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Cincinnati's Grand Dame - Music Hall - Gets a Facelift

Cincinnati's grand dame, Music Hall, is getting a $143 million facelift.

Other organizations in the arts corridor are an expanded Ensemble Theatre, a new Cincinnati Shakespeare Company building, the School for the Creative and Performing Arts, the Transept, an event center; the Art Academy of Cincinnati and a renovated Memorial Hall overlooking a reconstructed Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine.

Chris Pinelo, vice president of communications, talked about the improved welcoming atmosphere and accessibility to Music Hall, which appeared like a fortress to some with three buildings. The underlying concept is to connect Music Hall with the neighborhood, according to Pinelo.

A visitor to the Edyth B. Lindner Grand Foyer on the first floor noticed the changes immediately. It is a brighter, open, more attractive space with a taupe ceiling featuring plaster rosettes.

With many months of work and more in the planning stages, Music Hall, built in 1878 with a design by Samuel Hannaford & Sons, features many upgrades:

-The Elm St. façade has black bricks highlighting the red brick entry way.

-Contractors have reopened brickedin windows.

-Designers decided to reopen three windows under the rose window.

-Builders added cup holders to some of the seats.

-The stage now extends into Springer Auditorium.

-Walls surrounding the overhang on the first floor were moved forward. Seats under overhangs, from which seeing and hearing were difficult, were removed.

-Project managers have installed a chamber between the foyer and the auditorium. This prevents any excess noise from seeping into the concert.

-Workers have reduced seats to approximately 893. At 36" wide, better leg room is available. Seats are more comfortable as the originals were designed for smaller people in the 19th century.

-Designers with the help of historians have replicated the stencils in the cove ceiling of Corbett Tower to the original Victorian design.

-The Edyth B. Lindner Grand Foyer has a coffered ceiling in a stunning taupe with torchiere lamps.

-To help with the operations of the hall, patrons will pay a 3.5 percent facility fee on every ticket.

-Due to the lack of convenience, planners increased women's and men's restrooms by 50 percent.

-There is an additional number of concession stands.

-Administrative offices are all now in an open area on the first floor with various teams located throughout the space. Designers decided to move three chandeliers in the lobby to Corbett Tower.

-Contractors removed the skywalk from Town Center Garage to Music Hall, a source of much discussion. The back entrance is now closed.

-The building is more wheelchair accessible.

-The box office is located at the entry way of the new administrative offices.

-Workers have added two high speed traction elevators.

-Based on numerous studies and feedback, architects increased the sound capacity.

Pinelo said hundreds of people have worked on this project. These include teams from 3CDC, PWWG, one of the leading architecture firms in the nation in historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse; design architect Martinez + Johnson, which specializes in performing arts venues; acoustician, Akustiks; and theater planners and lighting designers, Schuler Shook. With this many people involved, Pinelo added that the complex project should ensure Music Hall's future.

Joe Rudemiller, senior communications manager, 3CDC, said, "The Music Hall renovation has been a significant project on a number of levels. The sheer magnitude of the renovation, along with a 15-month construction schedule, made it a complex yet rewarding project."

"And the level of collaboration required to make it a success has been unparalleled. The community's overwhelming admiration for the iconic building has been clear throughout project, and has served as a guiding principal for the work we have done. Perhaps no structure is more beloved in all of Cincinnati, and it is an honor to have helped update the building so that future generations may enjoy it for years to come."

Located off the balcony level on the second floor, the Wilks Hall will host graduations, trade shows and weddings in addition to providing rehearsal space.

In addition, Music Hall's resident companies have worked with 3CDC and the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) on this project. Under the leadership of Otto M. Budig, MHRC was formed in 2010. Three public forums held in 2012 provided feedback to the renovation process and proposed renovations. Companies include the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati May Festival, Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera. The Cincinnati Arts Association serves as the facility manager for Music Hall.

Also involved is the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall (SPMH), dedicated to preserving and promoting Music Hall. Peter E. Koenig, president, SPMH, said, "With the completion of this massive rejuvenation project, Cincinnati Music Hall maintains its position as one of the preeminent performing arts venues in the United States."

Opening weekend of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra takes place October 6 - 7. Maestro Louis Langree, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, leads a pair of concerts celebrating the grand re-opening of Music Hall. The CSO commissioned a new work for the opening. It will perform STORIES OF HOME by Jonathan Bailey Holland, chair of composition, theory and history at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Holland decided to write a piece that is reflective and somber. Other pieces on the program are John Adams' SHORT RIDE IN A FAST MACHINE, Scriabin's atmospheric POEM OF ECSTASY and Beethoven's FIRST PIANO CONCERTO with pianist Kit Armstrong.

Tickets for the October 6 cocktails and dinner in Corbett Tower are $200. Patrons need to purchase tickets for the concert separately at (513) 381-3300. Limited tickets are available for Friday.

On October 7, patrons are invited to participate in Re(Newed) Celebration for Music Hall and More, a free community open house presented by ArtsWave. One can take inside tours of Music Hall as well as visit the Ensemble Theatre, Memorial Hall, Washington Park, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Symphony and Orchestra and the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in a joint arts corridor event. Outside, you can take a "Beyond the Bricks" tour. The Saturday event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with guided tours, performances and more. It is free and open to the public.

CET, Cincinnati's public TV station, is presenting a production of MUSIC HALL - WELCOME HOME, a documentary to air at 9 p.m. on November 16. If you attend the open house on October 7, you can see a 20-minute preview in Corbett Tower. Producers Donald Hancock and Richard Wonderling trace the story of the renovation from the beginning of the demolition to opening weekend.

Built in 1878, Music Hall had two exhibition halls completed in 1879. It was also the first convention center in the United States. In 1898 the National Democratic Convention was held at Music Hall, which has also hosted numerous trade shows, exhibitions and sporting events.

With a history of German saengerfests, May Festival was founded in 1873. Annoyed with the original Festival Hall which had a tin roof, philanthropist Reuben Springer made a $125,000 donation to create a matching fund to enable construction of Music Hall. His intent was that Music Hall was for the citizens of Cincinnati, not just the elite few. It was dedicated on May 14, 1878 at the first concert in the hall by the May Festival chorus. May Festival continues to be held in Music Hall.

Over 40 years ago, philanthropists Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett led the last extensive renovation of Music Hall. Their portraits still hang in the hallways of Music Hall.

For more information, visit the following websites: - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra renovation - 3CDC, Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, a private nonprofit real-estate development and finance organization focused on strategically revitalizing Cincinnati's downtown urban core

http:/ - PWWG, one of the leading architecture firms in the nation in historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse - Martin + Johnson specializes in performing arts venues - Music Hall Revitalization Company - Society for the Preservation of Music Hall - Jonathan Bailey Holland

Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra is located at 1241 Elm St. in Over-the-Rhine. The box office is open Monday - Friday, 10 am to 5 pm; Saturday 10 am - 2 pm. Phone number is (513) 381-3300.

Photography: Mark Lyons

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