Inspiration and Insights with Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo.

In anticipation of her January 26 concert at Town Hall, we asked Yungchen Lhamo about music, travel, and her creative process. 

When did you start playing music? 

I have never played a musical instrument, but I began singing at a very early age. I was taught traditional songs and a Tibetan opera by my mother and grandmother, so I sang and danced in Tibet and also later when I moved to India. Even though my name translates as “Goddess of Melody,” I always wanted to be a nun, rather than a singer, and my singing career only really started in Australia in 1995. I was invited to perform at WOMADelaide that year, so I recorded a CD, which won the ARIA Award for Best World Music Album. After that, I was signed by Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records label and began touring the world. 

What is your creative process like? 

That is a difficult question for any artist to answer, because many, if not most, of us don’t really know! For me, there can be many different sources of inspiration. Some of my songs are based on Buddhist mantras, such as that for compassion, “Om Mani Padme Hung,” which I recorded on my first album, Tibetan Prayer, and have included in different versions on subsequent albums. Others are traditional Tibetan songs, including “Ari-Lo” on my second album, Tibet, Tibet, which my grandmother taught me. It’s a mountain song about turning an unknown land into a homeland. 

Or they can be in response to major world events, of which the most obvious example is the song “9/11” on the Ama album I was living in New York City on that day and I could see the World Trade Center from my living room window.

Inspiration can also come from meeting and collaborating with other artists. The most unusual example of this is my Tayatha album, recorded with Russian classical pianist Anton Batagov. One morning I suddenly decided that I wanted to record a meditative album with Anton, so I called him up and, although somewhat surprised, he said to come over. When I got there, he asked me what I wanted to do, so I said that I would start to sing, and if he felt like playing he should play, and if not that would be ok and we then recorded the whole album in one take! 

Finally, several of my songs come to me through dreams which often have repeating storylines that tell you what you need to achieve, or need to get over, for your life to improve. Everyone has a belief system, be it a religion or not, and “Dream Song” on my latest album, One Drop of Kindness, explains that every moment, everything we do can be an offering of your life for the benefit of others. 

If you could collaborate with one musician (living or dead) who would you choose? 

From the very beginning of my singing career, I have been fortunate to have collaborated with many great artists from different cultures and genres not just singers, but musicians, songwriters, producers, dancers, poets, and painters and I always much enjoy these collaborations. There have been so many, but Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Natalie Merchant, Peter Rowan, Billy Corgan, Bill T. Jones, and Anton Batagov readily come to mind. 

There are several other artists with whom I would like to collaborate, but if I must choose only one it would have to be Dolly Parton. Not only is she a great singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, but I also greatly admire Dolly for her wonderful charitable works particularly her Imagination Library which provides books for young children. 

Have you ever visited Seattle before? If so, what was your favorite part of visiting the Northwest? 

Oh, I have performed in Washington State six times before at a WOMAD Festival, at the Meany Hall for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington, at Seattle University, and at a Bumbershoot in the Seattle Center, at all of which I sang a cappella. I also participated in Lilith Fair with Sarah McLachlan at The Gorge Amphitheatre and performed at another WOMAD Festival in Redmond.

My favorite memory is of when I was able to bring my son, Tenzin Shaydrup, with me to the WOMAD Festival in Seattle and we went to the top of the Space Needle. 

You can catch Yungchen at our next Global Rhythms concert on January 26th at 7:30PM. Click the link below to get tickets!

Soul-Stirring Tibetan Sounds

An Update from Town Hall – January 5, 2024

Dear Town Hall Community,  

As we begin a new year, we are writing to announce the departure of David Song from Town Hall Seattle, effective December 13, 2023. We wish David well, and we have named Finance and Administration Director Morgan Larsen as Acting Executive Director. A transition plan is underway, and we expect to appoint an Interim Executive Director in the next four to six weeks.   

We are honored to serve a strong and stable organization. Town Hall’s staff brings decades of skill and experience to the organization’s ongoing work to bring vital conversations, inspiring artistic performances, and innovative thinkers to our stages. Town Hall’s role as a cultural convener in both the artistic and civic senses matters more than ever. Our commitment to the staff – as well as to Town Hall’s partners, donors, patrons, and the community at large – remains steadfast as we move through this transition.  

2024 is a significant year for us, marking 25 years – a whole quarter-century – of Town Hall Seattle. Together with our incredible staff, dedicated board, and unwavering supporters, we look forward to serving our community for the next quarter-century, and far beyond.  

