Northwest Sinfonietta

For a small city, Tacoma has a surprisingly vibrant arts scene. In fact, October is Tacoma Arts Month. On Saturday night we attended our first performance by one of the region’s outstanding arts organizations, the Northwest Sinfonietta (NWS).

The NWS originated with a group of musicians who came together for a one-time special concert honoring the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death in December 1991. It has now grown into a chamber orchestra comprising 35 professional musicians.

What is a chamber orchestra?

Definition: Musical group that is larger than a chamber ensemble but smaller than a full-size orchestra, creating a perfect balance between intimacy and power.

—from the concert program

The NWS performs a season of concerts in Seattle, Tacoma, and Puyallup. We attended the performance at downtown Tacoma’s Rialto Theater, one of four venues in the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

public domain photo of Rialto Theater from Wikipedia
public domain photo from Wikipedia

The Rialto was built in 1918 as a movie theater. It gradually fell into disrepair but was rehabilitated as a performing arts venue in 1991. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

On Saturday night we heard the orchestra perform the following pieces:

Music for the Theatre by Aaron Copland (1925)
Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466, by Mozart (1785)
Symphony No. 8, Op. 93, by Beethoven (composed 1812, premiered 1813)

The Rialto now, since its renovation, has 738 seats. Because the theater and the orchestra are both small, patrons get an intimate, up-close-and-personal experience much different from that of attending a symphony orchestra performance in a large hall. The conductor, David Lockington, increased this personalized feeling when he turned to face the audience and explained the upcoming music before both the Copland and the Beethoven pieces. In all my years of attending symphony performances in St. Louis, Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), and Seattle, I’ve seen a conductor do that only once.

I’m looking forward to our next two NWS performances, next month and next April.

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