What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “There is a sad lack of popular appreciation for the orchestra and its importance to the finer side of our cultural existence,” and, “The dinner at the Golf Club and the Fransioli dance for the younger set at the Tennis Club will be the largest affairs of the season.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

The June 14, 1919 writers of the Town Crier were both congratulatory of Tacoma but also wondering why Seattle wasn’t doing more to congratulate itself in the brief story “Our Musical Neighbor.”

“While Seattle is placing a period at the close of her musical season Tacoma is rousing herself to action and putting on a notable series of concerts in her great Stadium that will draw thousands of people by boat, train and auto to that spectacular center of entertainment,” the story began. Indeed, the summer 1919 concert season in Tacoma included such notables as May Peterson, Marie Rappold, and Lambert Murphy! “The movement is in the right direction,” the story continues, “and meets the heartiest commendation from every quarter; it is an asset for Tacoma that can not be overestimated, and one we may ensure will not be overlooked by our neighbor.”

The writer then asks Seattleites why they didn’t have a beautiful amphitheater like Tacoma did. “Why are we so sluggish about taking advantage of our own amphitheater out on the University campus? There it stands vacant and idle, with the spiders spinning webs across the seats between which the weeds push their way.” Alas—it is being squandered! “If we would do but a tithe of what Nature has already done, it would be known all over the country.”

The Crier writers picture a beautiful scene. “A night in June flooded with moonlight; a multitude of people sitting in hushed silence listening to a voice singing a passionate love song of a bygone day, accompanied by the exquisite strains of violin and cello; for miles to the south one watched unconsciously the light glistening on the waters of the Lake, across which the boats in the distance pass to and fro like little moving palaces all agleam. Has Seattle lost sight of her obligations to her people to give them such wonderful memories?”

Seattle has not, Town Crier writer of bygone days! If you haven’t been inside the newly renovated Town Hall, do. The Great Hall is a wondrous place where a multitude of people can sit in hushed silence listening to exquisite music.

Mason Bates

For instance, on June 21, the last concert of the Town Music series will take place. It features Grammy Award winner Mason Bates alongside the works of J.S. Bach—an ambitious convergence of musical canon and cutting-edge modern repertoire. Tickets are on sale now!


L’amour De La Vie: A French Cellist and Jack London

Supported by the French Embassy in the United States, “Love of Life” is a creative project by three of Europe’s top musical improvisers based on the writings of Jack London. French cellist Vincent Courtois, revered for virtuosity at the edge of classical composition, has created an acoustic trio with two tenor saxophonists, exploring tonal mid-range in works inspired by individual titles of Jack London writing such as Martin Eden, Sea Wolf, To Build a Fire, and Goliath. Town Hall is excited to work with Earshot Jazz in bringing these musicians to the Forum stage on June 29. Tickets are on sale now.

Town Hall’s marketing manager, Jonathan Shipley, recently sat down with cellist Vincent Courtois to discuss jazz, Jack, and musical ambiance.

JS: When were you introduced to the cello? What interested you about it?

VC: Playing cello was not a vocation. My sister, older than me, was playing violin. I used to wait for her in the corridor during her weekly lesson. A very nice man was always passing in the corridor saying words. Some years later, when my mother asked me which instrument I want to study, I answered quickly, ‘I don’t know! I just want to do it with that nice man!’…and it was the cello teacher.

JS: How did you start thinking about using the cello as a jazz instrument? It’s not that common of a jazz instrument—why do you think that is?

VC: When I was a teenager I was studying how to play cello in a very serious classical conservatory. During college, I had some friends who were trying to play rock ‘n’ roll music with guitars and drums. They didn’t have a clue about music but they were playing very loud music that I loved. I tried to play with them with my cello even if it was difficult and then I started to feel that completely different worlds could meet together. Lately, I’ve discovered jazz. It is a revelation. It’s the perfect place between rock, classical, and  contemporary music. I feel that it is the perfect music where I can express myself with a good mix of rigor and liberty in the same time.

