The Seattle Symphony on Monday Night at the Symphony

The Seattle Symphony on Monday Night at the Symphony

Tonight, our program Monday Night at the Symphony will feature the Seattle Symphony. We were honored to be able to ask a few questions to Jeffrey Barker, the symphony’s Associate Principal Flute player, about the symphony’s recent programs and upcoming events.

In June, Marin Alsop conducted a program presenting different retellings of the Romeo and Juliet story (Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet, and Bernstein’s Dances from West Side Story). How did playing these pieces back-to-back broaden your understanding or emotional investment in the story they told?

When there’s a concert with a theme that ties all the pieces together, I think it can be fun for both the listener and the performer. In this case, we got to hear three very different takes on a classic story. All three pieces are very familiar to our orchestra, and many of us had performed them multiple times before, but it’s always a new experience when they’re paired with different pieces and when you’re working with a different conductor. One of the things that struck me in this concert is that while the three pieces are quite different from each other, something they have in common is that they each explore such a wide range of emotions.

Congratulations on the orchestra’s 120th season! In September, you’ll be celebrating this with a restaging of the orchestra’s 1903 and 1998 debut performances. How do you anticipate bringing something new and fresh to this performance?

This will be a big year for the orchestra, celebrating not only our 120th season but also the 25th anniversary of the opening of our home, Benaroya Hall. While obviously none of us were around for that 1903 performance, there are quite a few musicians in the orchestra who were there for our first season in Benaroya Hall and will remember the performance we’re recreating. I think this orchestra is passionate about bringing new perspectives and fresh ideas to every performance, even when it’s music we’ve played many times before. Some of that happens naturally, since the orchestra is constantly evolving as musicians retire and new musicians join. We’ve hired some fantastic new musicians even just in the last couple years, and they continue to push the Seattle Symphony to higher and higher levels of artistry.

Can you tell us about a recent recording or experience that was particularly memorable?

For me, one of the highlights of the 2022/2023 season was Abel Selaocoe, a guest artist who joined the Symphony for a concert last April. Abel is a composer, cellist, and vocalist, and we performed a new work of his that featured his incredible singing and playing. The piece was difficult and required us to use all of our traditional training, but also pushed us to get out of our comfort zone in many ways. For example, during the piece, the orchestra is asked to sing quite extensively. It was important to Abel that, despite not being professional singers, we all sang with our full hearts and spirits, and the orchestra committed to this completely. In the performances, there was a moment when the instruments cut out and the audience was also invited to sing along — so that everyone in the hall was singing together about community and togetherness. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it and none of us will ever forget it.

Listen to the Seattle Symphony at 8 p.m. tonight on The Classical Station at 89.7 FM,, or our app!