I gave a short lunchtime recital yesterday at the new Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library. It is truly an amazing building, architecturally, but I found it a bit cold. Not in temperature, but in feeling. Lots of metal and concrete and odd colors. Not really the sort of place I’d want to curl up with a book. They do have an amazing collection of musical scores and recordings, though, so I’m sure I’ll be back.
Before the recital, I went up to the 8th floor where they have several small practice rooms equipped with nice electronic keyboards. I was able to reserve on for noon (it was 11:57 when I checked in), so I went to wait by the door for the last three minutes. The gentleman who emerged when the librarian knocked on the door at noon had been playing beautiful music on the piano, sort of a mix of classical and jazz. He had obviously had years of training. So imagine my surprise when he gathered up his old backpack and plastic bags, put on his dirty coat, and shuffled out, eyes down, not responding to the comments of “That was beautiful!” or “You are very talented” from the people in the hall. From the librarian’s brief encounter with the man (when he opened the door, he said, “Sorry, but time’s up. You know how much I love to hear you play…), I gathered that he was there on a regular basis. Maybe even daily.
This massive, strange, beautiful place isn’t just a place to read newspapers from around the world, listen to five different recording of Debussy’s Pélleas et Méllisande, or pick up the latest blockbuster to read on the bus. It is a place where all the people of Seattle can feed their souls.