Patrons returning to Kleinhans Music Hall for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's opening night Saturday might notice a brighter look and a cleaner sound inside.
The changes are subtle, but the difference will be evident, following a remodeling of the main floor of the concert hall. Thanks to a $700,000 grant from the state Dormitory Authority, the carpeting was torn out and replaced, but only in the aisles, which now exposes the refurbished concrete flooring around the seats. Aside from looking slightly different, it has the added advantage of improving the sound quality at Kleinhans, which is already renowned for superior acoustics.
"When the building was designed, this space was designed like this," said Maggie Shea, building services manager for Kleinhans, as she offered an impromptu tour of the renovated space Wednesday.
"The acoustics of the building have completely changed," Shea continued. "You can hear it's much more echo-y than it used to be. The musicians all did notice. They say it's so much louder. You can hear so much more. It's such a live space now."
Dan Gill, a sound operator at Kleinhans for 67 years, confirmed that the new carpet installation is a throwback to how it was when the hall opened in October of 1940.
"All I know is that when I first came to work here, it was like this. And then I left to go in the service back in 1944, and when I came back, they had carpeted the whole thing," Gill said.
Starting when he was 17, Gill said, he used to substitute for vacationing sound engineers at Kleinhans.
"We used to have dances in the Mary Seaton Room during the war, every Sunday night," said Gill. "I used to come and do the sound for that."
He agreed that the already-superior acoustics of the hall have been slightly improved by going back to the old carpeting configuration.
"You do need some reflection, otherwise kind of blah. You know, you've got to have a little bit live. It was too live, and then they tried , and they liked this better," Gill said.
"Once they put in, they were stuck with it," he added.
Those with a keen eye might notice that while the old carpeting was gray, the new carpeting is more of a brownish, or maroonish color, almost cinnamon in hue.
"If you look at the room, the percentage of the floor that is uncarpeted, it's something like 68 percent, or something like that," said Shea. "The balcony is going to be done next year in the summer."
"Since this is the bulk of the room and where the sound is mostly being thrown into, it was really important to get this part done as soon as we could," Shea said.
Michael Ludwig, concert master for the BPO, on Wednesday said he had yet to hear how the new carpeting affects the sound quality in the hall, but he expects the change to be exciting both for the orchestra and for the audiences.
The orchestra will hear the difference during rehearsals today for Saturday's scheduled show.
"Kleinhans is, undoubtedly, one of the great concert halls in the world. Any improvements would only be icing on the cake," said Ludwig.
Shea said the carpet is the most visible change, but the women's rest-room downstairs also will be expanded, something that she said "will make many people very happy."
In addition, the stairs leading to the basement restrooms were re-?carpeted.
"We're putting in our new security system, with electronic card readers and security cameras," Shea added. "We're going to be redoing the gift shop down here. ... The Mary Seaton Room stage is going to be refinished, and we have some wood paneling that needs to be repaired."
Of course, some things will remain the same. The distinctive, scalloped ceiling tiles that frame the Kleinhans stage, and help create the superior acoustics, almost resemble giant, canvas sails. They are, in fact, made of plaster.
"I don't know that there's a name for , but you'll notice the whole room is sort of in the same design, the ceiling, the walls," said Gills. "It has become our iconic look, that stage right there. If it hadn't been designed that way, who knows what we would have been?"
The wooden wall panels of the hall are made of tropical mahogany and are alternated with perforated manufactured plasterboard that was painted to match the wood paneling. The solid wood panels absorb the sound and the perforated panels reflect it, Shea explained.
"It's designed that way throughout so that it contributes to the acoustic performance ," Shea said.