Renovation should aid acoustics

Music: New stage walls at the Meyerhoff may not be noticeable, but audience should be able to hear the difference

Fine Arts

June 15, 1999|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Life moves at the speed of light in Baltimore's classical music world nowadays. Only two days ago, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra completed its final concert in its regular subscription season, and the orchestra rehearses today for the first concert of Summer MusicFest, which begins tomorrow in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Being a classical musician -- what kind of life is that? One day of summer vacation, and it's not even summer yet!

Not to worry. The life of a BSO musician is not as bad as all that. The men and women of the BSO will still get five weeks of vacation this summer. They'll just get it in one chunk, right after summer series concludes on June 30.

The reason that Summer MusicFest -- which usually takes place in mid-July -- begins before the actual start of summer this year is that Meyerhoff Hall is scheduled for two months of renovation, beginning on July 12 and ending Sept. 9.

When the 1999-2000 subscription season begins one week later, on Sept. 16, regular concertgoers may not even notice that the hall looks different.

But the orchestra and its management hope that they will hear the difference. What is being done to the hall may not be immediately apparent -- visually, at any rate -- because only the side and rear walls of the stage are being replaced.

But these could have profound results in terms of sound. Currently, those walls are made of wood and are movable. They will be replaced by solid, massive -- and, of course, unmovable -- walls made of concrete, plaster and wood. This more rigid reflecting surface should give the sound coming from the musicians a bigger "push" into the hall and provide it with more even distribution, from treble to bass.

That's what the BSO's acousticians hope, at least. Let's hope they know what they're talking about.

Meyerhoff Hall is already one of the best-sounding modern halls in the land. That's not to say that it couldn't sound better. But if the result is that the Meyerhoff sounds worse because of the renovation, there will be some very angry listeners, including this one.

In any case, you can hear the Meyerhoff's "old" sound for the last time at the Summer MusicFest concerts, which take place tomorrow, Friday, and June 23, 25 and 30 at 7: 30 p.m. For tickets, call 410-783-8000.

Choral Arts season

The Baltimore Choral Arts Society has just released the details of its 1999-2000 season.

The BCAS's 34th season will include four concerts, featuring the full orchestra and chorus, led by music director Tom Hall: A program consisting of Norman Scribner's "Nativity" and Vaughn Williams' "Flos Campi" ("Flowering Fields") on Nov. 7; a Christmas program (Dec. 7); a program of music by J.S. Bach, with soprano Janice Chandler (March 5); and a performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah," with the great Baltimore-born and -bred basso James Morris (June 8). There will also be a benefit performance combining the talents of the English vocal ensemble the King's Singers and famed Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie (Oct. 13).

For more information or for tickets, call Choral Arts at 410-523-7070 or 800-750-0875.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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