And, actually, there are more and more cello players in jazz and this is a great thing! When I was young we were a very few…like pioneers. With cello, you can do many things—‘singing’ like the human voice, being voluble like a violin, playing chords, basses… When jazzmen understood this, they started to engage a lot of cello players in their bands.

JS: What jazz musicians inspire(d) you?

VC: The first one that really changed my life was Miles Davis but I would say that the most inspiring musicians for me are the ones I’ve played with.

Jack London

JS: Why does Jack London’s work speak to you?

VC: I discovered Jack London very late. It became a passion after I finished the fascinated story of Martin Eden. During two years I read only Jack London. No other author existed for me. Step by step, I started to feel some music coming from inside me inspired by Jack London’s stories. Then I started to compose melodies.

JS: What are some of your favorite Jack London pieces?

VC: My favorites pieces are the ones that inspired my melodies: Love of Life, The Road, The South of the Slot, The Dream of Debs, The Sea-Wolf, Trust, To Build a Fire, and, of course, Martin Eden.

JS: Have you gone to Napa to visit his grave?

VC: During the tour we are suppose to visit Napa with the French consulat!

JS: One thing many might not know was also how artistically powerful he was as a photographer.

VC: I love Jack London’s photography, especially photos from London’s East End. Jack London’s life was very short but he did so many things.

JS: How do you, as an artist, translate’s another artist’s work into your medium? What are the greatest rewards and challenges by doing that?

VC: For Jack London’s work it was very easy, obviously and natural. It’s only my interpretation of his pieces. I think that it’s like a movie director. I feel an ambience, a decor, an emotion, and then music comes. Daniel Erdmann and Robin Fincker, also inspired by Jack London, also gave their interpretation in music. It was very important for me to come here, to this place on the west coast, to play our music and record this album dedicated to Jack London.

Join Earshot Jazz at Town Hall’s Forum as they present “Courtois, Erdmann, Fincker: Love of Life” on June 29.  Get your tickets now.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “The alluring call of the open has been too fascinating for hostesses to plan indoor amusements,” and, “The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America will unveil the table of General Robert E. Lee at Ravenna Park on Saturday.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

In the June 7, 1913 edition of the Town Crier, Mrs. John Q. Mason offered “Little Helps to Character Building.” One of those little helps: reading good books.

“Teach your child to love good books,” she demanded. “Any child can be initiated into the delights of reading and if a taste for books of the right sort is cultivated at an early age a potent influence is thereby created for the building of character.”

Town Hall could not agree more, Mrs. John Q. Mason!

Some great bookstores in the Seattle area that builds character in tots:

Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe

Book Larder

Elliott Bay Book Company

Phinney Books

Third Place Books

University Bookstore

Happy cultivating!

Singing to the Choir

On June 15, at Town Hall’s Great Hall, Seattle Girls Choir will present their biannual “All Choir Concert.” It features all six levels of Seattle Girls Choir from kindergarten through high school. About 180 young singers altogether, the event showcases their hard work and dedication.

Tickets are on sale now.

Town Hall’s marketing manager, Jonathan Shipley sat down with Seattle Girls Choir Artistic Director Jacob Winkler to discuss choral music, pursuing a degree in biology, and Simon and Garfunkel.

Jacob Winkler

JS: How did you get involved with Seattle Girls Choir?

JW: In 2009, SGC’s founder decided to retire after 27 years with the organization. I had a piano student who was a member of SGC, and she told me about the job opening and urged me to apply. I did, and ultimately was offered the position of Artistic Director and conductor of Prime Voci, the most senior group.

JS: What are you most proud of in your tenure there?

