The concert series in Benaroya Hall’s lobby offers adventurous, “no compromises” programming. On April 28, the program includes “Andy Warhol Sez” and “Tinkling or killing time in an airport lounge (and being arrested).”
Since he took over as conductor of the Seattle Symphony in 2011, Ludovic Morlot has expanded the parameters of what kind of music his orchestra might tackle on the Benaroya stage. SSO programs have included Sir Mix-A-Lot, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, as well as Beethoven and Brahms.
But Morlot’s “[untitled]” series, which occurs again on Friday, April 28, may be his most playful concept yet. For starters, the concert series takes place in Benaroya’s lobby, begins at 10 p.m., and patrons sit on rugs.
Friday’s program also pays homage to two cultural icons unusual in any symphony hall: Andy Warhol and Thelonious Monk. Performed in part by a drag group called the Bearded Ladies, with accompaniment by some of SSO’s stellar players, it is programming to make the Sir Mix-A-Lot stage dancing look tame.
Seattle Symphony: ‘[untitled]’
With Pablo Rus Bruseta, conducting, and The Bearded Ladies, 10 p.m. Friday, April 28, Benaroya Hall, Seattle; $16 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
This is the 15th “[untitled]” show Morlot has done at Benaroya, and the conductor explains that part of the series inspiration comes from wanting to take advantage of the lobby’s ambience.
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“When I first walked into the Benaroya lobby, I felt that visually and acoustically it was a space we should utilize more,” he says. “There is a wonderful window into the city’s downtown. Looking in from the outside, it created the idea that something was going on that people might be curious about experiencing.”
The “[untitled]” series is, of course, a nod to pioneering French conductor Pierre Boulez, who with his New York Philharmonic “rug concerts” in the 1970s pushed the boundaries of the symphony. Morlot’s concept was shaped by exposure to a similar series he saw as a student at the Southbank Centre in London.
“It invited people to talk about the music as well as listening to it,” Morlot says. “I wanted to re-create this in Seattle.”
Friday’s program is helmed by Pablo Rus Broseta, the SSO’s 33-year-old associate conductor. The repertoire will include such unusual fare as “Andy Warhol Sez,” by Paul Moravec, and Yannis Kyriakides’ Thelonius Monk-inspired “Tinkling or killing time in an airport lounge (and being arrested).”
If jazz great Monk and artist Warhol seem like disparate figures, the SSO’s Elena Dubinets explains that Warhol was “a prototype for our musical inspiration,” but he also has connections to the jazz legend. “Warhol created one of Monk’s early LP covers in 1954,” she says.
For some symphony traditionalists, the “[untitled]” series may present challenges, which is one of the reasons the shows happen late at night. Last season’s “[untitled]” dedicated to artist Robert Rauschenberg earned rave audience response and was part of the reason Morlot and Dubinets decided to again use a visual artist as a central theme.
The goal of the “[untitled]” series, Dubinets explains, is to “break down barriers of all types.” It is, she says, “highly sophisticated content without compromises.”
That’s an approach you would imagine Andy Warhol, Thelonious Monk, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Ludovic Morlot, and maybe even Ludwig van Beethoven, could all embrace.