Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

Posts Tagged ‘acoustics

The importance of great classical music halls

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A view to the top of Carnegie Hall

This past Thursday evening, I performed at Carnegie Hall for the first time.  What a life-changing experience!  There was such incredible energy amongst the musicians, the crew and staff, and (walking through the front lobby before the concert) the audience.  I was thrilled to step onto the stage and look out to a packed house, and I was thrilled to see this packed house jump to their feet at the conclusion of our performance.  Their enthusiasm was overwhelming, and I was so proud to be a member of the wonderful Houston Symphony, whose hard work and effort was most deserving of this positive reaction.

There is a reason why it is such an honor to be presented by Carnegie Hall – it is one of the greatest concert venues in the world.  The acoustics were absolutely incredible.  A colleague of mine in the symphony told me the moment she stepped onto the stage and heard the clicking of her shoes reverberate throughout the hall, she knew right away how amazing it was.  The acoustics were completely different from anything we experience in Houston.  It was so easy to hear myself play, and it was so easy for me to hear all of my colleagues play, which made it so easy for all of us to play together.  The easier it was to play together, the better connected we felt with one another, thus creating a more unified, musical experience. 

It is such a powerful feeling to create beautiful music.  It is even more profound to share this beautiful music with our audiences.  I want people who come to our concerts to have an enriched, *meaning-filled* experience.  I would like them to walk away from a concert feeling… just feeling… anything.  Whether it is a feeling of satisfaction, intensity, or curiosity, or whether they learned something or were inspired, I just want them to be affected.  Playing in an acoustically sound hall impacts everyone, it benefits everyone, and I feel we achieved this during our performance.

The Vienna Musikverein is considered one of the greatest music halls in the world--said to have "Golden Sound in the Golden Hall."

I hope that more people realize the importance of having a great classical music hall, especially in cities they truly care about.  To be able to have access to emotional, powerful, beautiful music is artistically, culturally, and humanistically beneficial for communities.  As cliché as it sounds, I firmly believe that music is a unifying force that brings people together, and for me that is the ultimate goal.

Getting off my soapbox, and into bed for a good night’s rest.  One last concert tomorrow evening, our final evening in Florida.  Stay tuned for exciting stories about the Florida leg of our tour in my next post!

Fun facts:

Dan Rather, native Houstonian, was spotted at our concert!!!

Can you imagine that in 1960, Carnegie Hall was almost demolished to be replaced by an office tower???  Thank goodness for Isaac Stern.

Written by kiju

January 31, 2010 at 11:17 am

It’s almost showtime!

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After a beautiful, snowy morning here in New York City, the Houston Symphony finally took to the stage of Carnegie Hall this afternoon for a quick rehearsal before tonight’s concert.

Setting up the stage pre-rehearsal

As Assistant Conductor, when I’m not on the podium myself, my job is to do anything and everything musically necessary in rehearsal to support Hans and the orchestra’s work onstage.  One of those jobs is to be an extra pair of ears out in the hall, especially when we’re on the road, playing in a venue other the Jones Hall.  Orchestras get accustomed to playing in their “home hall,” and a different hall—no matter how great it is—takes some adjusting.  Every hall is different, and responds in its own, unique way to the sounds coming from the stage.  Helping to make sure that everything is balanced the way Hans and the orchestra want and are accustomed to takes some serious, in-depth listening, first at home (so you know what you’re listening for), then on the road (comparing it to our “home sound”).

One extra wrinkle in this program is that not only do we have our orchestra onstage, but we also have our women’s chorus offstage to sing at the end of “Neptune” in The Planets.  First and foremost, we have to ensure that they can be heard in the hall and that the aforementioned balance is satisfactory; in order to achieve that, the chorus’s actual physical placement changes from hall to hall.  Because every backstage area is different, finding a place where the chorus can both see and hear everything they need is always a challenge.  Here at Carnegie, the chorus is in a tiny alcove (no bigger than the living room of my Montrose apartment back in Houston) just offstage right.  In more ways than one, our chorus is definitely growing closer on this tour!

View from the Carnegie Hall stage ahead of the orchestra's rehearsal this afternoon.

Sometimes assisting Hans and the orchestra takes a different shape altogether.  After rehearsal proper finished this afternoon, Hans and the cello section stayed to work on an interlude in the Dutilleux work that we’re playing this evening.  There’s also a small celesta part in this interlude, and as our principal keyboardist Scott Holshouser had already left the hall, Hans had me play the part…thus marking my inauspicious onstage Carnegie Hall debut!

Now that we’ve got orchestra and chorus balances adjusted to everyone’s liking and the sound of Carnegie in our ears, we’re ready for tonight’s concert.  Then we start all over again on Saturday for the first of two concerts (in two different venues, no less) in Florida.  Thus the lives of touring orchestras!

Written by bwmconductor

January 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm