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Seattle Symphony soloists offering sweet sounds in challenging times

The symphony hopes its successful social media efforts will inspire gifts, despite the ban on in-person concerts due to the state outbreak of coronavirus.

SEATTLE — When the Seattle Symphony needs to give a rousing performance, they call upon principal timpanist Jim Benoit to pound the kettle drums.

On an ordinary evening he can fill Benaroya Hall with what sounds like thunder. But of course these are not ordinary times.

“I miss all of my fellow musicians dearly,” Benoit said. “I think with any job you're around people all the time so you don't realize how important that proximity can be just in daily life.”

Benoit may be in isolation but he's not silent. From his Seattle home this jazz fan plays Chick Corea's "Senor Mouse" on a vibraphone in a video already seen by 15,000 people.

Benoit's performance is just one of a series of solo performances the Seattle Symphony calls Morning Notes. As of Monday, Morning Notes had reached more than 114,000 views.

Since the closure of public gatherings and concerts due to the spread of novel coronavirus, Seattle Symphony has been broadcasting performances — both recordings of past events and new original videos created since the start of the closures.

RELATED: Seattle Symphony shares concerts online as events canceled in coronavirus ban

“Music always is just a great form of expression,” Benoit says. “At the same time music is a good distraction.”

It's something people really seem to need these days. When the Seattle Symphony live streamed a 2019 performance of Mahler's 1st Symphony, 130,000 people tuned in from all around the world.

That's 50 times the capacity of Benaroya Hall.

Credit: James Holt / Seattle Symphony
Music Beyond Borders, Taper

“Whether it's listening to a beautiful symphony and closing your eyes and imagining you're someone else it can really just transport you and make you feel at peace even if it's just for short period of time,” Benoit said.

There will be a day when music again fills Benaroya Hall. Until then members of the Seattle Symphony will share their gifts one at a time.

“For me that's the most important thing we can do is — regardless of the climate outside — keep sharing music and try to spread joy and connection,” Benoit said.

In addition to Morning Notes, the Seattle Symphony plans to continue offering livestreams and rebroadcasts of performances each week throughout the closure period.

Last week, they introduced some kid-friendly programming, including Meet the Instrument and Tiny Clips for Tiny Tots.

The rebroadcast featured this week is You Had Me At Cello, a cello ensemble performance.

While orchestras in other cities have laid off or furloughed musicians, the Seattle Symphony is hoping its social media efforts will inspire gifts from supporters. A board member has promised to match every gift for as long as Benaroya Hall is closed.

RELATED: Real-time updates: Latest news on the Washington coronavirus outbreak

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