Acoustics Declared as Good as in Any Concert Building

Deseret News, 15 September 1979, page B1

The Bicentennial Symphony Hall – hailed as one of the world's finest concert halls – passed its acoustical test Friday night during its opening Utah Symphony concert.

“A wonderful, beautiful hall,” said Don C. Peterson, French horn principal in the orchestra. “The soft sounds can be heard so distinctly.”

Lisa Allyn, who plays the string bass, said the sound was “incredible.”

Claudia Christiansen, who also plays the string bass, said she has never heard better acoustics in any halls where the orchestra has played, including London, Buenos Aires and in Greece.

Guest conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, after applause brought him back to the podium four times, said the hall and orchestra were wonderful.

“I want to pay tribute to Maurice Abravanel once more,” he said. The audience then applauded the Maestro, who conducted the symphony for 32 of its 39 years.

Even the clapping sounds good in Symphony Hall.

Former Gov. and Mrs. Calvin L. Rampton sat on the fourth row, “but we loved the concert. We wondered if we were too close, but we weren't,” Mrs. Rampton said.

Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon and his wife sat on the first row.

“The sound was quite good, but we miss seeing all the musicians.”

Patrons seated on the front row feel a part of the orchestra because of the closeness, but lack the over-all view of the full orchestra.

But that was the only complaint.

“The hall really doesn't have a bad seat,” said Allan Craig of Salt Lake City.

Cheri Ellingson said she was very impressed with the gold and royal forest green décor, while Mark Cornelius appreciated the arcchitecture of the beautiful foyer.

Ruth Hendricks, Salt Lake City, used words such as “gorgeous, elegant, wonderful” to describe the building. “I'm thrilled with it.”

Tourists from Ohio and New Jersey said they were very happy to be in Utah during this grand opening and pronounced the hall one of the finest they've ever seen.

“It compares favorably with the Lincoln Center,” one said.

Wendell J. Ashton welcomed guest patrons to the hall for its inaugural concert. He also paid tribute to Abravanel.

President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave the dedicatory prayer.

Because of the acoustics, the hall has no stage drapery or curtain. The musicians' platform is an extension of the audience, not separate from it.

People arrived early to savor the building's beauty so they could thrill to the symphony's performance without distractions.

Carolyn Katseanes, Salt Lake City, said she loved the colors in the hall and its simplicity, while Judy Barking, Bountiful, said she was happy to actually have a seat assigned to her. (Patrons sat on pioneer benches in the famed Mormon Tabernacle for 32 years.)

Mr. and Mrs. Keith Wilson sat with Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Whitesides, all of Salt Lake City. The women are sisters. “I find it very restful and delightful,” said Wilson. “I hope to hear many concerts.”

What impressed Utah's citizens? The wall of glass on the buildings east side. A grand staircase and floating bridges that lead into the concert hall and its three tiers, enclosed by over a mile of brass railing. The combination of oak, gold leaf, crystal and brass chandeliers.

The hall, designed by the architectural firm of Fouler, Ferguson, Kingston and Ruben, is structurally isolated from the lobby and from the symphony's business officers.

The building is a monument to music. From its lofty windows can be seen the spires of the Mormon Temple, the city's skyline and the mountains above the city's east bench.

Earlier in the evening, many government officials, community leaders and music lovers attended a “grand opening dinner” in the Little America Convention Center.

Ashton called new hall “a magnificent mansion to match our Utah Symphony's music,” and said the building was made possible by many “hands and hearts across this state and from coast to coast.”

Representing the symphony board, Ashton paid tribute to former governor Rampton and his wife, Lucybeth, Sen. Haven L. Barlow, R-Davis County; and Rep. Lorin N. Pace, R-Salt Lake, Gov. Scott M. Matheson, Oakley S. Evans, and Richard M. Eyre; John Gallivan, and his committee – O. Thayne Acord, Frank A. Nelson Jr, George S. Nicolatus, Eriel N. Ogaard, and Glen R. Swenson.

To Dr. Obert C. Tanner, Ashton said, “Obert, our thanksgiving to you should never end.” Tanner donated $200,000 for the plaza fountain and $138,000 for gold leaf.

Ardean Watts, associate conductor for 11 years; Herold L. Gregory, executive director; Shirl H. Swenson, manager; Ray L. White, Carleen Landes, Gilbert W. Scharffs, Gloy J. Barwick, Betty L. Kay, and Veronica O. Bettinson were given awards.

Past and present Symphony Guild presidents – Dorothy B. Burton, Barbara L. Tanner, and Barbara C. Scowcroft were thanked.

At a noon luncheon on Friday sponsored by the Utah Symphony Guild, Ashton saluted women who have played key roles in the orchestra or Symphony Hall cause, beginning with Mrs. John M. (Glenn) Wallace, president of the orchestra board in its earliest days.