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Seattle Symphony offering live broadcasts to provide comfort in lieu of concerts

The Seattle Symphony wants to soothe people's coronavirus fears with the power of music. (James Holt/Seattle Symphony)

While we’re constantly surrounded by alarming and depressing updates about coronavirus, it can be hard to find bright spots. But the Seattle Symphony wants to change that.

The now statewide ban on events drawing over 250 people meant that the symphony had to cancel its concerts — and its rehearsals — for the rest of the month.

But Seattle Symphony President Krishna Thiagarajan said when he broke the news to the musicians, they right away began brainstorming ways that they could continue to bring music to a community that has always shown them love.

“We feel so fortunate to be making music here in this greater Seattle region — we have one of the most loyal audiences I’ve ever seen,” Thiagarajan said. “This is a very unique situation; we feel the love and support, and we want to give back.”

As of Thursday evening, the symphony is broadcasting virtual concerts on YouTube and Facebook. To prevent bringing the large group of musicians into the same space, they will either re-broadcast past performances or feature live performances by soloists.

With so many people feeling anxious and sad, and unable to find a distraction through social events, the symphony hopes that music will soothe people.

“Esepcially in times like these, the healing powers of music are, I think, really important,” Thiagarajan said. “It can give you new courage, it can restore you if you feel a little bit down and worn out, it can refocus you, it can give you inspiration.”

It is not only those who bought tickets who will be able to find peace and joy through classical music. Thiagarajan said it took the planners “about 4.5 seconds” to decide that all of the broadcasts would be free.

“It’s really important to us that this is a gift to the community … we serve all kinds of communities in Seattle, and all people across the social spectrum,” Thiagarajan said. “We wanted to make sure that as we keep going during these times, we stay accessible to everybody.”

Thiagarajan noted that thanks to the possibilities of modern technology, quintets or even larger groups might be able to play together while each musician is sitting in their own home.

“We fully support the measures that have been put in place. When we made the decision to stop all public performances, we did so because we wanted to first and foremost act on the recommendations and the mandates that were being given by our government institutions, but also act in a way to best protect the safety of our own musicians and our patrons,” he said.

The next virtual concert will take place Saturday evening at 8 p.m., a re-broadcast of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, which the group played last autumn. The online performances will continue as long as the in-person shows are cancelled.

The Seattle Symphony will re-evaluate whether the cancellations will go past March 31, but Governor Jay Inslee previously stated that an extension of the event ban was “very highly likely.” They are looking to put on some of the concerts at a postponed date.

“It just shows the ingenuity and the willingness to serve the public by our musicians, and the creativity of trying to deal with a very difficult situation,” Thiagarajan said.

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