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Seattle Symphony offers day of free cultural performances to celebrate 25 years at Benaroya Hall

caption: Barbara Lawrence sharing stories to the children of the Suquamish Tribe of Indians.
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Barbara Lawrence sharing stories to the children of the Suquamish Tribe of Indians.
Courtesy of the Suquamish Tribe

Benaroya Hall is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a free "Day of Music" and sharing of culture on Saturday.

One of the performers is Suquamish Tribe of Indians elder, Barbara Lawrence. This will be Lawrence’s first time gracing the stage at the Raisbeck Music Center, one of the smaller venues in Benaroya Hall, with her storytelling. Lawrence, 66, got involved in the art of storytelling as a child.

“I was 12 years old — I had been listening to my elders tell stories and then I had a job in the tribal summer school,” she said. “And I lost control of the kids, so I just started telling stories and they started paying attention and being good kids… It just came to me.”

Lawrence said the work of telling enlightening stories is something that transcends cultures.

“Whether it's happening while elders and children are picking berries, or whether it's on the performance stage — like it's going to be tomorrow night — it's an intimate experience between the storyteller and those who are listening.”

Saturday’s Day of Music event won’t be the tribe’s first performance at Benaroya Hall.

In April, The Seattle Symphony premiered the Potlatch Symphony in partnership with Max Dawes, a composer and member of the Suquamish Tribe, along with the Kids in Concert, a youth music program managed by the tribe. The musical numbers told the Suquamish creation story. Now it’ll be told again in the way most kids growing up in Suquamish culture hear it.

“Me coming in and telling that story in-person the way elders tell it…that place is going to remember the Suquamish people,” Lawrence said. “It's going to remember us because we've now been there more than once and I hope we’ll continue to come there.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Jonathan Batista and other dancers will also perform on Saturday in the Mark S. Taper Foundation Auditorium, Benaroya Hall’s largest performance space. The Seattle Latino Film Festival, a fashion show, and other cultural performances will also take place at the venue throughout the day.

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Seattle Symphony musicians will also give pop-up performances around Benaroya Hall, the Seattle Waterfront, and Westlake Plaza. They’ll also play in accompaniment to other events throughout the day.

Saturday’s performances are part of the Seattle Symphony’s ongoing effort to collaborate with and honor diverse communities in the region, said Jérémy Jolley, the symphony’s senior director of education and community engagement.

“I think this is the biggest learning point that orchestras are making: really listening — which is core to what we do anyways, this music making,” Jolley said.

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Saturday's performances start at 10 a.m. and go until 4 p.m.

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