From Concert Hall to Capitol Hill Nightclub: Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra’s SPARK

by Maggie Molloy

When it comes to classical music, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra likes to think outside the concert hall. This Saturday, Second Inversion is thrilled to sponsor the launch of SMCO’s new SPARK performance series: an immersive concert experience that presents classical music old and new in nightclubs and other unexpected venues.

“It’s every musician’s dream for their friends who have no experience with classical music to enjoy this incredible art form as much as we do,” said Geoffrey Larson, Music Director of SMCO. “I wanted to provide a space to enjoy classical music without any rules, real or perceived: where audience members could have a drink, get up and dance, applaud and scream and shout whenever they want. I wanted to show how music of the classical genre can be relevant to our lives today—whether it was composed 300 years ago or three days ago.”

The series launch, which takes place amid the neon lights of the Fred Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill, features music from both eras. The concert unfolds as a fully-produced, continuous musical experience that oscillates between guest artist DJ Suttikeeree’s electronic dance music sets and SMCO’s electrifying classical music performances.

Under Geoffrey Larson’s baton, SMCO pairs a Vivaldi chamber concerto with Max Richter’s modern recomposition of the Baroque master’s famous Four Seasons. The centerpiece of the evening is Mason Bates’ infectious and aptly-titled Rise of Exotic Computing for sinfonietta and laptop, and a world premiere of a new work for horns and orchestra by William Rowe—co-commissioned and performed by SMCO and the Skylark Quartet—rounds out the program. Electronic interludes from DJ Suttikeeree provide both dynamic contrasts and fluid connections between the evening’s wide-ranging works.

“Suttikeeree will be spinning his own brand of electro-hop, mixing in fragments of the orchestral music our audience will hear onstage and providing a heartbeat that ties together the different genres throughout the night,” Larson said.

The first of its kind in Seattle, the SPARK series was created with the guidance of composer and producer Gabriel Prokofiev, whose orchestral arrangement of Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” premiered to viral success with the Seattle Symphony in 2014. The grandson of legendary Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, Gabriel is also the founder of the Nonclassical record label and Club Night series based in London.

“Gabriel was extremely helpful in helping me strategize three things: what role the DJ should play in the event, how to structure the general ‘flow’ of the evening, and (to a lesser extent) what sort of music we should consider performing,” Larson said. “Through trial and error, Gabriel has come up with a pretty strong and unique concept for the flow of the larger Nonclassical Club Night events, and this sort of timing has been adapted into our plans for the SPARK series.”

Like Nonclassical Club Nights, the SPARK series aims to create immersive, cross-disciplinary performances that redefine the rules of classical chamber music, breaking away from the constraints of the traditional concert hall and sparking new and inspiring collaborations.


The SPARK series launch is this Saturday, May 20 at 8pm at the Fred Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill. Click here for tickets and more information.

Second Inversion’s Top 5 Moments of 2015

2015 has been a huge year for us! Besides filling the 24/7 stream with new music and insights, we kept busy out in the community, on the blog, and making videos! This is the final post in a series of “Top 5 of 2015” lists (check out our Top 5 Videos and Top 5 Albums) before we plunge into 2016.  Here are our top 5 moments/events/milestones/projects/good times:

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#5: John Cage Diary Series

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Armed with high-quality headphones and book in hand, over the course of eight weeks, Second Inversion’s Maggie Molloy listened through each of the eight parts of Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)recently published by Siglio Press, and created her own personal diary tracking the experience.

She gracefully navigated through the zigzagging maze that is Cage’s musical mind and shed light on some fascinating aspects of Cage’s life: his love of mushrooms, cats, anechoic chambers, technology (it’s arguable to say Cage may have predicted the internet), dance, and so much more.  Dive in from the beginning and let her guide you through this incredible series! Stay tuned for more great creative features and clever wit from Maggie M. in 2016!


#4: Live Broadcasts

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In 2015 we presented SEVEN live streaming broadcast concerts from Town Hall Seattle and Meany Hall, including Third Coast Percussion, Catalyst Quartet, Deviant Septet, SYSO Alums and Mentors, Johnny Gandlesman, ETHEL and Robert Mirabal, Ensemble Variances with Lisa Bielawa! These broadcasts allowed us to connect with concert-goers in the community while reaching audiences nation and world-wide on our 24/7 stream! Many of them are also available on our live concerts on-demand page Stay tuned for plenty more in 2016.


