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Don’t forget to show your support to Second Inversion by participating in our power2give campaign! Any amount makes a difference, and for a limited time only your donation is matched so your dollars will go twice as far through the support of ArtsFund. The clock is ticking…. Help fully fund the campaign before the holidays so we can book musicians for FIVE in-studio recording and video sessions that you will enjoy on-demand.

power2give/PugetSound is a regional arts crowd funding platform presented by ArtsFund.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: December 18-21

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s concert calendar features marching bands, Mark O’Connor, and many more Northwestern musicians!


 
Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs New Works

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The Pacific Northwest is known for its beautiful mountains, its gorgeous coast, its cool climate, and its commitment to the environment—but it is also known for its rich and unique musical culture, which spans everything from folk to grunge to punk, rock, indie, and even classical.

This Thursday, Seattle Rock Orchestra is honoring the Pacific Northwest’s latest contributions in contemporary music with the third installment in its New Works series. The program features chamber orchestra works by several PNW composers, including Iain Emslie, Willow Goodine, Whitney Lyman, Aaron Otheim, Wes Price, Michaud Savage, and Emily Westman.

The concert will also feature special guest singer Tamara Power-Drutis, a Seattle-based singer-songwriter with a background in indie, folk, classical, and Irish traditional music.

The performance is this Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.


 
MarchFourth Marching Band at the Historic Everett Theater

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A lot of marching bands tend to blend together—the loud, brassy music, the synchronized marching, the ill-fitting uniforms…If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong.

MarchFourth Marching Band is a multidisciplinary music group which combines the classic marching band aesthetic with elements of funk, rock, and jazz. Known as M4 to its fans, the 15- to 20-piece group features percussion corps, brass, funky electric bass, guitar, and even vocals.

The band is known for its DIY ethic. M4 proudly writes and arranges all of its own musical material, designs its own unique marching band costumes, and even creates its own choreography. (Sorry, did I forget to mention that their performances include dancers, stilt walkers, and acrobatics?)

M4 will be marching through Everett this weekend as part of their nationwide tour. They will be performing at the Historic Everett Theater on Friday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.


 
Nat Evans’ “The Lowest Arc”


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Winter solstice is typically never as widely celebrated as summer solstice—but this year Seattle composer Nat Evans is brightening up the darkest day of the year with a unique new outdoor site and time specific sound installation.

The piece, titled “The Lowest Arc,” will be installed this upcoming Sunday for an indeterminate exhibition period at ALL RISE. The piece is written for six speakers, each with music inspired by different natural elements. On this Sunday night only, performers will join in the sound sculpture with custom music boxes that produce an aural translation of the constellations visible from Earth during winter. Evans determined the specific music notes by superimposing the constellations on a traditional musical staff.

This aleatoric performance exploring the limits of sound and space will take place this upcoming Sunday, Dec. 21 from 4-5:30 p.m. at the ALL RISE site located at 1250 Denny Way, Seattle.


 
Mark O’Connor’s “An Appalachian Christmas”

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Grammy award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor is coming home for the holidays this year. Though his multifaceted music career has led him all over the world, this week he is returning to Seattle with his band to share an evening of holiday music from his album, “An Appalachian Christmas.”

“Growing up in the O’Connor musical household, Christmas time was a wondrous mixture of Christmas carols, fiddling, bluegrass and other traditional American music,” said O’Connor. “And that is the spirit of ‘An Appalachian Christmas.’”

The concert is this Sunday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. at the University of Washington’s Meany Hall for the Performing Arts.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DePue Brothers Band “When It’s Christmas Time”

by Maggie Molloy

Nothing says Christmas quite like family—and this week’s album celebrates both.

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The DePue Brothers Band puts a bluegrass twist on classic Christmas carols in their holiday album, “When It’s Christmas Time.” In addition to performing their own arrangements of Christmas classics like “Sleigh Ride,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Winter Wonderland,” the album also features two original Christmas tunes.

The DePue Brothers—Wallace, Alex, Jason, and Zach—grew up in a musical family, where they played violin together from a young age. Each of them has since grown into virtuosic violinists, but they still frequently perform together, especially around the holidays. The band also features their honorary brothers, guitarist Mark Cosgrove, banjoist Mike Munford, bassist Kevin MacConnell, and drummer and vocalist Don Liuzzi.

“All four brothers, when they’re together and when the music is happening—it’s symphonic in power,” Liuzzi said.

The group’s music combines elements of bluegrass, classical, and rock to create their own unique genre-bending sound they call “grassical.” Their music combines their classical music training with a down-to-earth, grassroots music aesthetic.

Their Christmas album is no exception. The brothers bring humor, charm, and a whole lot of bluegrass to all of your favorite Christmas classics.

“This particular album definitely reflects a lot of different styles and combines it well,” Jason DePue said. “And yet this album does manage to have a decent amount of flow from song to song…you still get the sense that stylistically the band remains cohesive and intact.”

