Monday, November 14, 2005

Symphony attendance, Music Hall and the Banks

From Janelle Gelfand's Classical Music blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer (11/13/05):
How great it was to see nearly 400 kids for "College Nite" at the symphony Friday night. Clearly, the Cincinnati Symphony has struggled this season to fill the 3,400-seat Music Hall, week after week, night after night.

In particular, symphony attendance the past few weeks has looked especially dismal. The orchestra is considering, in fact, "downsizing" Music Hall to be smaller for symphony concerts, by closing off parts of the hall or pushing the stage out to the center of the hall – a "thrust" stage.

Sometime this season, the orchestra will likely hire theater and/or acoustical consultants to come up with a plan.

Music director Paavo Jarvi is concerned because of the perception that tickets are always available.

"There is no demand," he says.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away, another theater where the orchestra played in the '30s, which has exceptional acoustics and is a mid-sized hall, is crumbling in disrepair. That, of course, is the Emery. It's a jewel of a theater, with so much potential, yet support of its renovation has waxed and waned over the past two decades.

Jarvi is afraid that if the orchestra were to leave Music Hall even for a few concerts somewhere else, the Grande Dame of Elm Street would fall into a decline.

Then there's the Banks. In today’s A&E section, our arts staff proposed ways to make the Banks an arts destination – including a mid-sized theater that could present movies, or even chamber music or choirs, says Margaret McGurk. I would add to that, a theater suitable for an alternative symphony series or a permanent home for the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

What do YOU think?

Should Music Hall be redesigned to accommodate fewer seats for symphony concerts?

Should the Emery be revived? And if the orchestra played there -- even for a few concerts -- would that jeopardize Music Hall?

Should a new theater suitable for symphonic music be built as part of the Banks?

OR: Should Music Hall be left alone, and the symphony make more effort to beef up its attendance? Already, the board is considering things like mounting video screens on either side of the stage, or even mounting screens OUTSIDE of Music Hall – or on Fountain Square.

What about crime in the neighborhood? Should it be a priority of the new mayor and City Council to make the area around Music Hall safer?

Let me know your ideas!

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