Thank you,   

The Town Hall Seattle Board  

General inquiries can be directed to info@townhallseattle.org.

Introducing On Topic: A Writing Club

Looking for a way to flex your writing muscles in a supportive, casual space? Join us on 10/5 for the inaugural meeting of our new On Topic Writing Club! Facilitated by local writer and theatre artist Miriam Tobin of SCRiB LAB, writers will focus on themes of recognition and belonging inspired by Michèle Lamont’s Seeing Others. No preparation is needed — just bring your own writing tools of choice and get ready to flow!

Check out upcoming community programs (including On Topic: Writing Club) at our Community Programs page!

Town Hall’s Silver Soapbox: Celebrating 25 years

As we celebrate Town Hall Seattle’s 25th season – our silver anniversary – we invite our community to step up to the “Silver Soapbox” and celebrate with us! 

Around the turn of the 19th century, public orators made use of overturned, wooden soap crates to elevate their voices. Today, someone might be told to “get off their soapbox” when delivering a particularly passionate, loud message. But to Town Hall, the soapbox signifies a space for sharing ideas, listening, and finding inspiration – a space to be part of, not a space to step down from. It’s exactly the kind of space that we strive to create at Town Hall.  

From civics talks to vibrant musical performances, Town Hall is a platform for a multitude of opinions, ideas, and forms of expression – just like the century-old soapboxes that preceded us. As we head into our 25th season, we hope you’ll step up on the Silver Soapbox with us and celebrate Town Hall’s past, present, and future!

Become a Town Hall Member | Become a Silver Soapbox Sponsor | Make a Gift

Introducing our Venue Access Partner, Orquesta Northwest

Town Hall is pleased to announce our new Venue Access Program (VAP) partner, Orquesta Northwest! Part of 4Culture’s Building for Equity program, our VAP was launched last season to build a long-term partnership with a small-scale, BIPOC-led nonprofit and offer free access to Town Hall’s stages throughout the season. We couldn’t be more excited for Orquesta Northwest to join us in the program’s inaugural year to fill our spaces with vibrant music and community. 

 
Under the guidance of acclaimed conductor Paula Nava Madrigal, Orquesta Northwest serves as the umbrella organization for three incredible initiatives in the Puget Sound area: The Ballard Civic Orchestra, a prominent hub for Latinx musicians performing under Maestra Paula’s leadership; Cascade Conducting, an annual week-long conducting masterclass; and World Youth Orchestra, which provides free instruction and instruments to underrepresented students, with a focus on empowering Latinx youth. 

Orquesta Northwest kicks things off with an El Grito celebration (9/17) in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico. In honor of Mexican Independence Day, join us for performances by CeAtl Tonalli Aztec Dancers, Ballard Civic Orchestra, Trío Guadalevín, Mariachi Guadalajara, Bailadores de Bronce, and more! Admission is free, and the festivities begin at 1PM. 

P.S. Orquesta is looking for musicians! Visit their website to learn more and get involved.

Art as Empowerment: Fresh Family Concerts for 2023

Northwest Folklife 50th Anniversary LogoTown Hall Seattle is proud to partner with Northwest Folklife this winter and spring to curate a series of Saturday Family Concert events! Through music, dance, and visual art, the series showcases the diverse cultures here in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest and offers a special opportunity for young people and families to interact with culture, not just be witness to it.

The season’s theme focuses on Art as Empowerment, exploring how protest music is a form of liberation, emancipation, and validation of identity. The 4-part Winter/Spring series brings awareness to issues that affect everyone at any age, and encourages and enables young people and families to explore their heritage — past, present and future — as a source for individual and collective identity.

All Saturday Family Concerts are FREE for ages 22 and under.

Here’s the lineup:

1/28 at 11am
Gil Scott-Heron Tribute Band
Music, Art, and Poetry of the Civil Rights Movement
Get Tickets

2/25 at 11am
Adriana Giordano & Special Guests
From Alaska to Amazonas: Indigenous Music, Culture, and Resistance
Tickets on sale soon!

3/18 at 11am
R E P O S A D O and Jean-Paul Builes
Rediscovering Latinx Heritage through Poetry, Music, and Dance
Tickets on sale soon!

5/20 at 11am
lhawlhaw
Celebrating Filipino songs of protest past and present
Tickets on sale soon!

