Durham residents and Duke students filed into the newly renovated Baldwin Auditorium Saturday night to attend the sold-out Inaugural Gala Concert.
A collection of faculty, students and Durham musicians performed renditions of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” as the first performance in the newly upgraded venue. With a capacity of 685, the auditorium was full.
“We should all want to come to Baldwin, not just have to go to Baldwin, and I think in the past we often just had to go to Baldwin,” Provost Peter Lange said.
Jonathan Bagg—director of chamber music and professor of the practice of music—said he is grateful for all of the renovations, which include a deepened stage to allow more room for large ensembles, a versatile lighting system and easy access to the backstage area.
Bagg noted that faculty members submitted a report in 2007 before the economic recession that recommended a number of changes that have now come to fruition. He said he hopes, however, that the construction is more than just a reflection of faculty complaints.
“I don’t know if that report made it to acousticians and architects, but I’d like to think it didn’t—that Baldwin Auditorium always existed in the form that you see tonight just waiting for all the great minds to come together to bring it to its ideal state,” Bagg said.
The focus of the night’s events were the improved acoustics of the auditorium.
At the opening event, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask paused to draw the audience’s attention to the motor-operated drapes, which can be adjusted based on various ensembles’ needs.
“Your hall has now been tuned for acoustic music,” Trask announced to the musicians after the opening of the drapes.
President Richard Brodhead also commended the acoustics of the renovated venue.
“The acoustics are as good as any concert halls I’ve been at in the world,” he said.
According to the programs given out before the performance, the theme of Copland’s piece—the homecoming of a young couple—was intended to honor the opening of Baldwin as alumni, students and faculty were returning to a familiar, yet changed, venue. The song received a standing ovation.
James McStoot, Trinity ‘97, who sang as a student in the Baldwin Auditorium 16 years ago, was met with thundering applause at the end of his tenor vocal rendition of “The Knoxville, Summer of 1915.”
Verena Moesenbichler-Bryant, director of the Duke Wind Symphony, said she was excited at the high turnout for the event, but hopes the improved building will attract more students to attend concerts.
Brodhead thanked the Duke Endowment for funding the project and expressed his delight at Baldwin’s new look, noting it is now fit to be the focal point of East Campus, in the same manner the Chapel is to West Campus.
“[Baldwin] was profoundly suboptimal,” he said. “We have actually created a great music hall on the inside of its building to go with its always beautiful and graceful outside.”
Members of the audience also noted their appreciation of the revamped building’s new presence on campus.
“The spirit of the building had reached into my soul,” said sophomore Justin Sandulli.