The World Premiere of a new symphonic work. A multimedia experience featuring video, glass art and music. A symposium exploring changes to the delicate ecosystem of the Mountain and its glaciers. A collaboration between the Arts and the National Park Service. A once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity for area high school students. Symphony Tacoma’s Mountain and Sea season finale is all this and more.
Conceived by Music Director Sarah Ioannides, Mountain and Sea engages Symphony Tacoma, the Museum of Glass (MOG), Hilltop Artists and Mount Rainier National Park in the creation of a multimedia artistic event culminating with the Symphony’s Season Finale on May 13. In commemoration of the Centennial of the National Parks System, the multi-layered project will engage area residents in music and glass art and raise awareness of the plight of Mount Rainier’s glaciers, which are melting at an alarming rate. The capstone of the project and the season finale will be the world premiere of Fire-Mountain, a new symphonic work by Daniel Ott, commissioned by Symphony Tacoma.
For the residents of Pierce County, Mount Rainier is a silent sentinel, always present on the horizon and guarding life in the South Sound area. In 2015, scientists released a sobering report warning of the rapid recession of the mountain’s glaciers—the largest on a single peak anywhere in the contiguous United States—and the ecological consequences that will soon follow. The geography of the region, with its mountains and valleys intertwined with the many-fingered Salish Sea, is unique in the world. Here, mountain and inland ocean interact in ways not seen elsewhere.
Impressed by the fragile beauty of the region, Maestra Ioannides envisioned a powerful collaboration that will engage and inform the Tacoma area community. The resulting project—titled Mountain and Sea—will be comprised of events and activities that could only take place with these particular regional organizations.
Fire and Ice
The first official event of the project was held on March 16 at the Museum of Glass, when student glassblowers from Hilltop Artists were joined in the hot shop cone by seven members of the Orchestra. The musicians performed both composed and improvised music as they accompanied a fluid, fiery and melting glass performance art project. Video footage from the event is being combined with images of Mount Rainier into a video art piece—produced by MOG multimedia director Derek Klein in collaboration with Sarah Ioannides. The video will be projected above the stage during the performance of Fire-Mountain.
On Wednesday, May 10, Sarah Ioannides will join the string orchestra students from Lincoln High School during a daylong field trip to Paradise on Mount Rainier. Symphony Tacoma has a special relationship with the Lincoln High students; string players from the Orchestra spend eight weeks during the school year as string coaches and mentors at Lincoln. On this day, the students will trade their instruments for snow shoes as they explore Paradise, hear presentations about the extensive glacial system, and learn from Maestra Ioannides and Daniel Ott about the creative process and how an artist responds to external events to create art. Later in the week, the students will be guests of honor at the dress rehearsal, along with National Park Service officials.
Not just a concert—an event
As the capstone of the Mountain and Sea project, the Symphony commissioned a work by nationally-acclaimed composer Daniel Ott, who grew up in Puyallup. A musical portrait of natural wonders, Ott’s Fire-Mountain utilizes 155 musicians, including the 85-piece Symphony Tacoma and 70-person Symphony Tacoma Voices. Interwoven with Ott’s music will be Derek Klein’s art video, featuring footage from the March glassblowing event along with images from the park. Presented on a screen suspended above the orchestra, the visual depictions of the molten glass and snow-capped peak, together with the chorus vocals, will poignantly illustrate the mountain’s hidden fire and its surface glaciers, in all their grandeur and beauty.
Prior to the concert, Super Subscribers will be invited to a fascinating Music Mixer panel discussion featuring Maestra Ioannides, Daniel Ott, climatologist Mike Warner, and Mount Rainier National Park Deputy Superintendent Tracy Swartout. The lobby will include informational displays staffed by NPS officials. Hilltop Artist students will also be on hand with displays of their glass art from the March 16 Fire and Ice event.
Also performed during the concert will be Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and Debussy’s Impressionist masterpiece La Mer. The program is characteristic of Sarah Ioannides’s curatorial approach to programming: gem-setting a new artistic creation with colorful, complementary music from the core repertoire and visual elements. The result is a multi-media experience that is challenging yet accessible to audiences.
Art responds to life, and by building relationships in the community, art can serve as a catalyst for education, growth and transformation in a region. Through a process of community collaboration and working in multiple mediums, this partnership seeks to produce an inspiring experience, empowering participants to undertake an active role in protecting our region.
The commission is funded by a generous gift from Carroll Bryan and Laurie Sorensen. Assisting in the launch of this project, the Symphony has the distinguished honor of being the only Washington State grant recipient in a special award category of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Park System.