Every Wednesday before the pandemic, students and book-extraordinaries would fill the Fireside Room of Hotel Sorrento for a silent-reading party, seeking a relaxing place to read and study alike, often forming a line out the door waiting to enter. Since April 2020, however, these gatherings have shifted to Zoom, with a greater turnout of more than 100 people tuning in to read together and listen to local musician Paul Moore play piano.
Christopher Frizzelle, the engineer behind the silent-reading parties, started the gatherings in 2009 in collaboration with a different pianist to play for the two-hour duration of the silent-reading party.
A regular participant, Deborah Jacobs, explained her enthusiasm for silent-reading parties.
“This event is something that my wife and I do together every Wednesday, sit with a glass of wine and our dogs and pick up our books,” Jacobs said. “I also love that I get great suggestions in the chat for other books to read. The audience is multi-generational and geographically diverse, [so] it's fun to find friends there also reading.”
From its inception, the gathering — the first of its kind — has attracted book-lovers and artists from across Seattle, including students and faculty from the UW.
Frizzelle mentioned that a UW professor in creative writing brought their freshman class of 30 students to participate in a silent-reading party several years ago. The current pianist, Moore, is also a lecturer in the department of dance, and has noticed UW students coming to the reading parties to study.
The reading-friendly atmosphere is made possible by Moore’s instrumentals — which play non-stop throughout the two-hour event — as they capture the mood Frizzelle envisioned for silent-reading parties.
“It’s really challenging because [Frizzelle] told me he really wants it to be background and calm, but also not have words that people would recognize and sing along to,” Moore said.
Moore is able to improvise and introduce new work, so his performances never feel repetitive to regular participants of silent-reading parties. Moore has continued to play music through the transition from in-person to remote gatherings.
The transition to Zoom has, in fact, been beneficial for silent-reading parties. The event can now hold more than the maximum 65-person capacity of the Fireside Room.
“Then you wouldn’t have to turn people away,” Frizzelle said.
Frizzelle anticipates that silent-reading parties will return in-person at the Fireside Room starting Aug. 4 with advance reservations, ranging from $8 to $40 depending on seating, separate from the Sorrento’s $20 per person minimum for food and drinks. The Fireside Room will host one in-person meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, and the remaining three meetings of the month will occur over Zoom.
Interested participants who cannot attend the monthly in-person meetings but wish to join remotely may do so through Zoom livestreams.
All meetings will utilize a hybrid format for the indefinite future, according to Frizzelle.
For UW students eager to get involved with the wider literary community in Seattle, Frizzelle hosts a number of other book clubs. Events planned for this fall include a literary costume party and a 1920s themed party in honor of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 125th birthday.
Reach writer Julie Emory at email@example.com. Twitter: @JulieEmory2
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