JW: I can point to individual achievements and moments. Certain concerts stick out in my mind, such as our first “Carmina Angelorum” holiday concert back in 2012. Last summer we competed in a big international choral festival, the Llangollen Eisteddfod in Wales, and we turned in some of the best performances we’ve ever done, which was extremely gratifying. Overall though, I think I’m most proud of the bigger picture: that every level of the organization has seen tangible musical growth over the past several years.

JS: What are you most looking forward to going forward as SGC’s Artistic Director?

JW: We’ve had a few years with a little bit of instability in our faculty, with really wonderful musicians who were getting pulled in many different directions. I’m extremely happy with the faculty we have in place now, and I’m looking forward to seeing the growth in the younger groups, and how that will trickle up to my own choir in 7-8 years!

JS: As a kid, when did you get introduced to music? What did your parents listen to? When did you start singing? When did you think you could make a career in music?

JW: My parents listened to a mix of classical music and folk. There was a lot of Simon & Garfunkel and Ian & Sylvia. I started off taking piano lessons probably about age six and joined the Northwest Boychoir when I was seven. I played and sang throughout high school, adding string bass into the mix mostly so I could hang out with the kids in my school orchestra, who were some of my best friends. I’m not sure when I started actively thinking about a career in music, but I remember coming to the realization in college that it really wasn’t going to be possible to pursue degrees in both music and biology (too many direct conflicts), and asking myself  “which one can I not do without?”

JS: Who are some of your favorite composers?

JW: I’m awfully fond of Beethoven. Film music was also an early love of mine, so John Williams too!

JS: What are some of your favorite choral pieces?

JW: Every year we sing Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” during the holiday season. I keep waiting to get tired of it, but it hasn’t happened yet!

JS: What are the steps involved if a child wanted to join SGC?

JW: Step one is always going to be getting in touch with our office. What happens next depends a little on age: In kindergarten or first grade they would probably be placed in out Piccolini group. All other groups require a short and, hopefully, non-threatening audition where the child is asked to sing a song and play some ear games to demonstrate their ability to match pitches. Older girls may also be asked to demonstrate any prior knowledge like identifying notes on a staff or rhythmic values.

JS: If you could sing a duet with someone famous, who would it be?

JW: What a great question! I’m going to go with Paul McCartney. There were some great duets between Paul and John Lennon in the Beatles’ early material, and it would be really great doing things like “If I Fell” or “I’ll Follow the Sun” with Sir Paul!

Join Jacob Winkler and fall for the wondrous sounds of the Seattle Girls Choir on June 15. Get your tickets here.

The Titans of ‘Canto General’

“Look at me from the depths of the earth,
Tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
Groom of totemic guanacos,
Mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
Iceman of Andean tears,
Jeweler with crushed fingers,
Farmer anxious among his seedlings,
Potter wasted among his clays –
Bring to the cup of this new life
Your ancient buried sorrows.”

What writer could possibly write a poetic history of the entire American Western Hemisphere from a Hispanic perspective? The Nobel Prize-winning Chilean writer Pablo Neruda. Who could possibly put Neruda’s poems appropriately to music? The Lenin Prize-winning Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. The titanic piece is going to be showcased at Town Hall’s Great Hall on June 8 by the Seattle Peace Chorus. It will feature soloists alto Nadia Tarnawsky, a Fulbright recipient, and baritone Jonathan Silvia, who will be featured soon in Seattle Opera’s production of Rigoletto. Tickets to “Pablo Neruda’s Canto General: A Concert” are on sale now.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was first and foremost a poet. As a teenager he started getting his work published. He published a great many love poems thick with passion throughout his life. His most known collection is Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924). Some of these love poems were featured prominently in the Italian movie Il Postino, a film that was nominated for Best Picture in 1995.

More than a poet, Neruda was a diplomat and politician. He was a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When communism was outlawed in Chile in 1948, a warrant went out for his arrest. He hid underground for a time before he was able to escape to Argentina. Years later, he became a close and trusted advisor to Salvador Allende, Chile’s socialist president from 1970 to 1973. Allende asked Neruda to read his poetry in a Chilean stadium. 70,000 came for it. Allende was soon overthrown in a coup d’etat, orchestrated by Augusto Pinochet. Again, Neruda’s life was in danger. If fact, with Pinochet’s rise, Neruda died. He was poisoned. His remains were recently unearthed to prove it. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has called Neruda, “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.”

