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.

Music as a Bridge

With our Great Hall reopening, we’re excited to get back into our historic home and see what the space can do. To help put the Great Hall through its paces and show us a truly unique musical experience, composer and Fremont Bridge Resident Paurl Walsh is coming to Town Hall on May 23 to present his incredible concert Bascule. FREE tickets are available now. Town Hall’s Copywriter Alexander Eby sat down with Paurl to talk about Fremont fulcrums, and the ways music can help us connect to each other.

AE: What can you tell me about the concert?

PW: The concert is six movements—three long movements interspersed between which are three short movements from string quartets. The show features a pianist and four string players who send their music as signals to me directly, and I use electronic mixing equipment to process and shape their sounds in real time. There’s also a unique visual component to the piece which mirrors the electronic mixing, presenting everyday images that have been heavily abstracted. It’s the culmination of a year-long project that I did as the 2018 Fremont Bridge Composer in Residence.

AE: Can you tell me more about the Fremont Bridge Residency? What was it like to work creatively in that environment?

PW: It was such a cool opportunity to be able to write music in such a weird space. The northwest tower of the Fremont Bridge is a small office about twelve foot square, but with 360 degree windows all around. You can see out over the water and down to the ship canal. You can see Lake Union and the Aurora Bridge towering above, and Gas Works Park splayed out on the left. You can see over to Queen Anne Hill and down into Fremont proper. It’s a beautiful view. I was in there about 20 hours a week with my laptop, notebooks, and speakers working on music.

It’s noisy in there. Lots of it was from traffic. Whenever a bus would cross the bridge, the whole room would vibrate and shake. And then there were the actual movements of the bridge. Fremont Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the country, with an average I think of 15 openings per day during the summer for everything from shipping traffic to sailboats. The operator in the south tower would have to call me on the intercom every time the bridge opened to make sure I was clear. So there were lots of distractions; you can imagine trying to write music in that context. It took me probably a good month or so to adapt, just to get to the point where I wasn’t hearing it anymore, and to be able to get back on my train of thought in between interruptions.

My hope was that the environment would sort of seep into my work through osmosis. If I had tried to write this piece while all isolated in my studio I think it would have come out entirely different, so I like to think that the environment has seeped into the thesis of the music.

AE: Was there a part of the bridge that you feel most influenced your work?

PW: One of the coolest parts was actually a safety orientation that I had to take. The Department of Transportation had to show me all the safety stuff related to the bridge, and part of that involved going on a full tour of all the inner workings. I got to go down into the bowels of the bridge and see all its mechanics, and while we were down there I got to stand in the middle of a pivot point while the bridge was opening.

There’s this fulcrum point that the whole half of the bridge tilts on. Behind that point, dug into the side of the hill, is a huge concrete counterweight. I stood on a gangplank between the two, totally open to the air with the water directly below me. The bridge started to open, and it felt like the whole planet had started to shift, and for a split second I had no real sense of up or down. It was a very disorienting and very interesting sensation. I wanted to recreate that feeling in my music—that intense feeling of disorientation followed by an adjustment that makes this strange and uncanny sensation suddenly feel normal.

AE: Where did the name Bascule come from?

PW: Bascule is a technical term for a drawbridge. Specifically, it’s what engineers call the type of bridge that the Fremont Bridge is—a Bascule bridge. But in my mind, this piece of music isn’t about all bridges or waterways but the Fremont Bridge specifically. I was inspired to apply for this Residency because I felt like I had something really unique to say that involved the Fremont Bridge.

The piece is my way of talking about a very difficult time in my life when I was living in that area. For me, there’s this really visceral connection between the Fremont Bridge and a period of my life when I was experiencing homelessness and dealing with severe depression and serious substance abuse issues. My hope is that this project sheds some light on these topics. The way we treat mental illness, substance abuse, and poverty is really unhealthy. A lot of people are affected really directly by them, but they’re issues we don’t really talk about directly. I want to help destigmatize these issues, to make people feel like they can talk about them and understand them.

As a result, this musical piece very intense. I’ve really tried to design an experience that presents an impression of how it felt to be in that place, and how lost and awful I felt. But I also think there’s moments of really extreme beauty and bittersweet moments in there. My hope is that by telling this story in such an abstract way, the audience can make their own connections and imbue their own sense of meaning with it.

AE: What do you hope that audiences can take away from this piece?

PW: The piece is certainly experimental, but in a lot of ways I think it’s also universal. We all experience periods where we go feel things similar to this. I feel like there’s a lot to identify with in this work, a basic sort of fundamental emotional understanding that we experience as humans. Everyone experiences their own version of the music. No two people’s take on this is going to be the same. But I hope that people respond to the intensity of what I’m making and come out of the concert with some feeling of solidarity, for the audience to feel supported by each other.