A Big Change: Or Is It?

For as long I’ve been at Town Hall Seattle — almost 17 people years (or 119 dog years, but who’s counting?) — our organization has been defined by 1) a broad and curious program, brimming with ideas collectively-sourced from across our community and beyond; and 2) the belief that as many as possible should be able to enjoy it. We’ve called this second part a commitment to access. The meaning of “access” has evolved over the years, but we’ve tended to use it in a somewhat limited way: as a commitment to lower financial barriers to producing and attending things here.

We’ve taken a lot of pride in the structural inclusivity of our model, always insisting on the result of a more genuinely welcoming community for all. Town Hall will fulfill its true potential when people who have long felt at home here continue to feel a sense of belonging, while we work to be more deeply meaningful and relevant to even more people across this community. That said, as we work to embrace a richer understanding of accessibility, we want to be clear: our commitment to affordability for all remains critical to the heart of Town Hall.

This season, we’re rolling out a new “Sliding Scale” approach to ticket prices for Town Hall-produced lectures. What does that mean for us? People will always be able to choose a $5 ticket for these programs (and tickets will remain free for youth 22 and Under). But the Sliding Scale pricing option is an approach founded on lots of existing data. Over time, we’ve seen that many patrons choose to make an extra contribution to Town Hall when they purchase tickets, and now we’re giving the people the option to pay what they’re comfortable with for Town Hall programming. No matter where you place the sliding scale ticket price, your ticket purchase helps support our programming and our operations.

Town Hall was founded in 1999 and we’re moving into a new era, finally installed in our newly-renovated building and full of the optimism and possibility of new leadership, all while serving a society in flux. As we begin to imagine the next Town Hall, we need to ensure it can thrive for another 23 years and beyond. In a time of deep vulnerability for cultural presenters like us — financial uncertainty and shifting audience behavior — our goal is to protect our mission-driven commitment to broad community access while securing modest extra revenue that will support our operations and create a solid foundation for the Town Hall to come.

In the end, we hope the new pricing approach is simply an invitation to pay what is comfortable for you. I know you know this, but $5 tickets have never reflected the value of our programs (priceless!) or the true cost of operating Town Hall (pricey-but-worth-it!) We’ve always said that membership here is an act of generosity toward the community at large, assuring affordability for all — and that’s still true. But for some, it’s simply easier to add an extra contribution into the value of their ticket when they can. We believe that in asking those who are inclined to consider paying more, we will create an even deeper sense of belonging and pride within Town Hall’s extraordinary community of supporters.

I can write at this kind of length, with this kind of candor, and all my, let’s call it eccentric punctuation because the Town Hall community is thoughtful and generous. You’re in it for what it means to you, but you’re ALSO in it for each other and for what it means to the city. We are sincerely grateful to all of you, for making Town Hall a uniquely compassionate and collegial place, defined by a thoughtful, caring, and honest community. You can prove it by telling us honestly what you feel about this pricing approach (or anything else) at membership@townhallseattle.org.

With gratitude and affection,

Wier

The Road Ahead, The Road Behind

The end of the season is always a time of reflection at Town Hall. It’s unsurprising that the 2021-22 season has had its challenges and uncertainties, but times like these can also feel inspiring — that’s the story of this year, too. We learned firsthand that Town Hall remains essential, especially to the members and volunteers who have eagerly returned each time we (re-)opened our doors. Over and over, people have shown their affection for Town Hall by returning to rebuild the community that we have created here.

And so — from my place here in the very middle of the road, as I consider where we’ve been and where we’re headed, inspiration and gratitude as far as I can see — I’m writing to announce my departure from Town Hall Seattle at the end of 2022.

My time at Town Hall (over 17 years!) has been the gift of a lifetime, and I am deeply proud of our accomplishments. Our audience has grown steadily over the past several years, and we’ve welcomed over 100,000 patrons annually for a broad, diverse calendar that embraces an impossible range of issues and ideas. We kept our tickets and rental rates affordable and supported other nonprofits with skilled production and promotional services. We completed an ambitious $35.5 million renovation of our building, spending almost two seasons Inside/Out in dozens of venues and neighborhoods across our region.

But I am most proud of what Town Hall has modeled for our city, and for each other. Town Hall is a place devoted to the pursuit of equity; it’s a place to investigate ideas and share new experiences, where differing and unexpected perspectives are not just tolerated but celebrated; and it is a place of curiosity, creativity, and empathy. Above all, I’m proud of how we model the simple act of showing up with and for each other — learning, tangling with new ideas, and sitting side by side with strangers, neighbors, and friends.

