Orquesta Northwest Reexamines the Conquest of Mexico—500 Years Later

Text and interview by Maggie Molloy
Audio production by Dacia Clay

Orquesta Northwest Music Director Paula Nava Madrigal and poet Raúl Sánchez.

New music is in dialogue with music of the past at a pair of concerts presented this weekend by Early Music Seattle and Orquesta Northwest.

Written in 1733, Vivaldi’s Motezuma opera offers a fictionalized, Eurocentric account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico; in response, composer Héctor Armienta and poet Raúl Sánchez offer a new telling of the story from the viewpoint of contemporary Mexican-Americans. The Other Conquest is a concert program that challenges the assumptions of colonialism displayed in Vivaldi’s work, inviting listeners to consider other perspectives in the telling of this 500-year-old story.

Armienta and Sánchez’s new work, La Conquista, receives its world premiere this Saturday, Feb. 8 by Orquesta Northwest’s Ballard Civic Orchestra, an ensemble committed to showcasing the work of Latinx artists in the Seattle community. It is paired with selections from Vivaldi’s original opera performed by Ensemble Caprice. Audience members can hear Ensemble Caprice perform a full, semi-staged production of Vivaldi’s Motezuma on Sunday, Feb. 9.

To learn more about both of these concerts and the connections between them, we talked with Orquesta Northwest Music Director Paula Nava Madrigal and poet and librettist Raúl Sánchez.


Orquesta Northwest’s Ballard Civic Orchestra performs The Other Conquest on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30pm at Broadway Performance Hall.

Ensemble Caprice performs Vivaldi’s Motezuma on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30pm at Town Hall, presented by Early Music Seattle.

Westerlies Fest: Four Days of Ear-Expanding Brass Music

by Peter Tracy

This February Seattle audiences will have more than a few chances to see the genre-bending, virtuosic, and undeniably charismatic brass quartet known as the Westerlies live in concert.

In recent years the members of this Seattle-bred, New York-based ensemble—comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone—have made a name for themselves across the country performing original compositions and arrangements that blur the lines between chamber music, jazz, folk, and anything in between.

Following the release their new album Wherein Lies the Good, the band is headed to venues across Seattle for what is quickly becoming a tradition in the Seattle music scene: Westerlies Fest. This four-day festival will feature three evenings of performances by the Westerlies in collaboration with poets and musicians from Seattle and around the country.

The weekend culminates in a day-long Westerlies Fest Jamboree which will include listening sessions, open rehearsals, and free workshops for musicians of all skill levels. Finally, the Westerlies will perform a concert of original compositions at the end of the Jamboree, sending off this year’s festival in style.

But for the Westerlies, the festival is about more than just performing: it’s a chance to give back to their community, make an impact in local schools through daytime workshops and residencies, and highlight artists they admire. This spirit of community and collaboration is at the heart of the festival and the many exciting performances happening throughout.

Celisse. Photo by Christopher Boudewyns.

Celisse | The Westerlies
Thursday, Feb. 6, 7:30pm, The Royal Room

The Westerlies will kick things off with singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Celisse, who has collaborated with the likes of Lizzo and Mariah Carey and performed in settings ranging from Broadway to Carnegie Hall. Having recently contributed horn lines to her upcoming solo album, the Westerlies will perform alongside Celisse in an evening of cutting-edge original music that blends jazz, rock, blues, and more.


Robin Holcomb.

Robin Holcomb | The Westerlies
Friday, Feb. 7, 7:30pm, The Royal Room

On Friday, the Westerlies will be joined by Seattle-based pianist, composer, librettist, and singer-songwriter Robin Holcomb, whose genre-defying body of work includes four albums of songs and instrumental compositions. She has also founded numerous ensembles, performed at the United Nations, and, most recently, contributed the title track “Wherein Lies the Good” to the Westerlies’ new album, which they’ll perform alongside a variety of other wide-ranging music.


Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye.

Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye | Troy Osaki | The Westerlies
Saturday, Feb. 8, 7:30pm, Town Hall Seattle

The worlds of poetry and music collide in the third evening of Westerlies Fest, which features poetry duo Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, who have toured the world giving workshops and performing their poetry live. This unique performance will include the Westerlies providing musical accompaniment to spoken word performances by these internationally-recognized artists, and will also feature performances by local poet and three-time Seattle Grand Slam Champion Troy Osaki.


The Westerlies.

The Westerlies JAM-Boree
Sunday, Feb. 9, All Day, Nickerson Studios @ SPU

The Westerlies will close out the festival with a performance of their own music, including pieces from their new album Wherein Lies The Good and their trademark mix of folk tunes, jazz arrangements, and original compositions. Plus, throughout the day audience members are invited to attend free listening sessions, open rehearsals, and music workshops.


Westerlies Fest is Feb. 6-9 in Seattle. For tickets and more information, please click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Emerald City Music Plays Steve Reich’s ‘Music for 18 Musicians’

by Peter Tracy

Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is not only a classic work of minimalism, but of contemporary music as a whole: its energetic and infectious grooves made it an instant success when it premiered, and it remains a favorite of both audiences and performers.

It’s not often, though, that so many musicians can find the time and space to put together this roughly hour-long work, which is scored for an expansive roster including four pianos, four female vocalists, and a myriad of percussion, strings, and clarinets.

Last year Emerald City Music was able to overcome these logistical hurdles and assemble a dream team of local and visiting artists to perform the piece right here in Seattle. The performance included ambient lighting displays coordinated to the music, and audience members at the two sold-out Seattle shows were free to roam around the space, making for a laid-back and immersive listening experience.

Check out our exclusive video premieres featuring excerpts from the performance in the playlist below.

VIDEO PREMIERE: ‘In the Mornin’ by The Westerlies

by Maggie Molloy

From jazzy tunes to folk and blues, the Westerlies can reimagine just about any style of music for brass quartet. In our latest Second Inversion in-studio session, they performed their own rendition Charles Ives’ “In the Mornin’,” a setting of the traditional spiritual “Give Me Jesus.”

Ives first heard the bittersweet melody in 1929, sung unaccompanied by Mary Evelyn Stiles, and was inspired to arrange the song for voice and piano. The Westerlies took Ives’ tune one step further, rearranging the music for the warm, brassy tones of two trumpets and two trombones.

“As Ives lent his own harmonic sensibility to the original melody, we took some harmonic liberties of our own in this arrangement,” they said. In keeping with the spirit of the music, they also added moments of improvisation, including a radiant trumpet solo by Chloe Rowlands.

We’re thrilled to premiere our video of the Westerlies performing their rendition of “In the Mornin’.”


Want more music from the Westerlies? Click here for another video from this session.

Cellist Seth Parker Woods: New Sounds, New Formats, New Faces

by Dave Beck

Performing on an instrument made of ice, introducing a high-tech concert hall, and taking musical inspiration from the worlds of dance and martial arts are all in a day’s work for cellist Seth Parker Woods.

He’s the first ever Seattle Symphony Artist in Residence at the new Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center in Benaroya Hall. A dedicated advocate of new music, Seth is also passionate about creating new opportunities for fellow African-American and Latinx musicians, woefully underrepresented in the world of “classical” music. Learn more in his interview with Classical KING FM’s Dave Beck on the Seattle Symphony Spotlight.


Seth Parker Woods performs a program titled That Which is Fundamental at Octave 9 on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7:30pm. He will be collaborating with percussionist Bonnie Whiting.