We can feel so isolated when we’re having these crises, these feelings of depression or even just all the difficult stuff that comes from being human. My goal with this concert is to create an experience that communicates what that’s like—to present something that everyone can identify with and show that no matter what you’re feeling or how strongly you feel it, you’re not alone.

Join us at Town Hall’s Great Hall on Thursday to hear Walsh’s piece. Tickets are free.

Sikh Captain America and Superhero Serendipity

It was on my birthday, October 1 of last year, that I first met Sikh Captain America—Vishavjit Singh. He made an appearance at Town Hall discussing battling stereotypes, fighting racism, and overcoming intolerance. We talked plenty before the event, prepping for it, becoming email chums. I profiled him before his appearance here.

Before Sikh Captain America came to town, we decided to put him on the cover of our October print calendar to help publicize the month’s events. I asked the photographer who shot it, Nate Gowdy, if we could use it for the calendar. He said, ‘No problem.’ Further, he said he was going to be there that night to shoot pictures on his own.

My former sister-in-law, Christie Skoorsmith, joined me for the night. Inspired by Singh’s talk, she asked during the Q&A, “You mentioned that anyone can be Captain America. Everyone IS Captain America. Have you ever thought about having a photo shoot where people from all walks of life are dressed up like Captain America like you? I have two transgender kids. They would love to be a part of something like that.”

Singh responded, “That’s a good idea.” Gowdy, in attendance, talked to Skoorsmith after the show. “That’s a good idea.” They all agreed—they should actually do it.

A week and some ago, they actually did it.

Now collaboratively called the “American Superhero Project,” they brought in superheroes of all races, ages, genders, and walks of life for photographic portraits and to share their stories with Singh about what it means to be American. There were over 40 participants. They did all this with a team of ten volunteers to help make the shoot run smoothly.

What’s next? They’re planning on connecting with national publications, such as the New York Times and Time magazine, to see if they are interested in giving the project a home. They’re also hoping on taking the photo shoot to other cities to get a broader swath of Americans in all their wondrous diversity.

Further, there were two videographers on site at what was once the United States Immigrant Station and Assay Office. The videographers recorded personal interviews done by the participants and Singh. They also captured behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot as a whole. The team thinks there’s enough inspiring footage for the makings of a Netflix documentary. All of this is still in its infancy, but there is much to be excited about as the project moves forward.

After the weekend photo shoot completed, Singh remarked that it was one of the most memorable days of his life, especially in uniform as Sikh Captain America. Gowdy, a professional photographer with years of experience under his belt, said he had never been prouder in making photos.

We at Town Hall are honored to play the small part in bringing these people together. It’s just another way in which we strive to fulfill our mission of giving everyone a voice.

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. George Noble Skinner has been confined to her room at the Terry Hotel with a severe case of neuritis,” and, “Mrs. Prescott Oakes has returned from Santa Barbara, where she spent a few weeks.” In this new 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 March 15, 1919 edition of the Town Crier was one of the most famous musicians alive at that time, cellist Pablo Casals. He played at the Masonic Temple, at Harvard and Pine, on March 19. Prices ran from 83 cents to $2.20 (including war tax). The Crier waxed poetic about Casal’s coming concert inside the publication. “When master musicians like Fritz Kreisler says that Casals is the greatest musician that has ever drawn a bow and Eugene Ysaye adds that he is the greatest interpretive artist he has ever heard, than we know that we are not listening to any ‘fairy stories’ that may or may not come true.” The praise kept on coming. “He plays so tenderly he melts the heart of you; plays like an angel, either damned or celestial. There is something diabolic in his energy of attack, an attack like the slash of a sabre. What temperament! What surety! What purity of intonation!”

Pablo Casals (1876-1973) was a cellist, composer, and conductor from Catalonia, Spain. Regarded as one of the greatest cellists who ever lived, he is perhaps best known for his recordings of Bach’s Cello Suites. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.

Town Hall’s got a cellist with temperament, surety, and purity, as well. Joshua Roman has been Town Hall’s Town Music Artistic Director for over a decade. (Have you bought your Town Music subscription yet? Do so!) Last season, Roman joined forces with other prominent cellists for a Town Hall event, A Cello Conspiracy. And, if you’re still keen for local cello music, did you know there’s a local nonprofit that provides cellos to recipients actively studying and performing? It’s the Carlsen Cello Foundation—an organization that helped give a young Joshua Roman one of his first great cellos.

