Seattle’s contemporary music scene remains young and full of potential for more collaborative projects within music. Two of the Pacific Northwest’s talented contemporary music ensembles–Seattle Modern Orchestra (SMO) and Solaris Vocal Ensemble–seek to set a new bar for artistic possibility and audience development, deciding to work together, rather than exist in parallel.
On February 12, 2017, SMO and Solaris will perform in a first-ever collaboration, featuring the Seattle premiere of Julia Wolfe‘s powerful work, Thirst, at Meany Studio Theater and presented by the University of Washington, in Seattle, WA.
Thirst (taken from the larger eight-movement work Water which includes additional music contributed by composers David Lang and Michael Gordon), is an intense 27-minute exploration on the theme of water. With texts drawn from the Old Testament, Wolfe uses a choir that at times is split into 12 parts, and a mixed ensemble spanning winds, brass, electric guitar, two percussion, and strings. The effect is a pulsing, intense journey that defines Wolfe’s music, and tests the physical and emotional endurance of the performers as well as the listeners.
This concert is significant on its own in the context of the Pacific Northwest: performances of large scale contemporary works by composers of Wolfe’s caliber are few and far between. SMO is the only ensemble dedicated to new music for large ensemble in the area, and this event will expand its repertory to include its first work for ensemble plus chamber choir. In addition, the performance is presented by one of the city’s largest presenting organizations, the University of Washington, a step up in visibility for SMO and a validation of the ensemble’s dedication to contemporary music in Seattle. Solaris Vocal Ensemble, a professional ensemble based out of the University of Washington, has never worked with another local ensemble; combining forces with the greater contemporary music community is a first.
Solaris’ participation in the concert is being funded by the University. SMO, however, needs to fund its part independently outside of its operating budget that normally only covers the ensemble’s three-concert season.
This project was devised by the two ensembles and is a deliberate effort to create a greater sense of community among the normally disparate contemporary music performers and organizations in and around Seattle. The concert leverages SMO’s loyal independent audience following with the strong University of Washington-based audience, seeking cross-pollination and a mutually beneficial experience for both those performing and attending. In addition to the performance of Thirst, SMO and Solaris have planned additional opportunities to collaborate this season, ensuring that the effort goes beyond a one-off event.