Backstage Perspective: Opening Night

The most compelling thing about chamber music is that it brings people of diverse backgrounds together; musicians and audience members alike. This was absolutely the case at Emerald City Music’s inaugural season opening night on September 16 & 17.

Two years ago, co-founders Andrew Goldstein and Kristin Lee came together around the idea of starting a fresh, innovative, year-round chamber music series in the Puget Sound region; a place where people could come together around deep and moving music. It took a few longs years of planning and preparation to build into the Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia communities. Last weekend, Emerald City Music celebrated the kickoff of the inaugural season!

Below is Andrew’s account of opening weekend:

We were so fortunate to kick off our first season in the company of some truly incredible musicians, including violinists Philip Setzer and Kristin Lee, cellists Colin Carr and Ben Hong, pianists Gloria Chien and John Novacek, violists Dimitri Murrath and Cindy Wu, and the WindSync quintet. The artists shared our excitement around opening night, and made a big splash for our first-ever season opener.

As I watched rehearsals during the week leading up to opening night, I couldn’t help but smile… thirteen musicians arrived here from six different cities to create this gorgeous music solely for our community. This act of coming together is what makes chamber music so unique, powerful, and worthy of sharing.

Video: WindSync Rehearses

We kicked off the inaugural season on Friday, September 16th at 415 Westlake in South Lake Union. We love this venue… the lobby is a contemporary and sheik coffeeshop, while the backspace is an open and airy performance venue. The excitement mounted as the audience lined up outside the doors.

This backspace performance venue is truly unique. Aside from great acoustics, the intimate setup of the space allows the musicians and audience to interact much more than your typical concert experience. You can not only see the musicians communicating with each other, note-by-note, but you can actually feel the connection between the musicians and the audience. 

We couldn’t have been more thrilled as the evening unfolded. The evening opened with a jazzy four-hands performance of Samuel Barber's Souvenirs, emulating the Plaza Hotel in 1914 New York City. Then Artistic Director Kristin Lee and pianist Gloria Chien stole the room with Vivian Fung's Birdsong, composed for Kristin. The first-half ended with Connesson's eclectic and stormy Techno Parade

After some casual mingling over drinks, the second-half kicked off in full force. WindSync performed Ligeti's Six Bagatelles entirely from memory (pictured above) before the evening closed with Tchaikovsky's barnstorming Souvenir de Florence. Excitement echoed through the audience as they leapt to their feet for a standing ovation.

On Saturday morning, we planned to have our first outreach concert in South Lake Union’s Cascade Park, in partnership with Vulcan Inc and the City of Seattle. We love this program; it brings people of all diverse backgrounds together to experience deeply moving and wildly fun classical music. Alas, mother nature had other plans for us, and Starbucks (1600 E Olive Way) sheltered us from the rain. WindSync performed selections from West Side Story and other works in the coffeeshop, and we were even entertained by some jazzy dancing from a nearby observer!

Video: West Side Story at Starbucks

Saturday evening we trekked down I-5 to South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, where we kicked off our season there. We met a warm and elated audience, who expressed teeming excitement for this new series! It was so touching to hear from many people in the audience had never experienced chamber music before, and it was a pleasure to share a diverse program of music by Vivian Fung, Ligeti, Connesson, Barber, and Tchaikovsky.

And if the concerts themselves weren’t exciting enough, we were thrilled to see favorable reviews from publications like CityArts, calling opening night “A wild success…” (Read the full review).

This is just the beginning of a very full, and wonderfully diverse inaugural season. Up next, we spotlight the Seattle & Olympia debut of the hot young Dover Quartet. Cellist Camden Shaw might be a familiar name, as he will be making a return to his hometown for this highly anticipated debut performance. The Dover Quartet catapulted to international fame after winning the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, drawing comparisons to the early days of the acclaimed Guarneri and Emerson Quartets. Performing an all–Beethoven evening, you won’t want to miss this exciting debut!

I want to share a word of thanks to our generous family of supporters and donors, as well as those who have mentored the Emerald City Music teamsters along the way! Your trust in our vision is what made this opening night possible, and we were so grateful to share it with you.

If you are excited about Emerald City Music and the work that we do, please consider pledging to our annual fund campaign. Your support makes it possible for Emerald City Music to bring the highest caliber musicians from around the world! Donate online at, via phone (206) 250–5510, or via mail at PO Box 31917, Seattle, WA 98103.

We’ll see you on October 7 & 8 for the debut of The Dover Quartet!