Seattle Symphony Orchestra performs first concert on December 29, 1903.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/17/1999
  • Essay 724
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On December 29, 1903, Harry F. West conducts the first performance of the 24-member Seattle Symphony Orchestra. West "wields the baton in an easy, graceful manner and shows a familiarity and understanding of the music" (Seattle P-I).

The concert was held in the afternoon in Christensen's Hall, the second-floor ballroom of the Arcade Building, on 2nd Avenue between Union and University streets (in 2005, the location of the Seattle Art Museum). The orchestra had rehearsed for three months.

Its first number was the overture from Phedre by Massenet. According to the newspaper account, "The brilliant crescendos of this selection were brought out with much beauty. The ensemble work is worthy of note, since it had few ragged edges" (Seattle P-I). Next the orchestra performed a violin concerto by Max Bruch, in which first violinist William R. Hedley performed "with taste and skill" (Seattle P-I). The orchestra also played Schubert's Unfinished Symphony in B Minor.

Ida Grey Scott (according to the program -- the P-I spelled her first name "Ada") appeared as a soloist, singing a cavatina from The Queen of Sheba and the Jewel song from Faust.  The orchestra's performance concluded with The William Tell Overture by Rossini.

The Seattle Symphony Orchestra played in Christensen's Hall until 1905.

Sources: Don Duncan, Meet Me at the Center: The Story of Seattle Center From the Beginnings to 1962 Seattle World's Fair to the 21st Century (Seattle: Seattle Center Foundation, 1992), 12, 13; "Proves A Success: Local Musicians Give a Fine Programme," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 30, 1903, p. 6; Esther W. Campbell, Bagpipes In The Woodwind Section: A History of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and its Women's Association (Seattle: Seattle Symphony Women's Association, 1978).
Note: This essay was corrected on March 30, 2012.

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