The Alaska Suite features a five-piece chamber jazz ensemble performing the original music of Seattle pianist and composer Nelda Swiggett. But this is not just a concert. The performance engages the power of artistic expression — live music, spoken words, images and poetry — to connect audiences deeply and emotionally to the scientific realities of climate change. Ultimately a story of hope, the performance leaves audiences inspired to take action.
Listen to Nelda’s podcast interview about the Alaska Suite on Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network.
Why Alaska? While the earth has warmed on average about 2° F since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the Arctic is warming nearly twice as fast. The impacts of climate change are significant and alarming in Alaska right now, and this should be a wake up call for all of us.
The Alaska Suite debuted at Seattle First Baptist Church on Earth Day 2017. Since then, it has been performed 24 times, touching over 1300 people with its message of hope and call to action.
What have you done, could do, or will do to make a difference?
We have been inspired by the responses of our audiences to this question. Here’s a summary of their thousands of ideas:
To use the power of artistic expression — live music, spoken words, images and poetry — to connect our audiences deeply and emotionally to the scientific realities of climate change, and to inform and inspire them to act now to address it.
We believe climate change transcends politics. It is an unprecedented existential threat that affects us all. We believe our greatest challenge is to overcome misinformation and for each of us to find the courage to act individually and together. Acknowledging the dire consequences and sheer scale of climate change can be deeply emotional, yet our response must be based on scientific understanding, technological innovation, sound economics, and effective policy. We believe the performing arts have a unique and powerful role to play in facilitating society’s response to climate change.
“I saw and experienced the most compelling and beautiful music last night. Thank you Nelda Swiggett for the Alaska Suite. People! Bring this to your town. It’s about climate change, and Alaska, and… see it.” — Lisa Seifert
“The combination of the music, your spoken words, and the images was magnificent. What a beautiful way to communicate many facets of climate change, and to draw people in.” — Elizabeth Burton
“… conversations and emails have been “a buzz” of enthusiasm and appreciation for your concert and climate message. It was indeed remarkable…” — Linda Jack
“Congratulations on a powerful, unique, multi-sensory, beautiful and pioneering experience… this really is refreshing and arresting and it has limitless potential for other audiences…” — George Lawson
“I was not prepared to cry, but yet I was so moved. Not by just what you said, but the entire performance. Wow!” — Catherine
“When I attended your performance of the Alaska Suite … I wrote that one of my climate actions would be to buy a used Nissan Leaf to replace my old VW Passat. It was quite motivating to have written that down! Now reporting back that I bought it this weekend — a 2016 Leaf SV with just 11K miles — and am feeling very happy to be driving it.” — Lisa Maynard
“I was not prepared for how the combination of an excellent jazz composition and a factual and emotional narrative about Alaskan climate change would both inform and move me. Compliments to the composer, Nelda Swiggett, and the talented and concerned musicians. Honored that my findings on guillemots and puffins responding to sea ice melt were part of the presentation.” — George Divoky, Friends of Cooper Island
“The music was moving and beautiful… Your Alaska Suite could move many thousands of concerned people … who attend your performances to get involved in effectively fighting global warming.” — Sam Benowitz
“Alaska Suite” was absolutely brilliant! — Tim Hunt
All three congregations were buzzing yesterday with their response to your performance on Saturday evening. I am … awed and inspired by the commitment of your group to getting this out there to touch and inspire others to action. You have such a great voice — and narrative — for communicating facts and feelings — then amplified by the music — that immediately lets your audience sink into the moment and be present to the enormity of what they are witnessing and hearing. — Marcia Lagerloef, Bainbridge Island
“Thank you all for coming out on a busy Wednesday night to hear Nelda’s stirring composition—part love song, part sad ballad to Alaska, and part battle cry to reclaim the health of our planet. I guess we were moved by the music and the statistics and the images because we raised about $1500 for the Yes On 1631 campaign!” — Mary Casey, house concert host
“… spliced with a dialogue about climate science and solutions. It touches the emotional edges of our understanding and invites action from a deeper place.” — Louise Stonington
“… wonderfully inspiring…. The content was informative without being preachy; the music was magical…” — Gail M.
