tv Sino News Magazine PBS January 9, 2011 8:30pm-9:00pm PST
that time. and i had a look at the side walls, which looked like marble. and they were in fact cork. jeff tyzik when you're on stage as a conductor, you usually don't hear the woodwinds very well, because their sound goes up and over your head. so if you start to balance the orchestra based on that, you'll make some changes, which will sound different as if you're sitting in the front of the loge. the woodwinds sound brilliant up there, and they sound beautiful. and you can hear every note they play. so you learn as a conductor to start to compensate for what the room is giving you and what you're perceiving. donald hunsberger you either love this theater or you can find all kinds of faults with it. for what i was doing with the eastman wind ensemble and eastman wind orchestra produced a sound in this hall that was very unique to the hall itself primarily because of the type
of instruments we were using and the style of playing that we did. john beck it depends on the instrument you play as how it affects you. now, as a percussionist and a timpanist for my 43 years, it's not a good place to play. timpani it doesn't flatter the lower end of the orchestra. i have to use harder mallets to play in this hall whereas the same piece of music in another hall, maybe the timpanist would use softer mallets. and so i think from my point of view playing in the eastman theater was a challenge. (music) narrator each theater produces its own thumbprint of sound,
clearly discernible to musicians and sound engineers. donald hunsberger of the various recordings that fred fennell made, the mercury recordings back in the '50s, there are people who recognize the sound of the eastman theater on one of those mercury records. donald hunsberger it wasn't designed as a concert hall. it's too wide, it's too high. narrator could george eastman have known that the acoustics in his theater were flawed? if his closest friends knew, sitting near him in the mezzanine, would they have told him? donald hunsberger these people paid or donated extra money to be part of this particular society and have the private entrance as the program for the pre- opening stated the people who sit up here will not have to go through standing in line to buy tickets and things of the kind.
vincent lenti they paid $150 a year to support the theater operation. this was also way ahead of its time. every arts organization now has membership. but he did this in 1922. and, of course, it was sort of a funny situation, because the big music supporters sat in the mezzanine where the acoustics are the worst. narrator antonio perez, chief executive officer of the company founded by george eastman, was quick to recognize the problem. antonio perez i was lucky enough, i guess, to be sitting in the original seats of our founder, george eastman. and it was one of my complaints that i couldn't hear some of the instruments from over there. i knew i had to sit there, because of the founder's seats and all that, but i didn't want a sit over there, because the sound wasn't very good.
narrator but could the hall be made right? or would it be better to just start all over again? betty strasenburgh about 12 years ago when i moved downtown after my husband died, we started to gather at my townhouse, the people from the orchestra, people from the neighborhood, people from the school, and discussed the idea of a performing arts center. narrator but a new building was not a popular choice. john beck i would hate to see a bulldozer come in and tear this place down and build some more contemporary building. it just would not be correct, because i think something like this needs to be around forever. narrator betty strasenburgh, a former eastman student, was determined that the theater
would not only survive, but meet the increasing demands of school and community. she was inspired by the words emblazoned across the top of the eastman theater when it was originally built: "for the enrichment of community life." betty strasenburgh and that was one of my reasons for being so active in it, because i was a part of the neighborhood and the community, and everybody uses this theater. we have graduations here. many, many of the schools in the city graduate here. we have martin luther king day here as well as all of the student concerts. there are 700 free concerts here at this eastman school a year that the public is welcome to come and enjoy. joel seligman we re-dedicate ourselves to continuing the nation's finest school of music in one of the world's most outstanding venues for the
enrichment of the community. joel seligman we became convinced that it was so important to the community that it was possible to galvanize support from a number of different directions. we were amazed by the great support we got from the new york legislature led by our delegates david gantt, joe morelle working with the speaker of the assembly, sheldon silver, who first authorized $8 million and then $13 million for the theater expansion and renovation. i then went to see antonio perez, ceo of kodak. and we were both poignantly aware during our conversation that george eastman had founded not only eastman kodak but the eastman theater. and i remember saying to him, "antonio, i cannot imagine opening a renovated eastman
theater without the words kodak hall as part of it." and then i asked him for $10 million dollars. and that was a lot of money given the challenges that kodak was facing. antonio almost instantly said yes. antonio perez joel seligman came to my office with an offer that i could not refuse. i tell my team that i had ten million reasons to say yes to that. it was the dream of our founder. it's one of theuse to attract pr company. narrator even with kodak's generous support, the job was not going to be easy. everyone who used the theater had different needs and expectations.
betty strasenburgh the major request of the school was to have another recital hall, because kilbourn hall is occupied three, four, five times a day sometimes. and we just need that. need another recital hall. so that was one request. and then we needed a rehearsal hall where the orchestra could rehearse, because in the past, everybody had to rehearse on this stage, on the theater stage. the school-all the school orchestras and the rpo orchestra, and, of course, the school had priority. so it became very difficult to juggle rehearsals and concerts and all that. narrator oddly, while there was clear need for more space outside the hall, some people wanted less space inside the auditorium. jamal rossi eastman theater seats about 3,000. 3,094, i think, was the exact seating. that's a big concert hall. carnegie hall is about 2,400, and many of the great halls are
right in that area. charlie owens the lack of intimacy in a very large hall that was, of course, built originally to maximize the number of people who could enjoy motion pictures that eastman kodak company wanted to showcase early in their history. it's a beautiful hall, but it was too big. doug lowry the other thing is that aesthetically when an audience goes into a hall and it's 3,200 seats and it's about a third full, it looks very empty. but when you go into a hall now at 2,200 seats, and maybe it's two- thirds full, it feels like it's a sold out house. and believe it or not there is a palpable relationship between how musicians react to a house that's mostly empty as opposed to a house that's close to full.
narrator the work would be done in several phases, beginning with the stage itself. the object was to build a new shell for orchestras to perform in - one that could be easily removed for other types of performances. christopher seaman the stage was given the same artistic style, which is romanesque, as the rest of the hall. and it was also a much better acoustic. so the sound had warmth, which it didn't have before. ron stackman the ceiling pieces are what they call a tip and fly, so they have a play position. when they're not used, they tip to vertical and fly straight out up into the grid. the three walls of the theater, the back wall simply flies out. the two side walls will traverse to each side going offstage, and they will also fly out. so it takes one
man operating the computer control. then a couple guys on deck keeping their eyes open. and it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to store the shell from its play position or to bring it in. (music) narrator in addition to speed, the automated system offers safety considerations for the crew working backstage. ron stackman the beauty of that system also is if you have a rail cue that may be eight or nine pipes are moving at the same time - let's say in the nutcracker, there's a transition where some scenery is coming in while others is going out that can all be orchestrated. and it's probably down to about an eighth of an inch where that will land in the same spot every time.
narrator the next phase of renovation was much more revolutionary because it would mean reconfiguring the shape of the auditorium itself. some worried that the work would destroy the visual beauty of the space that has thrilled audiences for so many years. how can you update a work of art and still call it the mona lisa? craig jensen one of the things we were concerned about, and i think from a historic preservation perspective others were concerned about was that our work even if it was going to have a visual impact on the space, that it be inserted as gracefully as possible. michael flannery it was important for each person to realize that setting your coffee cup on an old piece of marble is unacceptable. so every wall you touch is a finished product. we are not revamping the entire theatre so it is almost with white gloves that you are working within the building. craig jensen we would do as
little demolition and as little destruction to the existing building as possible. so the way we insert the new additions, we are really touching the historic fabric as little as we can. doug lowry i knew that we would shut it down on july 1. so on june 30 of the summer, i decided to go down at 5 p.m. and just by myself walk down the orchestra level and stand for a moment and appreciate the presence of the old eastman theater. the next afternoon i hear a cacophonous sound about 2:00pm. and i look out my window, which is across the street from the eastman theater. and i see these dumpsters, and these workers are coming out dumping these seats into these dumpsters at about one every 15 seconds. so i walked over to the hall at 5:00pm on july 1 exactly 24 hours later. and it was at that
moment that the chill came upon me, because the hall had been gutted. michael flannery what we explained to people, what we are doing in the planning stage, they kind of shake their head and "yes, we know its coming." but i don't think anyone understood, maybe on the committee, the magnitude of what the theatre was going to look like as we demo'd during the fist five days. jamal rossi when they started building the walls for the balcony, the very first day, i really got nervous. i thought "what have we done." (sounds of construction) (music)
michael flannery there are little things that become dramatic to us, lowering the chandelier on an existing system that we were gonna then upgrade to an upgraded hoist. when that came down, you watch it and it comes down so slowly. but you think about it as its coming down and then as we had to build a scaffold around it so that we could actually send a man inside to change over 530 light bulbs. you get that little nervous feeling as that is going down and up. (music)
narrator workman were doing the unthinkable. in an age when bigger is often seen as better, they were making the main auditorium inside the eastman theatre smaller by about 1,000 seats. in changing the very shape of this iconic room, they hoped to create a more intimate space with better acoustics. craig jensen aesthetically, there was certainly nothing wrong with the theater. there was no reason to do a project if it was really just about aesthetics. this was certainly a project that was driven by the functional needs or the, you know, acoustic requirements. charlie owens when we look at the acoustics of a concert hall, obviously, there are two factors that are important. number one is the onstage acoustic. what the musicians are hearing, and their ability to hear each other, whether it's the person sitting next to them or someone sitting across the stage. michael flannery it basically went from a very large open theatre to moving the wall and enclosing the back wall and then installing the beautiful