Ignite Education Lab – A Storytelling Event Like No Other

Town Hall and the Seattle Times collaborated for the Ignite Education Lab 2019 at the Campion Ballroom at Seattle University on March 11.  Lily Williamson, a sophomore at Shorewood High School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

Ignite Education Lab is a storytelling event like no other—and exactly what the education community needs right now. Hosted by the Seattle Times, and in its fourth year, Ignite takes the broad and hotly debated topic of public education, and confines it. A group of eleven presenters get exactly five minutes and twenty slides (advancing every 15 seconds) to tell their story. This tight format restricts various views of the expansive topic into a succinct package that really packs a punch, and forces the storytellers to really be creative.

This year’s event was based around the theme of special and specialized education, and many of the presentations took this topic to new and seemingly antithetical places. Shannon Hitch, a former school psychologist, described how learning that her child has autism caused her to speak differently with the families of differently abled children—now, she focuses more on collaborating with parents and the child’s abilities, rather than the child’s restrictions. On the other hand, Victoria Mott, a science teacher at Washington’s Echo Glen, a juvenile-detention center, spoke about how teaching incarcerated teenagers can be difficult but is incredibly rewarding. She states that “the ‘why’ behind why I teach” is continuously reinforced. Hitch’s and Motts’ talks, while seemingly disparate in topic, combine to highlight the intersectionality and importance of special and specialized education.

The stories told are made even more enrapturing by the people who tell them: all are compelling and well-spoken. Sometimes presenters would forget what they were saying, or a slide would advance at an awkward time—one woman almost started to cry midway through her set. But these little inconsistencies only added to the presentations, making the stories and their orators seem all the more human, and all the more relatable.

The most revolutionary thing about Ignite Education Lab is how well it portrays public education as something that affects everyone. Even though education is often believed to be only an important facet of the lives of students, their parents, and teachers, Ignite Education Lab shows that the public schooling system is something that regards an entire community. The Lab brings together a group of presenters that are diverse in gender, age, and race, from all aspects of a community—this year’s presenters included teachers, parents, students, and even individuals with seemingly no involvement in traditional schools. Mohammed Kloub, one of the event’s organizers, explains why the event is so purposefully diverse: “Getting just one perspective doesn’t show you how the education system affects people very differently… and the education system affects everybody.”

Ignite Education Lab takes a fresh approach in demonstrating the importance of equitable public education for an entire community. It breaks the stereotypical idea that the education system and it’s future is only applicable and important to students, parents, and teachers. Instead, Ignite sheds light on how education is a cycle, that impacts all parts of a community. The capabilities of education will be confined without everyone in a community being invested it—and attending Ignite Education Lab is the perfect way get involved in the future of education.

Talea Your Friends – Sideshow is Coming Soon

Town Hall is excited for our 2019 Town Music concert series, curated by Town Music Artistic Director Joshua Roman. Care to buy a season subscription? There’s still time.

The season begins with a bang on March 20 at Broadway Performance Hall on the Seattle Central College campus. Talea Ensemble will be performing “Sideshow,” a work based on the dark sideshows of Coney Island’s amusement parks in the early 20th century. The work was written by contemporary composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi.

Talea Ensemble has been heralded as a crucial part of the New York cultural ecosphere” by the New York Times. The ensemble is comprised of nineteen of New York City’s finest classically trained musicians, with a mission to champion musical creativity, cultivate curious listeners, and bring visionary new works to life with vibrant performances that remain in the audience’s imagination long after a concert. They were the recipients of the 2014 Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

Here is Talea playing Brian Ferneyhough’s “Contraccolpi”:

Here is Talea playing Pierluigi Billone’s “Dike Wall”:

Here is Talea playing Georges Aperghis’s “Happy End”:

Be happy and go see Talea play the fantastic “Sideshow.”

It will be an evening you won’t soon forget.

Getting Funky with Thaddeus Turner

Thaddeus Turner, also known as Thaddilac, is ready to rock for Town Hall and is inviting your kids to get funky. As part of Town Hall’s Saturday Family Concert series, Turner will combine the beauty of traditional soul with the power of rock on March 9 at the venerable Royal Room in Columbia City. KIDS ARE FREE (and adults are only $5). For more information and tickets go here.

Turner has become something of a Seattle institution. He’s currently the music director for the Grammy award-winning Digable Planets, is lead guitarist of Maktub, and has toured with the likes of Dave Matthews, India Arie, Lauyrn Hill, Stone Gossard, and many others. He’s also the co-founder of Totem Star, a non-profit dedicated to “amplify and empower youth voice through music production and performance to strengthen life skills in leadership, civic engagement, and community building.”

As a preview to the coming Saturday Family Concert, do you want to see him do his thing? Of course you do:

Here he is at the Columbia City Blues Festival:

Here he is rocking with Joe Doria and Scott Goodwin:

Here he is playing a cover of a Led Zeppelin song with Maktub:

 Awesome, right? Go check him out with your tots.

