The Alaska Suite: a story of beauty, loss and hope

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. The Alaska Suite debuted on Earth Day 2017. It has been performed 31 times to date, touching nearly 2000 people with its message of hope and call to action.

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.

5-MINUTE DOCUMENTARY​

Video excerpts courtesy of videographer Bill Lange, LightPlusTime Productions, Lacey, WA.  

Podcast interview of Nelda Swiggett:

A studio recording of the Alaska Suite music is now available for purchase and streaming.

The Artists

Nelda Swiggett (compositions, piano, narrative, curated images) is a Seattle native, and spent much of her childhood hiking, climbing and skiing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. She formed her first band, Room to Move, in 1990, and has since headlined her own group performing her original music at many of the Northwest’s top jazz venues. Nelda’s melodic originals draw from her long list of influences, from jazz to Afro-Cuban, to gospel, classical and more. The Alaska Suite combines her passion for music with her love and care for the natural world.  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, bongos) 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) 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.

Featuring the poetry of Jill McGrath. Jill McGrath 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.

IMPACT

“​… the quintet’s performance was stellar.​.. ​ Many in the audience told us the haunting music and urgent message both moved them and motivated them to become more involved in climate activism.​”
— Keith Ervin, chair of Green Buildings Now
 

“… conversations and emails have been “a buzz” of enthusiasm and appreciation for your concert and climate message. It was indeed remarkable…” 
— Linda Jack

“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

“Alaska Suite” was absolutely brilliant!”
— Tim Hunt

“… 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

“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

“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

“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

“… wonderfully inspiring…. The content was informative without being preachy; the music was magical…” 
— Gail M.

“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

“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

“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

Testimonials

TAKE 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:

“. . . the most important thing you can do right now to fight climate change is to talk about it. Americans rarely talk about climate change with family and friends. Research shows that this climate silence reinforces the dangerously wrong belief that climate change isn’t an existential threat requiring urgent action.” ThinkProgress

A few suggestions:

Climate Fwd: WEEKLY: Sign up to get the latest stories and insights about climate change — along with answers to your questions and tips on how to help.

Inside Climate News: A Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment.

Green Tech Media: Free intelligence and insights from industry experts and leading companies on the global energy transformation.

Climate at the Legislature:  A continually updated account of the status of bills about climate issues in the Washington State Legislative session.

The average American generates about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, more than triple the global average.1

Poster: Personal choices to reduce your contribution to climate change
PDF: High Impact Action

“…getting involved with a group can help lift your climate-related anxiety and depression in three ways: Working with like-minded folks can validate your concerns, give you needed social support, and help you move from feeling helpless to empowered… Groups are more effective than individuals.”
9 Climate Action Styles
Which One Are You?

A few suggestions

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL)       
CCL empowers everyday people to work together on climate change solutions. Our supporters are organized in more than 400 local chapters across the United States. Together we’re building support in Congress for a national bipartisan solution to climate change. Find your local chapter.

Earth Ministry
Earth Ministry transforms faith into action for the well-being of communities and the environment. We organize people of faith to advocate for strong environmental policies and provide strategic guidance to religious communities working toward environmental justice.

Environmental Priorities Coalition
The Environmental Priorities Coalition is made up of more than 20 Washington State organizations working to safeguard our environment and the health of our communities in the legislature.

People for Climate Action (PCA) 
PCA’s mission is to help local governments develop and implement comprehensive climate action plans to reach the greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, which include a 50% reduction by 2030. Find your local chapter.

Sunrise Movement
We’re building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. Right now, the leaders supposed to tackle the climate crisis are either asleep at the wheel or purposely driving us toward catastrophe so their oil and gas billionaire friends can keep raking in profits. We must wake them up to reality. Find a local hub.

350 Seattle
People are the heart of 350 Seattle. We’ve come into this fight because of our passion for climate justice, and we work around the clock to influence the political, business, and social realities of our era in the hope of preserving a livable world. We believe our most important task is building and inspiring the movement, because only a movement can bring about the profound change we need, as quickly as we need it to. We’re running out of time: we need you, too. Get involved.

Please contact Nelda Swiggett with additional suggestions.

OUR MISSION

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.

BOOK THE ALASKA SUITE

The standard Alaska Suite live performance is 90 minutes in length without an intermission. There are no technical requirements for the performance venue. An acoustic piano is preferred, but not essential (we can bring an electric keyboard). We bring, set up and run our own sound system, digital projector, and projection screen. We do not need additional technical support. We have performed intimate house concerts in small living rooms for 20 – 25 people up to public performances in large venues seating 150 or more. For details, see Hosting a Successful Alaska Suite Concert.

Ask Nelda about funding options, touring the Alaska Suite, and 60-75 minute programs.