Seat replacement on tap for 75th anniversary of hall
This summer, after the close of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's season and the last of the high school graduations, the well-worn, circa-1968 seats in the National Historic Landmark's main auditorium will be replaced thanks to the generosity of local foundations.
"What better way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the hall than by improving the patron experience," said Christopher N. Brown, chairman of the board of directors of Kleinhans Management Music Hall Inc. "The Kleinhans family donated this money to provide an atmosphere in which the people of Western New York could enjoy great music and events in comfort. The change is very much in line with their vision. Now, new philanthropy will provide a fresh start for the building.
"We are grateful to the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and M&T Bank for providing major funding to make the seat replacement possible."
Kleinhans Music Hall opened in 1940 as the home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. It was built thanks to the generosity and vision of Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans and the stewardship of their charitable dreams by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The Community Foundation was bequeathed the estates of Mr. and Mrs. Kleinhans, who made their fortune from the clothing store that bore their name, and who died within three months of each other in 1934.
Designed by famous Finnish father-and-son architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen, the building is renowned for its acoustics and its classical modernist elegance.
"The venue should continue to match the greatness of this Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and we are thrilled to be able to contribute to these important facility updates," said Robert D. Gioia, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation.
"We are delighted to have this opportunity to play a part in the restoration of Kleinhans Music Hall. The quality of this historic venue is so closely tied to the greatness of our Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as to our region's architectural legacy," said Shelley C. Drake, president of The M&T Charitable Foundation.
The seat replacement is part of a five-year, $4 million renovation plan. A number of important projects have been completed, including expansion of the women's lavatory on the lower level, removal of carpeting under the seats on the main floor, and repair of woodwork throughout the hall. The building has been refitted with a new HVAC system, an updated electrical system, and cost-efficient lighting, thanks to major investments from the City of Buffalo via Mayor Byron Brown, and the state of New York through the Dormitory Authority.
The renovation will include the installation of handrails in the balcony, and the creation of a wheelchair seating area on the main floor. The balcony aisles will be wider. In many cases, the new seats will offer more generous proportions. To accommodate these changes, the seating capacity of the hall will be reduced from the current 2,800 to 2,400, providing a more comfortable and intimate concert experience.
"The seats have been showing wear and tear for some time. This will be second time for replacement. We will pay close attention to Eliel and Eero Saarinen's original seat specifications, and use the same materials to the extent possible," said Theodore Lownie, architectural consultant for the hall.
Lownie drew on conversations with renowned acoustician Leo Beranek in choosing the new seats. Beranek has written extensively about the acoustics in Kleinhans, and is familiar with both the original and current seats. The new seats will retain the materials and qualities of both versions. The new seats will look similar to the current seats, with wooden seatbacks, metal frames, similar upholstery, and placement along the same metal rail system.
These improvements will be completed in time for the start of the 2015-16 BPO season and the 75th anniversary diamond jubilee celebration of the hall on Oct. 12.
Fundraising for these and other improvements is ongoing. To learn how to contribute, contact Sarah Carney at [email protected].