Two days after the results of the 2016 presidential election shocked the nation, more than 800 citizens gathered under the vaulted ceilings of the Great Hall at 1119 8th Avenue in Seattle. Like it had so many times since its current tenant Town Hall Seattle was established in 1998, the hundred-year-old church building on First Hill served as a gathering place for the community to come together and engage. And on that night, like so many others, something magical occurred.
Those moments don’t just happen. They are the product of painstaking research and practice on the part of the artists and intellectuals who take the stage and engage with audiences every week. They are also the result of collaborations between numerous non-profits and Town Hall, which has provided Seattleites with a gateway to thousands of community-sourced cultural events.
November 10, 2016 During the annual Ampersand Live event, presented by Forterra, more than 20 speakers took to the stage throughout the night—each delivering a slideshow, spoken word performance, or song that explained why they felt the Pacific Northwest is special and must be preserved. As the final presenter took his place, a hush fell over the packed hall. Tomo Nakayama was very familiar with this stage. Four years prior, the pianist and songwriter had served as an artist-in-residence at Town Hall. As he told the gathered crowd, he had been moved by the diversity of thought, inclusiveness, mutual respect, and civil discourse he had experienced there—all qualities that seemed to be threatened in the wake of the election. Onstage, in front of hundreds of people, Nakayama wept. Then, turning to the piano, he began to play “We Shall Overcome.” Feeling the pull of this powerful anthem, audience members rose to their feet, interlocking arms with their neighbors and joining together in song—and tears. “It made me realize how badly we needed that catharsis, after such a shockingly cynical result to our election, to reassure each other that goodness and humanity still exist in the world,” Nakayama recalls. “I cried and mourned, and felt a new power and responsibility as a performer.”
Published by The Seattle Weekly on Feb. 13, 2017. Read the entire story here.