On September 14, the Duke and Durham community will have an opportunity to see the renovated Baldwin Auditorium in its full musical force for the first time at the Inaugural Gala Concert. Current upperclassmen all remember the beautiful Georgian building at the end of the East Campus quad, with its iconic Jeffersonian Dome—meant to be scaled before graduation—and how it was always closed for renovation, yet no changes were ever made to the outside. After two years and $15 million, Baldwin has opened its doors once again and is equipped with state-of-the-art features for the musical performances Duke will be hosting throughout the year.
The building was erected in the 1930s as a 900-seat venue for larger crowds and events. The acoustics, however, were lacking, which was attributed to the square shape of the building and to the prevalence of glass and hard plaster in the design. With such an important location for the Durham community and its close connection with the Duke Music Department, Baldwin underwent a huge remodeling to focus on modernizing its acoustic features. These improvements include new curved surfaces made of wood for improved sound, a system of movable drapes to be adjusted to meet the needs of different ensembles, an “acoustic canopy,” the installment of widespread accessibility measures and changes to the seating and general shape of the auditorium. The stage has also been enlarged and now stands at around 2,000 square feet.
The most important change has been the transition of the space from square to rectangle, allowing for far better acoustics. “The acoustics are fantastic; it’s great for smaller chamber groups,” said Elizabeth Thompson of the Duke Music Department. “It’s gorgeous inside.”
Jonathan Bagg, Director of Chamber Music and Duke music professor, expressed his excitement for the modernized auditorium. “It’s more fun to play in the hall,” said Bagg via e-mail. “I expect everyone’s enthusiasm will get a big boost from being inside the new Baldwin.”
As for the Inaugural Gala, the program promises an engaging and inclusive night. “The mood is going to be very celebratory,” stated Bagg. “It’s a testament to the ability of the various parts of Duke to execute an idea together.” The event will feature a faculty quartet comprised of music department greats such as John Brown, Rebecca Troxler and Randall Love. The program will have an all-American theme, with iconic works such as Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” by Samuel Barber. Tenor and former Duke student Jason McStoots will sing.
This event has been in the works since last winter, and the credit of the planning goes to Music Department faculty members such as Jane Hopkins, Jonathan Bagg, Scott Lindroth and Elizabeth Thompson. According to Thompson, this is “a great chance [for students] to see their professors perform.”
Baldwin Auditorium is chock-full for its musical season ahead. The exciting events calendar for the next couple of months includes acts such as “Parlor Songs of the Civil War” as well as performances by the Duke Wind Symphony, Duke Djembe and even the King’s Singers. Just last week, the venue hosted the author of the Class of 2017’s summer reading book, “Let the Great World Spin,” for “A Conversation with Colum McCann.”
Earlier this summer, Eric Pritchard of the Ciompi Quartet performed a mini-recital to give the Durham community a sneak peek into the space. With its location on East Campus and its historical presence in the area, Baldwin is a huge asset for the surrounding Durham neighborhoods. When the building underwent renovation, “some patrons did not follow us to West Campus,” said Thompson, so Baldwin’s reopening has been highly anticipated.
The Ciompi Quartet will be performing once again at Baldwin a week after the gala, and large student ensembles will begin their performances by the end of October.
“A great concert hall actually has a hand in educating and improving the quality of the ensembles that play there because it allows them to hear themselves more clearly and to blend and shape their performances more easily,” sad Bagg.
Both the events calendar and the novelty of the cutting-edge acoustic space will draw the Duke and Durham community to see musical performances at Baldwin. As Thompson aptly put it, we’ll “finally come home to Baldwin.”
The Inaugural Gala will take place on Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 and free for students. More information at http://www.music.duke.edu.
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