The album is off to a giddy start with Jason DePue’s instrumental arrangement of “Sleigh Ride.” The brothers put a twangy twist on the original tune, spicing up the otherwise smooth string texture with bluegrass banjo riffs and cheerful, jingling bells.

The band switches gears for their performance of the 18th century French Christmas carol “Pat a Pan.” Liuzzi described his arrangement of the piece for four violins, banjo, guitar, and a variety of African and Middle Eastern drums as “Renaissance meets the Middle East.”

Next, the band’s jazz-influenced rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes to life with Liuzzi’s gleaming vocals complimented by a lush string texture and a series of solos from several of the bandmates.

The tune is followed by “Medley of Carols,” an instrumental rendition of five festive classics. With its heavily ornamented melodies and improvised elements, it almost makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a Christmas jam session at the DePue Brothers’ home.

Speaking of holiday traditions, the album also includes a song the brothers have performed for over 30 years: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Wallace DePue plays solo violin on this simple, sweet, and sentimental version of Bach’s famous classic.

Another family tradition comes to life in the group’s performance of the title track, “When It’s Christmas Time.” The piece is Alex DePue’s arrangement of an original Christmas carol written by the brothers’ father, Wallace DePue Sr., who has written one Christmas carol each year for the last 40 years. The tune’s perfectly harmonized vocals and grooving beat are brimming with holiday nostalgia.

“There’s a real vocal tradition inside the DePue Brothers family,” Liuzzi noted. “And actually, you can hear it in their violin playing; they sing when they play.”

Later on, the band picks up the pace for “The Fat Man,” Alex DePue’s rock ‘n’ roll original which makes a musical nod to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

They shift gears again for Alex DePue’s instrumental arrangement of “Winter Wonderland,” where Zach DePue’s solo fiddle elegantly sparkles with holiday magic. This is not your typical Christmas cover song, though—the brothers give this classic a rowdy bluegrass ending.

Next, their sentimental cover of “O Holy Night” captures the warmth and sincerity of the Christmas spirit, with Jason DePue’s solo violin melodies soaring over a soft and sweet string texture featuring harp, cello, and even horn.

“I dedicated [‘O Holy Night’] to my mother,” Liuzzi said. “She sang it every Christmas, and my mother had a voice that was heavenly. It was really beautiful—extraordinary intonation, extraordinary tone, and heartfelt. I wrote that arrangement with her in mind.”

In fact, Liuzzi’s mother passing away was a major impetus in the band’s decision to create a holiday album.

“After Don’s mother passed away, it was a good project to work on,” Jason DePue said. “During the holidays everybody has got so many different types of emotions, and I always say the best medicine for anything anytime of the year is keeping busy and keeping constructive.”

The album comes to an end with Jason DePue’s arrangement of Schubert’s timeless “Ave Maria.” The brothers’ glistening violin melodies sparkle above delicate piano arpeggios, ending the album on a gorgeous, poignant note.

“This is the only song on the CD that involves no more and no less than the DePue Brothers,” Jason DePue noted. “We thought we would close the CD with just the four of us playing this song together.”

“When It’s Christmas Time” celebrates Christmas music from across the ages and infuses it with a grooving bluegrass aesthetic. So this season when you’re yearning for some new holiday tunes, spice up your average carols with the DePue Brothers’ grassical twist on Christmas classics.

“This album defines the DePue Brothers Band and grassical, which is so many different styles coming into one expression, one musical statement,” Liuzzi said, noting that Christmas is both a joyful and thoughtful time of year. “It’s both festive and also contemplative—and boy, you get the extreme ends of that in this album.”

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: December 10-13

by Maggie Molloy

Ethereal Christmas carols and a sensational clarinetist are just two of the events on this week’s captivating music calendar.

Joshua Roman with the Seattle Symphony

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Cellist Joshua Roman first stole Seattle’s heart when he became the youngest principal player in Seattle Symphony history at age 22. Though he left the position after two years to pursue a remarkably diverse solo career, he still visits Seattle frequently to perform and to serve as the artistic director of the Town Hall TownMusic series.

In his latest musical venture, Roman is heading back to Benaroya Hall to perform the world premiere of symphonic composer Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto. The piece, which was written for Roman, combines melodic lyricism with elements of modernism and jazz. The concerto has a distinctly American character, and its pulsing rhythms are suggestive of Bates’ experiments in electronic music.

The concert will also feature Prokofiev’s Suite from “Lieutenant Kijé” and selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

The performances are at Benaroya Hall this Thursday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12 at 12 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. A pre-concert talk will be presented one hour prior to each performance.

 

Sean Osborn

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The clarinet has the largest pitch range of all common woodwind instruments—and Seattle clarinetist and composer Sean Osborn is proving that it might also be one of the most musically versatile.

Osborn is a critically acclaimed clarinetist whose music combines extended clarinet techniques with rock music energy for a sound that incorporates post-minimalism, New Age, Celtic, folk, and many other musical styles. This Wednesday, he is presenting four new works of chamber music for unusual instrumentation, including a sextet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion as well as three new pieces for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano. He will also perform one solo clarinet work.

