Cincinnati’s Music Hall is one the nation’s beloved performance venues. The iconic structure reopened earlier this month after being closed for almost two years for a $143 million-dollar renovation project. Backstage construction started in August of 2015. The building was shut down for renovations in June of 2016.
Music Hall’s renovations and upgrades include a refreshed exterior with newly reopened windows and a new street-level ADA-friendly entrance; a refreshed Springer Auditorium to enhance the audience experience with acoustic design, theatrical upgrades and new, more comfortable seating; improved access for those with disabilities including two new fast-traction elevators; new backstage practice rooms, offices and dressing rooms for performers; a new event space on the first floor and a new large rehearsal/event space on the second floor, just to name a few. For the first time, there’s elevator access to every floor in Music Hall. There are also more restrooms and improved concession areas throughout the venue. For the latest news and more details, go to www.cincinnatisymphony.org.
Music Hall is home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet and the May Festival Chorus.
We talked to Chris Pinelo, vice president of communications for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the Cincinnati May Festival Chorus to find out more about the renovations and to share in the excitement of Music Hall’s reopening.
Q: Tell us about what you do?
A: My day-to-day responsibilities vary quite a bit. However, the department I oversee does (the production) of the program book magazines and all of our media relations. We’re also in charge of the Website and social media. So, it’s a broad communications role. It also includes a lot of internal communications and major announcements. The Orchestra, in addition to being the Orchestra, also owns and operates Riverbend Music Center, and we manage the Taft Theatre and the Rose Music Center in Huber Heights, Ohio.
Q: Tell us what it was like for you being involved and watching the renovations at Music Hall?
A: It was a very collaborative process. … It’s been a fascinating process. It’s a very enormously complex project. You can imagine a $143 million dollar project and all that entails. Music Hall is the home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, but it’s also a theater for the Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Ballet. It’s also a multi-venue facility with a ballroom and several event spaces. It was about making sure that all the resident companies’ needs were met. Not to mention, it’s also an historic landmark, so that adds on additional layers of complexity.
I love talking about this project. It’s amazing. I sum it up in this way. We wanted to make sure Music Hall was more welcoming, more accessible and more comfortable than ever before. All the while, realizing and restoring the building’s historic grandeur.
Q: There were sold-out concerts on during the grand reopening weekend on Oct. 6-7 as well as an open house for the public on Saturday. What was the excitement level like as people walked through the doors?
A: There was clearly a sense of awe as people were coming in, which was great to see. We were sold out for Friday and Saturday night’s concerts. The energy in the room was palpable. People were wanting to linger and see parts of the building, but they ultimately came into the hall. Immediately, they recognized how beautiful, open and shimmering Springer Auditorium was. When the Orchestra walked up, it was a European-style entrance, which means they all come out at the same time, and the audience leapt to their feet with a standing ovation before the first note was played. I think that was really an expression of appreciation for the Orchestra, the arts and for this beautiful iconic treasure that is unique to Cincinnati. That same thing happened again on Saturday night, and the energy was absolutely spellbinding. People were excited to be in the space. I heard people raving about how great it sounded and how great it looked. We had over 10,000 people come through on Saturday for the open house. I think that was also a reflection of the excitement in the community, around this beautiful community building. CSO’s Music Director Louis Langrée was saying before we were about to open the doors for the public on Saturday for the open house, he was reminding everyone that this is the communities’ building, and what an exciting thing to experience.
Q: What are you personally most excited about?
A: I’m personally most excited about being back home. We’ve been away from Music Hall for a while. Seeing the exciting changes, understanding that Music Hall is not only fantastic for the present, but really primed for the future. I love seeing the improved accessibility. It’s fantastic. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the tender loving care that all the different spaces have had (as we’ve worked through the renovation process.) They have always worked hard to make Music Hall beautiful, but under the surface, it was deteriorating, badly. So, the fact that everything’s gotten that refresh — fresh coats of paint, plaster repair, polish on the floors — all those things make a big difference. All of the HVAC has been updated, the electrical and plumbing. We had leaks and problems before. For instance, (not) having enough electricity to run an amplifier in the lobby for a post-concert event. So, all of that was addressed. I’m excited that many people, who love Music Hall as much as I do, came together to make sure Music Hall was the best it could be, and that it remains a vibrant community gathering place.
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