Sunday, April 19 (Earth Day week)
The Alaska Suite: a story of beauty, loss and hope
Holy Spirit Lutheran Church
10021 NE 124th Street, Kirkland
Friday, May 8
The Alaska Suite: a story of beauty, loss and hope
Ballard First Lutheran Church
2006 NW 65th St, Seattle
7:30 – 9 PM
Nelda Swiggett (piano, compositions, narrative, curated images) is a Seattle native, and spent her childhood hiking, climbing and skiing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Her father Jack Christiansen was a passionate explorer of the wilderness. From a young age, Nelda followed him deep into the heart of the Olympic and Cascade mountains, mostly off trail route finding with map and compass. Her love for the natural world started early and over time strengthened into a sense of urgency and personal responsibility to protect it.
When Nelda entered the University of Washington, she was a classical piano performance major and an ambitious competitive downhill ski racer, until a serious ski accident landed her in a hospital bed in traction for two months at Harborview Medical Center. When she returned to college, she dropped out of the music program, fell in love with jazz, earned a Bachelor of Science in Scientific and Technical Communication, and embarked on a dual career as a technical writer and jazz musician. Who knew this combination of skills would later support her efforts to communicate the science of climate change through the power of music! For more information about Nelda, visit her personal website at www.neldaswiggett.com.
Julian Smedley (violin) started his music career as a choirboy in an English cathedral. As a violinist he performed regularly on BBC television and radio both as a soloist and an orchestral player. He co-founded the Bowles Brothers Band that recorded on Decca Records. Since moving to the West Coast of the U.S., he has performed with such artists as Art Lande, Ralph Towner, Gary Peacock and Gil Evans, and he was a member of the Bay Area’s Hot Club of San Francisco. Since his 2011 return to the Pacific Northwest, Julian has been performing with The Debutones, The Greg Ruby Quartet, and Julian and Alison, a jazz duo with his wife.
Clif Swiggett (trombone, percussion) grew up in New York and started playing trombone as a teenager. He toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, played with the Clem DeRosa All-Star Big Band, and played lead bone in the McDonald’s Tri-State Jazz Ensemble. Clif moved to Seattle in 1985, and has since performed and toured with a wide variety of bands, including Room To Move, Cambalache, Caribbean Roots, The Brian Waite Band, Megabopolis, and Clif & Nelda’s little BIG Band (with his wife, Nelda). Clif is also co-creator (along with grammy-nominated vibraphonist, Stefon Harris) of the revolutionary Harmony Cloud™ app, currently being used by music students and teachers around the world to develop a more intuitive understanding of harmony.
Chris Symer (bass) was well established in the LA jazz scene before moving to the Northwest in 2002. He’s since become one of Seattle’s top tier bass players, highly regarded for his versatile and sensitive musicianship. Chris has recorded, performed and toured with many of the world’s leading jazz musicians including Tierney Sutton, Ramsey Lewis, Roger Kellaway, Robben Ford and Bennie Maupin. Studies in jazz and classical performance have provided Chris with an ability to fit into almost any musical situation. His open minded approach has led him to the somewhat unusual practice of tuning his own double bass in fifths an octave below the cello, and he remains fascinated by the tonal palette this tuning provides.
Adam Kessler is a dedicated drummer, percussionist, and educator. He has performed in venues around the world, including Zimbabwe, China, Poland, Portugal, Cape Verde, Montreal, Mexico, and Israel. In 2006 he received a BA in Music from Cornish College of the Arts. While there he gained valuable experience through the study of jazz, Brazilian, electronic, middle eastern, and gamelan music. Adam performs regularly in Seattle, teaches privately as well as ensemble classes, and is an accompanist for Spectrum Dance Theater, and Pacific Northwest Ballet’s classes and outreach program.
Jill McGrath (poet) has been published in numerous journals, including The Seattle Review, The Hurricane Review, and Arnazella’s Reading List. She published a chapbook, The Rune of Salt Air, and is currently working on two poetry manuscripts.