“My land without name, without America,
Equinoctial stamen, purple lance,
Your aroma climbed my roots up to the glass
Raised to my lips, up the slenderest
Word as yet unborn in my mouth.”

Canto General was Neruda’s tenth book of poems. Published in 1950, it consisted of 15 sections, with a total of 241 poems. For it, he won the the Nobel Prize for Literature. Each section was a “canto.” The first canto: A Lamp on Earth. The second: The Heights of Macchu Picchu. The ninth: Let the Woodcutter Awaken. The fifteenth: I Am. Each section is rich with the trials and tribulations of emperors and explorers, dictators and freedom fighters. Considered Neruda’s masterwork, it mixes his communist sympathies with national pride, depicting Latin America’s history as a constant struggle against oppression.

Mikis Theodorakis with Neruda in attendance.

When Neruda was still in Chile he met a Greek exile, Nikis Theodorakis (1925- ), arguably Greece’s most famous composer. He has written over 1,000 songs and has scored the movies Zorba the Greek and Serpico. His Mauthausen Trilogy is considered one of the greatest musical works about the Holocaust.

He, like Neruda was, is an artist-politician. With ties to the Communist Party of Greece, he’s been elected to parliament and became a government minister under Constantine Mitsotakis (Greece’s Prime Minister from 1990-1993). Theodorakis continues, now in his 90s, to be a voice against oppressive regimes.

Neruda and Theodorakis met and discussed Canto General. Perhaps it could be set to music. The two picked the poems that were to be included in the piece. Theodorakis finished four movements in 1973, the year of Neruda’s death. He continued to work on the piece, expanding it in 1975 and again in 1981. The complete oratorio (now with 13 movements) was recorded live for the first time in Munich in 1981.

Hear these greats of their respective disciplines on the 80th anniversary of the publication of Neruda’s Canto General. Seattle Peace Chorus presents it in its glory on June 8 at Town Hall.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “In the Northwest the game of golf seems to have wrought havoc with tennis,” and, “Mrs. Thomas Bordeaux entertained with a dinner of sixteen covers on Saturday evening.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

On the cover of the May 24, 1919 edition of the Town Crier was Mme. Borgny Hammer. Mme. Hammer and her husband Rolf were coming to Seattle to perform at Norway Hall. They were going to perform Henrik Ibsen’s play, The Master Builder. Adele Ballard, a Town Crier regular, with her column “Various and Sundry,” said of the acclaimed actress, “I saw her the other day for a few minutes. She came into the office and it was a warm and rather enervating day, but in about one minute, or less, she re-vitalized the whole atmosphere with her vivid personality: she is like the breezes blown from the sea across the snow-capped mountains, or like the wild flowers of her own land, the hardy ones that force their way up through the rocks into the sunlight of Norway.” High praise, indeed!

Forcing its way today through the bustling busy blocks of Ballard has come the newly redesigned National Nordic Museum. The gleaming edifice opened in May of 2018. It is an internationally recognized museum and cultural center dedicated to collecting, preserving, and educating since its founding in 1980. The National Nordic Museum is the largest museum in the United States to honor the legacy of immigrants from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Current exhibitions include “Studio 54 & Beyond: The Photography of Hasse Persson” and “Bamse: The World’s Strongest Bear.”

Also, Town Hall’s Capital Campaign Manager, Grant P.H. Barber, is doing a class there on June 8. You can learn how to brew a batch of Finnish Sahti in the traditional method of USING A HOLLOW LOG.

We wonder if the Nordic Museum has anything about Mme. Hammer in their permanent collections? We at the Town Crier will investigate. Stay tuned.