The performance is this Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

 

Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night”

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If you’re sick of classic Christmas carols, perhaps Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” might be a little more your style. This contemporary twist on holiday caroling is celebrated annually around the globe. But don’t worry, there’s no singing involved—all you have to do is download an app.

Kline’s “Unsilent Night” is an electronic composition written specifically for outdoor performance in December. Participants each download one of four tracks of music which, when played together, comprise Kline’s ethereal “Unsilent Night.”

Countless participants meet up with boomboxes, speakers, or any other type of portable amplifiers and each hit “play” at the same time. Then they walk through the city streets creating an ambient, aleatoric sound sculpture that is unlike any Christmas carol you have ever heard.

The interweaving of electronic recordings creates an experimental soundscape full of shimmering bells and time-stretched hymnal melodies, capturing the magic and enchantment of the holiday spirit without any of the corny Christmas classics.

Seattle’s rendition of Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” will take place this Saturday, Dec. 13. The procession begins at 5 p.m. at On the Boards’ Merrill Wright Mainstage Theater Lobby in Lower Queen Anne.

 

People. Make. Awesome. (Music + Moving Image)

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Why limit yourself to just music when you can combine it with other artistic disciplines? Earlier this season we saw the Frank Agency and Nonsquitur present a series of artistic pairings rooted in music and sound, then music and dance as part of their three-part series “People. Make. Awesome.” Now, for the series’ final installment they are exploring the possibilities of music and moving image.

The featured artists are experimental animator and performance artist Stefan Gruber, composer and videographer Leo Mayberry, video editor and multimedia artist Melissa Parson, composer and trumpeter Samantha Boshnack, guitarist Jason Goessl, and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jessica Lurie. With so many diverse artists in one place, it’s sure to be an awe-inspiring performance.

“People. Make. Awesome.” will take place this Thursday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Octet Ensemble’s “Scatter My Ashes”

by Maggie Molloy

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I have always considered poetry to be the distant cousin of music. After all, both combine elements of rhythm, sound, lyricism, and storytelling. However, after listening through the OCTET Ensemble’s performance of “Scatter My Ashes,” I thought perhaps these two artistic mediums may be even closer than cousins; perhaps they could even be brother and sister.

“Scatter My Ashes” is a series of five poems written by Sue Susman about life, death, and darkness. Her brother, composer and keyboardist William Susman, then transformed the poems into a five-movement composition for OCTET, his New York-based contemporary music ensemble.

OCTET is essentially a jazzy big-band-turned-a-little-smaller: their sound features one of each instrument in the brass section plus rhythm. The ensemble is composed of soprano vocalist Mellissa Hughes, saxophonist Demetrius Spaneas, trumpeter Mike Gurfield, trombonist Alan Ferber, composer and keyboardist William Susman, pianist Elaine Kwon, double bassist Eleonore Oppenheim, and drummer and percussionist Greg Zuber.

 

“Scatter My Ashes” is the title track on OCTET’s debut album, where it is brilliantly framed by three other works which combine a neoclassical sound with jazz and pop elements. Hughes’ dazzling vocals soar above each piece, transitioning flawlessly from singing lyrical poetry to percussive wordless vocals depending on the composition.

The title track lays Hughes’ crystal clear voice over a relatively sparse, brass-dominated musical texture. The result is a harmonious mixture of minimalism and jazz, filled with swirling brass melodies and tender, lyrical vocals. Hughes’ voice amplifies the sorrow, hope, and drama of the poetry, making each word glow with very minimal vibrato.

The album’s opening track, the three-movement “Camille,” plays on the intermingling of vocal and instrumental timbres, using wordless vocals as a melodic and, at times, percussive element. The circling, minimalist melodies and vocal rhythms of the first movement give way to the piece’s somber, slower, jazzier middle movement before picking up the pace for the triumphant final section, a repetitive, rhythmic return to the minimal music aesthetic.

Another highlight is the ensemble’s “Piano Concerto” which, of course, is no ordinary piano concerto. Rather than showcasing a flashy soloistic piano part, the piece carefully blends subdued piano melodies with wordless vocals and brassy highlights to create a dreamlike atmosphere. The result is a beautiful and texturally fascinating sonic landscape which fully encompasses the listener in its sinuous melodies and jazz-infused rhythms.

The album finishes with “Moving in to an Empty Space,” a series of three more poems written by Sue Susman which her brother set to music for OCTET. The poignant poems explore themes of loneliness and isolation in the everyday human experience, the expressive lyrics further complimented by the softly sparkling background melodies. The pieces showcase Hughes’ impressive vocal range over a brass-dominated backdrop.

Though the entire album runs just under 45 minutes, each note is perfectly crafted and expertly executed. The precision and accuracy of each instrument’s part is a true testament to the musicianship OCTET’s members.

Without a single moment wasted, the album stands as a timeless combination of contemporary classical music, minimalism, and jazz into a profound and dynamic multidisciplinary work.