boxes that are on both sides of the theatre. enclosing in the theatre to make it a more intimate setting for performances. craig jensen the theater was really more of a fan shape when it was built. it was in part for showing movies and all kinds of performances. it was a multi-purpose hall. it's still a multi-purpose hall, but i think now it's a multi-purpose hall where it's been tailored so that one of the most appropriate uses is orchestral performance. charlie owens and the creation of the boxes on either side of the orchestra and mezzanine level have taken that fan shaped and in effect created that longer narrower shoebox shape. and this gives us a shape to create a much tighter, much more focused sound. narrator over the years, that
piece of land that eastman refused to buy became available and the school finally acquired it. a new addition to the theater is now being erected on that very spot that will greet theater-goers with a stunning new entryway. jamal rossi the first thing they're going to enter is this atrium, which is a 60- foot high with a glass ceiling, a glass wall. there is going to be this fabulous chihuly sculpture. it's going to be breathtaking. so when you enter the eastman theater now, that's the first thing you see. michael flannery the new addition is really the extension of george eastman's original vision. so it actually brings you around main street and finishes actually to the parking spaces that will bring you through to the new addition. that alone will be a beautiful new space that doesn't take away from the theatre but will only add to the theatre. craig jensen a theatrical performance is more than just sitting in a seat and watching somebody sing or play the
violin. it's really an event from the time you arrive to the time you leave. intermission it would be nice if you walked out, and you had a vista of people in their finery, you know, or whatever they're wearing or whatever, or they're sipping their wine or whatever they're doing. and the degree to which you can create these kind of vistas and experiences and, you know, you can see your friend, you know, two levels down and wave to them. these are all important things that kind of add to the visit. so these spaces with multiple levels really afford people, i think, those opportunities to get the big picture and enjoy the big picture, so that's what this space is about. narrator but the new addition isn't just about a larger lobby. it will also include a new recital hall for smaller performances and the additional rehearsal space that the school needed. michael flannery the new addition is building the new grand rehearsal hall actually on top of a brand new recital hall so our new addition is actually a building within a building within a building.
ron stackman conceivably if we have the rpo on the kodak hall stage, we can take a school ensemble and put them up in the new rehearsal room, which they can set up exactly like they would set up on eastman stage. so it provides us with another large room for large ensembles. (music) narrator a major renovation like this must be followed by a ceremonious opening night. and for that special occasion, doug lowry composed a new musical work, exactly as the theater's founder george eastman would, no doubt, have demanded with the premier date stamped in red across the top of the score. doug lowry i really decided to compose a piece that would pay homage to not only george eastman -- he signed his name geo. eastman - but also pay homage to what i believe the art form that he created, which
was film, in my opinion. and also pay homage to the style of music that has sort of worked its way into our culture. narrator as the audience listened to the new composition, they were hearing music as they had never experienced it before in the eastman theatre. antonio perez they've done everything that i wish they could do. the sound has improved, tremendously. it's a little bit more comfortable, and they didn't take anything from the looks. actually, it looks a lot better. betty strasenburgh i think it is simply marvelous. i think it's gorgeous. it couldn't be any better. i think the acoustics are good. i think the view and the sound from the boxes is absolutely marvelous. i couldn't imagine how you were going to be able to see and hear from the sides like that, but it's wonderful. it's just marvelous.
narrator and so, an old theater, quite remarkable in its history, is made new again - poised to provide the perfect means to enjoy beautiful music for generations to come. christopher seaman a community without art is a community without heart. and this gives a center and a focus, and a sort of artistic temple almost you can call it for music lovers. it has great associations for people. so the strength of the history and the tradition are colossal. joni monroe during the day, the role of this building is one where a lot of practice goes on, teaching and learning, people in and out, arranging for the performances that are going to happen, and the weekend afternoons or the evenings. and at night, coming back this
is resplendent in light and offers such delight and is transformed into a place where, "ah-ha! the performance is on, the lights are up, the people are arriving, there's excitement." and this building is here to receive everybody and to welcome them. (music) narrator what if george eastman could return to his reserved seat in the mezzanine on this occasion; if he could listen to doug lowry's homage to the contributions he brought to the cultural life of rochester, new york? what might he think as he studied the changes made to the theater that he had crafted so long ago? jamal rossi this is a man who was both innovative and forward thinking and a person who would never be satisfied sort of the way things used to be. and so the space function is a movie house only for a few years. and really its life has been as a concert hall. while it has
this program is made possible in part by: louise epstein keith & betsy wilson the pike company providing construction solutions since 18. serving clients throughout the northeast, pike offers a full range of commercial building services including construction management, general contracting, design build, and facility management. information available online. and by paetec personalizing business communications for medium and large businesses, enterprise organizations, and institutions nationwide. paetec offers a comprehensive suite of ip, voice, data, and internet services. more information available online.