Henry, Sandy, and a Commissioned Painting

What do happy squirrels, paper bag sing-alongs, and wall-to-wall murals have in common? They’re coming together for the final performance in this season’s Saturday Family Concert series. Town Hall presents Sandy Buchner, local musician and co-founder of Happy Squirrel Arts, alongside Seattle’s prolific muralist Henry for a fun whizbang show at Town Hall’s Forum on June 1. Tickets are FREE for kids and only $5 for adults. They’re on sale nowCome early (doors open at 10) for arts and crafts!

Town Hall, having been a fan of Henry’s work for years, asked him if we could use some of his artwork for the cover of our June print calendar. He said that would be fine. That’d be swell. After a little negotiating with him, we thought it’d be fun to commission Henry for an original painting to be displayed proudly at Town Hall’s newly renovated building. He said that would be fine. That’d be swell.

He came into the offices after he finished the painting. We were like giddy schoolkids when he entered the office, approaching with the canvas. “You guys want some stickers, too?” YES, WE WANT STICKERS! He pulled out a wad from his front shirt pocket and passed them around. He then showed us the canvas and we smiled hard.

Town Hall’s staff loves the painting with all those kooky characters in Town Hall’s newly renovated Great Hall. We’ve chosen what animal is each coworker (to note: I am the giraffe). Wier Harman, Town Hall’s Executive Director said, “I’m feeling the octopus.” We’re feeling giddy now that we have a Henry to display in Town Hall for years to come and we’re feeling giddy about seeing Henry and Sandy for the coming Saturday Family Concert.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Mrs. Winfield R. Smith was the honored guest at a luncheon and theater party given on Thursday,” and, “Dr. Henry Suzzallo, president of the University of Washington, went to Vancouver, B.C., where he delivered the graduating address at the University of British Columbia on Thursday.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

A frequent advertiser in the Town Crier was Rippe’s Cafe—and the May 17, 1919 edition of the paper was no exception. Rippe’s touted itself on being “a small house with a big reputation.”

Frank Rippe, having worked at the Saltair Restaurant in Salt Lake City, wanted to start his own restaurant in Seattle. And in 1910, he did. There were a few stools lining a counter and a stairway that lead to a balcony where tables for ladies were available. The restaurant was, a critic wrote, “just that chummy sort of cafe where foods are carefully prepared.” The place prospered. He doubled his seating capacity at 314 Pike Street.

He moved his restaurant to 1423 Fourth Avenue. He decided to make the eatery more elegant. There was mahogany woodwork throughout, a long lunch counter, booths on the lower floor and balcony and a separate room for ladies. The restaurant had white tablecloths, heavy silver, and fancy menus (including oysters Rockefeller). Seattle’s elite had many a meal there, as did luminaries from far afield. President Calvin Coolidge ate at Rippe’s. So did Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow.

Rippe passed away in 1934. His widow Pearl continued to run the cafe until 1940 when she closed its doors. “The competition,” she said, “of corner drugstores, quick-lunch places and one-arm tables forced us to close while still in good financial condition.”

The restaurant was sold to theater magnate John Von Herberg who changed the name from Rippe’s to Von’s. Von’s Cafe was open 24 hours, had over 700 items on their menu (there were ten preparations for crab alone on the menu), and was popular amongst Seattle’s hoi polloi until 2013 when it, too, closed.

Under different ownership, it moved and reopened as Von’s 1000 Spirits on 1st Avenue. There now, it touts itself as a Seattle sourdough scratch kitchen with small batch house crafted spirits.  

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Arrangements are now being made whereby members of the Seattle Tennis Club may keep their canoes at the canoe house,” and, “The Fortnightly Study Club met with Mrs. Robert Brinkley for a luncheon that developed into a delightful all-afternoon visit.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

Sunday, May 12, is Mother’s Day. Let’s look back, fondly, at the May 12, 1923 Town Crier as they wax poetic about mothers. Truth is, they sort of throw the mothers of 1923 under the bus!