#3: Music Videos (& a New Music USA Grant)

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We’re grateful for all of the foundation support we’ve received for Second Inversion this year! Our grant from New Music USA was particularly exciting because it to helped fund our music videos. Our video stars include Joshua Roman, Turtle Island String Quartet, Jherek Bischoff, Ashley Bathgate, Danish String Quartet, musicians from OneBeat, Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz, and so many more. It’s been a wildly fun journey connecting with artists who are passionate about sharing new music with audiences. We’re incredibly grateful for the time they donated to be a part of this project! Check out the complete video collection on our video page.


#2: Northwest Folklife Festival

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In 2015 we had our first Northwest Folklife Showcase – really, our first public performance of any kind! The Passenger String Quartet and Seattle Cello eXperiment performed for an absolutely packed Center Theatre. It was an amazing opportunity for us to contribute to Folklife’s diverse music and cultural offerings and to connect with new audiences. Some showed up expecting a more traditional “classical” concert and instead were able to Rethink Classical. Needless to say, we’ll be back for a 2nd showcase in 2016!


#1: Joshua Roman named Artistic Advisor

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In March of 2015, Second Inversion brought Joshua Roman on board as the Artistic Advisor! Joshua has helped us “Rethink Classical” with our Seattle community and our national and global audiences by posting to our blog, introducing music on our 24/7 stream, and collaborating on new ideas and initiatives. Stay tuned for more from Joshua in 2016!

LIVE BROADCAST: Ensemble Variances w/ Lisa Bielawa

What’s better than contemporary classical music on Second Inversion’s 24/7 stream?Ensemble-Variances10cMichel-Pellaz

LIVE contemporary classical music from Town Hall Seattle, straight to your living room, kitchen, mobile headphones, anywhere with an internet connection.

Tonight, tune in at 7:30pm PT for Ensemble Variances with Lisa Bielawa for Cri Selon Cri. This production is the brainchild of France’s Thierry Pécou and the United States’ Lisa Bielawa — a work which brings together their compositions, performance, and, quite literally, their cries of pain. This tour, sponsored in part by the French government, demonstrates the power of music to bring people closer.  In addition to works by Bielawa and Pécou, John Zorn’s music will make an appearance on the program.

Second Inversion host Geoffrey Larson and Artistic Advisor Joshua Roman will bring you commentary from the stage and behind the scenes throughout this riveting program. Stream online through your computer or better yet, download our mobile app and stream it on-the-go!IMG_5068

Staff & Community Picks: August 13

A weekly rundown of the music our staff and listeners are loving lately! Are you interested in contributing some thoughts on your favorite new music albums? Drop us a line!


Joshua Roman on Golijov’s Ayre:

71kEKXXvAAL._SX522_This is an amazing piece that I first stumbled upon several years ago and basically put on repeat.  It’s a unique set-up where you have things like a hyper-accordion, which is an invention by the player himself, Michael Ward-Bergeman.  He basically takes two inputs and puts them on either side of the accordion and creates this stereo effect with a machine that mixes them together to create the “hyper effect.” It’s kind of like an accordion on steroids and produces a lot of intense sounds. Golijov uses this to great effect to take you through different modes of musical communication.  It’s not stuck in style; it really goes all over the place, but all fits together very well and flows very naturally.  There are moments that are very touching and movements where you’ll think, “What the hell is going on?” but in a really great way.  It’s extremely exciting! Dawn Upshaw gives an incredible performance and allows herself to go to places that are just primal in nature.



Jill Kimball on David Leisner’s Facts of Life

911XPzhwHeL._SL1417_Addiction. Heartbreak.  Disappointment. We’d like to brush all these things under a rug, but sometimes they’re the facts of life. Composer David del Tredici chose to place his negative life experiences at the forefront of his four-movement solo guitar work, “Facts of Life.” It’s just one of three pieces on an album featuring the virtuosic guitarist David Leisner. The piece transitions effortlessly from tango to fugue to some fantastically frenetic strumming. Another beautifully chaotic piece on the album is Osvaldo Golijov’s “Fish Tale,” a chamber piece about a sea creature who takes a trippy, Alice in Wonderland-like journey through the water. 



Geoffrey Larson on Ravi Shankar’s Symphony

854990001604This piece is something totally different: an orchestral work that is part symphony, part sitar concerto. Both a sitar master and long-time classical composer and collaborator, the late Ravi Shankar fashioned a four-movement work that brings Hindustani music to the Western orchestral ensemble. Pounding raga-like rhythms and dance figures can be found throughout, augmented by actual vocalizations by the LPO players in the final movement. The composer’s daughter, sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar shines in this live performance recording. Common practice period not spicy enough? These unique symphonic flavors might do the trick.