Sunday, September 18, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle Symphony raises $45,000 in Katrina relief

Seattle Times music critic


"A Symphony of Relief," benefit for American Red Cross aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Gerard Schwarz, conductor, with soloists Lynn Harrell (cello), Elisabeth Adkins (violin) and Nathan Hughes (oboe). Benaroya Hall, Friday night.

Seattle is a long way from New Orleans, but on Friday night the cities were side by side.

Musicians, stagehands, administrators, a conductor and soloists all volunteered their time and talents for a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims that drew an estimated 1,600 listeners. Their tickets were free, but conductor Gerard Schwarz reminded the audience that they were there to "open your hearts — and your wallets."

And the money did roll in, with donations totaling an estimated $45,000. Everyone pitched in to help, from harpsichord tuner Jeffrey Cohan to the Benaroya Hall Starbucks staff, CPS Parking and Dependable Building Maintenance, among many others.

It was a mere week since the concert was announced, making the Seattle Symphony the first major orchestra to perform such a benefit, but the word got out fast. Audience member and music lover Betty Carter said the e-mail jungle drums were beating steadily during the past week, and she in turn broadcast the news to all her friends. With her in one of the Benaroya Hall boxes were Susan Wood of Neenah, Wis., and Seattleites Christine Riley and Colleen Williams.

"It's amazing how many people have pulled together," said Riley, "and what a beautiful program.

"We have truly received a present, to give a present."

Carter said she hoped many in the audience who got to hear the orchestra for free would be back, especially young people who may have been introduced to the music for the first time.

Two members of the Louisiana Philharmonic, trumpeter Vance Woolf and trombonist Greg Miller, joined the Seattle musicians for the concert. Their home orchestra, based in New Orleans, has dispersed to the four winds in the wake of the hurricane — but the members will reunite Oct. 4 in Nashville, Tenn., to perform a benefit concert organized by the Nashville Symphony with fiddler Mark O'Connor.

Musical values

Friday night's Seattle Symphony benefit had musical values as strong as its emotional values. Aaron Copland's inspiring "Fanfare for the Common Man" got a thrilling, incisive performance from brass and percussion. The Adagio movement from Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin found both soloists (Nathan Hughes and Elisabeth Adkins, respectively) in top form. Adkins, the guest concertmaster and reportedly among the leading candidates for the permanent position in Seattle, drew the ear with the smooth elegance of her phrasing.

Lynn Harrell's cello solo, Fauré's lovely "Élégie," was all burnished, eloquent tone, with a movement of solo Bach (from the Suite in C Minor) as an encore. A movement of Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, and the complete Brahms Symphony No. 4, were the evening's orchestral showpieces.

The best kind of ovation: Many patrons gave cash and checks on their way out of the concert as well as on their way in.

Melinda Bargreen: or 206-464-2321

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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