“Tomorrow, the second Sunday in May, is set aside for the annual observance of ‘Mother’s Day.’ Today will find the florist shops raided by sons and daughters bent on paying formal tribute to their mothers if the latter are within reach, or, otherwise, obeying instruction seen on every hand this week and telegraphing flowers ‘to any part of the world.’

It’s a beautiful thought. Every mother appreciates it. But if there is the tiniest sense of humor left in her system she will smile to herself perhaps a bit sadly at the mother she is and the one they think she is. No one may say a word against her precious mother but when it comes to one’s self – that’s quite another matter. She knows she is not the belle of the Mother’s Day party. Far from it. But outwardly she never lets on – she must keep faith with the tribe and not let them down.

Long ago when mothers reached the venerable age of forty, they took to caps and chimney corners. Nowadays caps have given way to cigarettes and mothers, or many of them, smoke like chimneys. Powder, rouge, eyebrow pencil, and lip stick, are not beyond the ken of the modern mother. She keeps up with her daughters and can give and take on an equality with her sons. It may have its perils but this is certain: They tell her things that the sons and daughters of fifty years ago would never have dreamed of mentioning to a parent.

She may not be so revered as was her mother, but she may be confident that she is as deeply loved by her children. She may not be so wise as the mother of that period, but nine chances out of ten she knows more about human nature and its divagations. She is clearer-eyed. She needs to be. Training children is the most important business in the world and if she neglects it she is quite aware that it is not her ignorance but her indolence that is the cause.

A mother of today needs to be alert if she would keep in spiritual touch with her children and when she shares all knowledge with them as they grow to man- and woman-hood and tries faithfully to guide them, then there can be no tribute too great paid her. But, let her not vaunt herself and let her not be unduly puffed up. A humble heart and contrite spirit would be more in keeping with the realities in the case. When all’s said and done there must be many derelict mothers to be held accountable for the army of derelict children and grown-ups. Modern or ancient the command of ‘line upon line and precept upon precept’ still holds good. There is no short cut for mothers. Those who instituted ‘Mother’s Day’ must have understood that and tried in their dear bungling way to express their heart full of tender sympathy.”

You modern mothers, you, those of you who smoke like chimneys and those that do not, those with humble hearts and those with proud hearts—have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Don’t Be a Chump. Go to the Jump Session Show!

For 20 years, Camp Jitterbug has invited Seattle to learn from talented musicians and spectacular dancers. Now their incredible Jump Session Show returns, filling Town Hall’s stage with a celebration of Jazz, Tap, Lindy Hop, and Swing dances featuring some of the top dancers and musicians from around the world. It takes place on May 24 at Town Hall’s Great Hall. Tickets are on sale now!

To get your toes a’tappin’ before the event, we offer up a few videos of some of the dances you might see the night of the show!

Lindy Hop:

The Lindy Hop was born in Harlem in 1928, evolving with the jazz music of the time. A fusion of many dances, including tap and the Charleston, it was exceedingly popular during the swing era of the 1930s and 40s.

Interesting Factoid: It’s named for Charles Lindbergh who “hopped” over the the Atlantic on his famous flight.


Swing dance is an umbrella term for a variety of specific dances, including the Lindy Hop, the Balboa, the Collegiate Shag, and the Charleston. The majority of swing dances originated in African American communities.


Tap dancing has many variations: flamenco, jazz, classical, Broadway, and post-modern tap. With roots in the fusion of several ethnic percussive dances, from Spanish flamenco to African tribal dances, English clog dancing to Spanish jigs, it gained prominence in the mid-1800s with minstrel shows.

Famous tap dancers include Master Juba, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Gregory Hines, and Savion Glover.

Watch some of the greatest dancers in the world on the Great Hall stage on May 24. Hot-foot it over to Town Hall after you buy your tickets.


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