pianist as well). The Northwest Sinfonietta, along with Joshua Roman (the Seattle Symphony's talented, young principal cellist) performed a concert of three cello concertos earlier this year and is focusing on Beethoven in their current season.
Of course, this only scratches the surface the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Philharmonia Northwest, Everett Symphony (which recently performed William Grant Still's Afro-American Symphony at Carnegie Hall) have enjoyable seasons planned.
This year, through the help of this blog, I hope to change my own attendance habits and hopefully cover the work of some of Seattle's other orchestras.
A big thanks to Brian Dickie for linking this site. His site is worth frequent looks for insight into the musical life of America's best city - Chicago.