This past Sunday was mostly taken up with spending time with Kellen and Noël before their move to Germany. Saturday, though, was a whirlwind of activity for us. We left the house mid-morning and didn't get back home until late at night. In between, we went to a food festival, saw giant boots, took a café break, wandered through sculptures, dropped by to see how Kellen and Noël were doing with packing, had dinner, and went to a concert (complete with pre– and post-concert activities).
We left the house towards the bus line which gets us downtown directly downtown (it’s the last stop before getting on the freeway) then transferred to the bus which goes right through the Georgetown business district. We arrived just as Georgetown Bites was starting. You buy tickets for $5, each good for an item at various places up and down Airport Way S.
We started with a BBQ chicken sandwich at Hitchcock Deli. The chicken thigh was extremely tender, topped with braised collard greens and cabbage slaw, and served on a sweet roll with habanero aioli. Since the knew we were sharing, they split the sandwich in two for us. While we were there, a guy walked in with a Nikon F3 (with motor drive) around his neck. That's the camera I used for years before switching to digital.
Next on the list was to pick up a couple of items from Fran's Chocolates. The offering was an Almond Gold Bar and a Park Bar, both a pretty good size. We saved them away for later, then wandered around the store. It's got about the same amount of sales counter space as a normal Fran's store, but the setting is a huge room, so the feeling was very open and airy. We also took a peek at the factory in the back, but they weren't operating that day.
The last stop was to the Deep Sea Sugar & Salt trailer for a pineapple carrot brown butter cupcake. There were several people already squeezed in the tight space, and the most popular item was a chocolate pistachio cake. The woman came around to the front each time to make the slice, back behind the counter to finish the sale, then to the front again to make a slice for the next customer.
We had quite a bit of time to kill, so we wandered over to Oxbow Park, just a few blocks away. The place is known for the giant hat and boots, which were fun to see. There was a group of drummers practicing under the hat, which was pretty entertaining to listen to.￼
Olympic Sculpture Park
With still more time to kill, we bussed back up to Belltown and stopped at a café to sit for a bit and grab a quick snack. We then went a couple more blocks to the Olympic Sculpture Park. We go there every now and then, so even though the installations don't change often, it's still a peaceful walk.
Kellen and Noël's apartment
Next on the list was stopping by Kellen and Noël's place to see how they were doing with packing. On the way, we got a pretty good view of the new electrical vault that kept them up many nights with the construction noise. You can see their apartment window at the right side of the photo, which gives you an idea of how loud things got.
There were several other people there helping, so we ended up trying to stay out of the way. A lot of stuff had already been sold, given away, and put into storage, so the place looked mostly empty. It was fun chatting with some of their friends. We did do a couple small things, but for the most part, things were firmly under control.
We were ready for an early dinner, so we went towards downtown. We originally were thinking of going to Beecher's for macaroni and cheese, but on the way diverted towards Pacific Place to get fish tacos and chowder from Pike Place Chowder. We like this location because it's much less crowded than the one in Pike Place Market.
The last event of the night was a concert at Benaroya Hall, but in reality, there were three parts.
We got there pretty early after dinner, so we grabbed a table along the front concourse. After the coat check opened, we dropped off our things and then waited for the hall itself to open.
One of the pieces to be performed was the premiere of Become Desert by John Luther Adams. Dave Beck of KING-FM interviewed Adams, and even though they had done another interview on the radio, Beck tried to ask new questions, filling in pieces from the radio interview to give context.
Adams was excited to be in Seattle for the premiere (we were at the second performance; the first was the previous night). His previous work premiered in Seattle was Become Ocean, but he missed that opening because he had a problem with his eye that required a hospital stay.
When we first sat down, there were several dozen people sitting down. When we stood up after the interview, we were surprised to see a lot of people in the hall. It's likely that several people were just finding their seats early rather than going to the interview, but once we got to our seats in the upper tier, there were once again several empty seats in the orchestra section. So lots of people wanted to hear what Adams had to say.
As was the case last year, we had seats in the uppermost tier, but this time on the right side. We usually like to be on the left to see the pianist's hands, but not this time.
The first piece was one we know well, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E♭ Major, Op. 73, otherwise known as the Emperor Concerto (we heard Emmanuel Ax perform it last year). The soloist was Jeremy Denk, about whom we knew nothing. His technique was impeccable. He had different interpretations at points than I've heard in the past (such as drawing out some sections). We were also familiar with his encore, the second movement of Mozart's piano sonata in C Major (K. 545), and noticed he added extra embellishments during the repeats.
What interested me more, however, was the orchestra. It was laid out differently than normal, partly to accommodate the large platform at the back for Become Desert. The upright bassists were all along the back, the French horns were at the left behind the violins, and the timpani were on the far right rather than the back left.
The sound also seemed different. The cellos were facing away from us, so they were harder to hear. It also seemed that some of the woodwinds were pretty loud, notably the bassoons which were essentially pointing towards us. it's possible that some of the difference was an intentional choice by the conductor Ludovic Morlot, but the way to know for sure would have been to sit at the orchestra level.
After intermission, it was time for Become Desert. The piece was performed by five “choruses”, mostly strings on the main stage, several woodwinds on the raised platform, brass in the tier boxes on the left and right of the hall, and a chorus of singers in the top tier at the back. The idea is to hear sound from all around.
As the piece begins, you can barely hear that anything is going on. You then realize that the violins are holding an extremely high note that's getting louder. Other instruments start to join in, but it's still one long note. You then hear more bells played not quite in a rhythm, more like random syncopation. Even more instruments get added as the piece starts to swell. Still one note.
It's not too long before the chorus eases in, and you hear more chimes and bells. You then hear the timpani more; there are sets on either side of the stage, and they alternate doing rolls going down then up the scale, like rolling thunder.
We weren't surprised that, just as the piece grew at the beginning, it would gradually quiet down to the end. Even so, through the whole time, it still sounds like one note with instruments coming in and out, punctuated by percussion. At the very end, Morlot held his baton up, holding silence for several seconds, and the audience knew that this was still part of the piece. Some forty-odd minutes after the beginning of the work, the orchestra and Adams were treated to thunderous applause. Right away, Morlot motioned Adams up to the stage, giving us the reason for the staircase from the audience level to the stage.
The music was over, but not the evening. I rushed out to coat check to grab our things while Melody wandered outside the hall to where Marcie Sillman from KUOW-FM was doing her interview (this concert was part of her Front Row Center series). There were many more people than last year's program, and judging from the audience questions, there was a lot of enthusiasm for Adams' work.
Morlot has previously announced that he'll be moving on, and a replacement has been named. He's done a lot for the Seattle Symphony, and when one audience member jokingly asked Morlot to stay, everyone else enthusiastically agreed.
Since the concert started at 8 pm and the post-concert interview went pretty long, it was about midnight by the time we got home. Kellen and Noël were already fast asleep, and it didn't take long for us to be, too.