I don’t know anywhere else quite like Town Hall — and believe me, I’ve looked. We have created something entirely unique to Seattle and I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to shape this place in real time with each of you — as members, donors, patrons, renters, presenters, and community partners. This has been a joyful experiment in the idea of creating a welcoming community — and YOU have made this work beyond joyful.

I get the platform of writing a note like this, but YOU are the reason for all the good we have done over Town Hall’s 23 years, and you will continue to be the reason for the community we build here in the decades to come. I trust that this place will continue to be the vessel for the experience of community that we all need so much right now. Our role is simple and profound: to remind us that some things must be experienced together, and that “coming together” is often its own reward.

And that’s the core of my gratitude — I don’t know how another job could have possibly offered me so much energy and purpose. I am humbled to have been entrusted with leading Town Hall, and I’m excited to welcome our next leader alongside you all. My family and I are staying in Seattle; my children grew up here — as in, at this building, at our events — so I’m thrilled by the prospect of joining you in the pews as an enthusiastic member and passionate advocate (my predecessor, founder David Brewster, has modeled that for me).

Thank you for being my friends, collaborators, and co-conspirators on the road behind us, and thank you for being my inspiration on the road ahead.

With gratitude,

Wier Harman
Executive Director

P.S. We’ll have more to share about our transition timeline and the new Executive Director search process at the end of June. In the meantime, please direct any questions to our team at search@townhallseattle.org.

An Easier Way to Request Accessibility Services

As many of you know, accessibility is one of Town Hall’s core tenets. We aim to provide a space that convenes community, hosts new ideas, and inspires connection for all — $5 tickets and free tickets for everyone 22 and under are just some of the ways we bring those values to life.

There are many more ways to continue to improve access for all at Town Hall, whether you’re in the building or engaging through the magic of technology. One of the simplest ways of showing up for our community comes in the form of a single question: What do you need to fully engage with Town Hall Seattle? 

Last month, we rolled out a new ticketing system that promises a more streamlined and intuitive ticketing experience. As Executive Director Wier Harman explains in the video below, our patrons told us that one of the things they needed most was being able to purchase a ticket easily, free from frustration. Indeed, a vital first step on the journey to engaging with Town Hall!

 

Even more exciting, because of our improved ticketing platform, there’s one small but mighty option that now appears each and every time anyone makes a ticket purchase: An Accessibility Services Request.

When an Accessibility Services Request is added to a cart and the purchase is completed, our Patron Services team is notified and will reach out for more information so that Town Hall can meet each patron’s needs. Whether it’s ASL, CART, wheelchair or service dog seating, or something else, we want to hear about what our community needs as we work to normalize and operationalize accessibility on our virtual and live stages.

Questions? Contact our Patron Services team at patronservices@townhallseattle.org or call (206) 504-2857.

A Ticketing Reboot

As we jump into the energizing days of spring, we’re excited to unveil an important project that promises to make your Town Hall experience a whole lot breezier. From our historic building to the events themselves, we strive to inspire, excite, and fulfill curiosity — and our ticketing system is a critical part of the patron experience. We’ve worked to improve ticketing over the past few years, but not without challenges. We know that our current ticketing system hasn’t met your needs, we’ve taken your feedback seriously, and we’re pleased to announce a change!

On April 27, we’ll take Town Hall’s ticketing to the next level with a new, improved system. It’s been quite a journey, and we’re grateful for your patience and feedback and for weathering the shifts right alongside us. Here are a few of the perks of our new system:

  • More intuitive interface
  • Streamlined member account login and checkout
  • Member vouchers applied automatically at checkout when logged into your account
  • Simplified event check-in process
  • Direct access to virtual videos – no login required!

We want to extend a special note of gratitude to our members. Town Hall members have always been core to our mission and community and have been instrumental to Town Hall’s growth —  from providing feedback to help us shape our ticketing needs, to the financial support to help us take this critical step forward.

Current ticket holders and Town Hall members: Please keep an eye on your email this week for important information!

We know change isn’t easy, but we hope you’ll spring forward with us as we enter this new era. As always, please reach out to membership@townhallseattle.org if you have any issues with your membership or patronservices@townhallseattle.org if you have any issues purchasing tickets.

Send this to a friend