Concert Review: ‘Tacoma Method’ Packs The Pantages

Sarah Ioannides | Symphony Tacoma Music Director | Female Conductor and Composer

It was standing room only at the Pantages Theater’s rehearsal studio on Feb. 25, as people gathered to learn about the story behind a brilliant new production coming to Tacoma Opera.

Based on true historical accounts and written affidavits, the “Tacoma Method” opera bears the same name as what came to identify the forced expulsion of Tacoma’s Chinese residents in 1885 – the Tacoma Method. The infamous term put Tacoma at the forefront of targeting Chinese Americans in that era, as such expulsions happened in other areas of the west coast as well. Chinn spoke about the expulsion that happened in her birthplace.  

That night, Tacoma Symphony premiered four movements of “Tacoma Method” prior to its full Tacoma Opera world premiere later this month. To inform concertgoers on what they were about to experience in this part of the symphony program titled “Reconciliation,” a panel discussion was held with participants Theresa Pan Hosley, president of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation; Doug Andreassen, vice-president of Tacoma Historical Society; Andrew Gomez, associate professor of history at University of Puget Sound; Zhang Er, professor at Evergreen State College and librettist for “Tacoma Method;” Dr. Gregory Youtz, “Tacoma Method” composer and music professor at Pacific Lutheran University; Lim Forgey, general director of Tacoma Opera; Karina Bharne, executive director of Symphony Tacoma; and Hai-Ting Chinn, a noted New York-based mezzo-soprano who traveled to Tacoma to perform an aria excerpt from the opera. 

Symphony Tacoma executed Youtz’s new score beautifully. Tacoma Method’s instrumentation blended the sounds of Eurocentric and Chinese instruments, expressing musically the mix of Tacoma’s cultures. The Symphony Tacoma Voices also put up an outstanding performance of this new work, no doubt in thanks to Dr. Geoffrey Boers’ hard work in preparation and rehearsal. However, the true star of the evening was Hai-Ting Chinn. A commanding stage presence, her powerful conveyance of emotion forced those in attendance to feel the plight of the displaced Chinese before they were loaded on train cars at gunpoint and railroaded away from their home forever, in what would become known as the Tacoma Method.

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