Movin’ Around the World: Winter

It’s like Town Hall, but over at the Seattle Center. “Through intergenerational, multicultural exchange, we aim to promote greater social understanding,” reads Northwest Folklife’s mission statement. It’s quite similar to Town Hall’s mission statement. “A vibrant gathering place in the heart of Seattle,” it reads, “fostering an engagement community through civic, arts, and educational programs that reflect and inspireour region’s best impulses: creativity, empathy, and the belief that we all deserve a voice.”

With that in mind, Town Hall is eager to be present at the coming “One Big Neighborhood” winter festival (2/16-2/22). It’s being put on by Northwest Folklife and the Seattle Center. We’ll have a table there on Saturday (2/16). Come on by and make a zine with us! The multi-day festival is a youth and family program that provides opportunities to share and sustain the vitality of folk, ethnic, and traditional arts for present and future generations.

Saturday’s (2/16) theme is “Youth Rising.” Performances will include the School of Rock House Band, Lil Brown Girls Club, and others!

Sunday’s (2/17) theme is “Expressions of Asia.” There will be martial arts, dancing, and much more.

Monday’s (2/18) theme is “Beats and Rhymes Hip Hop” and is being presented by 206 Zulu.

Tuesday’s (2/19) theme is “Rhythms and Motion” and will include Seattle Drum School and majorette dances.

Wednesday’s (2/20) theme is “Middle Eastern Folk Traditions.” There will be plenty of dancing.

Thursday’s (2/21) theme is “Festa Brazil!” and will include world music and Brazilian capoeira.

The festivities conclude on Friday (2/22) with “Roots of America.”

Whether you’re interested in breakdancing or taiko drumming; Appalachian dance or learning a Jimi Hendrix tune on ukulele, it’ll be One Big Neighborhood – one that Town Hall is so fortunate to be a part of.

Drink Up for Town Hall

“There is no question in the mind of any intelligent person,” noted the August 12, 1916 edition of the Town Crier, “that intemperance is probably the worst curse that humanity labors under.”

Temperance. The social movement stands against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, emphasizing the negative effects of booze on health, personality, and family life. The movement led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Washington State actually started their own Prohibition on January 1, 1916—making the production, distribution, and possession of liquor illegal. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but during that entire time Seattle didn’t really stop producing, distributing, or possessing liquor. No, not at all. At one point, Seattle had about 4,000 illegal speakeasies in its city limits.

“Certainly the present boot-legging atmosphere is unendurable and destructive to the moral fibre of our manhood – an intolerable condition in which to bring up our youth,” the Crier stressed. But, then again, it noted, “In every other respect there is practically nothing the matter with Seattle and it is the finest and best city in the world.”

Indeed—Seattle is arguably the finest and best city in the world these days for beer. In fact, the whole state is great. Want to learn more? The Washington Beer Commission is a good place to start.

Better yet – want to drink and support Town Hall at the same time? You can! There are a series of “Drink Up for Town Hall” events in the coming weeks! Don’t miss this chance to stay warm, have a drink, and discuss your favorite Town Hall events with old friends and new.

Join us at:

Optimism Brewing Company on January 31. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy!

Capitol Cider on February 6. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy!

Vito’s on February 13. Town Hall will get 10% of all drink sales that night!

Lagunitas Brewing Company on February 19. Town Hall will get all beer sale proceeds!

Cheers, friends!

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog looks 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, “Miss Anna Roberta Hoge is ill,” and, “The Four Buttercups will present a novelty surprise in comedy singing.”  In this new series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

“One of the fastest growing sections of Seattle during the past few years,” the Town Crier reported on December 21, 1918, “is the Rainier Valley.” Indeed, “The Seattle Rainier Valley Railway Company has played an important part in the upbuilding and the steady march of progress of Rainier Valley.” The story goes on discussing improvements with an eye towards the future. “The next few years will undoubtedly witness an even greater growth.”

An organization today that plays an important part in the steady march of progress in Rainier Valley is the Rainier Arts Center, one of the organizations and venues that have been instrumental for Town Hall during our Inside/Out seasons. Some Town Hall events that have occurred there in the past year include talks by Dar Williams, Tali Sharot, Theo Gray, and Dr. Beverly Tatum, amongst others.

Rainier Arts Center’s mission is to “produce and facilitate a variety of artistic and cultural productions that are supported by our community.” A program of SEEDArts, Rainier Arts Center was purchased and renovated by SouthEast Effective Development whose mission is to improve the quality of life in Southeast Seattle. The Rainier Arts Center building has been in existence since 1921 and is now a national landmark building that marks the northern gateway to Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. The Center was originally built as the Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist. Town Hall’s building, currently under renovation, is the Fourth.

You can learn more about the Rainier Arts Center here.

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