Probably not many audiences are as eclectic than the one which gathered Friday in Benaroya Hall for Seattle-raised, L.A.-based composer Matt Messina 's annual fundraiser

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Ann, Nancy, Alice, Matt, and me

Probably not many audiences are as eclectic than the one which gathered Friday in Benaroya Hall for Seattle-raised, L.A.-based composer Matt Messina's annual fundraiser for Children's Hospital. Fervent fans there only to see Matt's rockstar special guests mingled with old friends and family; hospital staff, board members, and donors joined a handful of Matt's industry colleagues who flew up for the day. I myself randomly ended up sitting next to Jeff Marx, one of the composer/lyricists for Avenue Q; that sort of thing generally doesn't happen at Seattle Symphony subscription concerts.

But then few concerts are as eclectic. This was the tenth year Matt's offered up a selection of his original pop-orchestral instrumentals as pegs on which to hang a crowd-pleasing variety show. Full disclosure: I assisted Matt with orchestration and part preparation for his first concert, and it's been astonishing to see them grow to the point of selling out the 2600-seat Benaroya. Of, course, having Ann and Nancy Wilson and Alice in Chains on hand helped, alongside the Northwest Symphony (under Anthony Spain) and the Northwest Girlchoir; two tango dancers (uncredited in the program, and I didn’t catch their names) and guitarist Andre Feriante; Aaron Straight on didgeridoo and dance troupe Dance Contemporary; Michael Shrieve, original drummer for Santana, and Taylor Carol, one of Children's success stories. As a showman, Matt is someone who considers sensory overload and take-no-prisoners sentiment a good starting point. You have not had your heartstrings tugged until you??ve heard a 12-year-old leukemia survivor sing, with full orchestral and choral backing, a song of his own composition, dedicated to the doctors who cured him, titled "True Courage."

Unannounced, the Wilsons strolled casually onstage for their numbers (John/Taupin’s "Sixty Years On," followed by "Seasons"), sounding fabulous and looking, at 57 and 53, absolutely cooler than cool, setting off an audience lovefest that sent great perfumed clouds of affection wafting toward the stage. Alice in Chains, headlining the second half, also did two numbers. One I have no idea what it was (and I didn't catch enough of the lyrics to be able to Google them), but you’d probably recognize it: it was that song of theirs that quotes in one of its licks the opening do-re-fa-mi motive from the finale of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony. You know, that one.* The second (as even I recognized) was the indestructible "Kashmir," with the 30 strings of the NWSO churning out that Morse-code repeating bass line (in grad school, we called it a passacaglia) and the NWGC soaring over William DuVall’s lead vocal. Spectacular. Quote of the night: when Jerry Cantrell threw fans a handful of souvenirs, DuVall came back wryly with "I think pick-tossing at the symphony is hysterical."

*Actually, their "first number" was a medley, a friend in the orchestra tells me: "Whale & Wasp," "Sick Man," and "I Stay Away." Thanks, Eric!

 
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