Star Tribune: Programming announced for Ordway Center’s new concert hall

Rohan Preston, Star Tribune 9/9/14

Global sounds will animate a new $42 million concert hall at Ordway Center in St. Paul early in 2015.

The Arts Partnership, which represents the Ordway’s four principal users, on Monday announced the kickoff lineup for the new 1,100-seat concert hall, which is to open March 1.

The newest addition to Minnesota’s arts landscape was designed by Tim Carl of HGA Architects. It expands the 1985 Ordway Center, and replaces the McKnight Theatre.

The Arts Partnership so far has raised $81 million for the new hall and an endowment fund. The capital campaign has a final goal of $83 million.

After a ribbon-cutting and community open house on March 1, the concert hall will be launched by a wide range of music, including Mozart for the Young at Heart (March 4), the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (March 5-6), South African singer Vusi Mahlasela and fluegelhorn supremo Hugh Masekela (March 7), Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto (March 8), Grammy-winning Latin rockers La Santa Cecilia (March 12), vocal ensemble Cantus (March 15), indie singer-songwriter Haley Bonar (March 18) and the Grammy-winning Sounds of Blackness (March 19).

Meanwhile, concurrent events in the 1,900-seat music hall include the premiere of Minnesota Opera’s “The Manchurian Candidate” (March 7-15) and a concert by Broadway songstress Bernadette Peters (March 22).

The new venue also will have a sprung floor for dance companies. The first to try it out will be Ananya Dance Theatre (March 11).

The programming “sends a signal that this is about community and growth,” said Arts Partnership planning manager Donna Saul Millen. “We’re looking to the Twin Cities as we, together, build a great, diverse future.”

Members of the partnership are excited about the new venue, which relieves pressure on the Ordway calendar and gives them new opportunities for programming..

“The hall is purpose-built for orchestras and chamber groups and will be much better suited, in terms of scale, acoustics and intimacy, to what we do,” said Kempton, president of Schubert Club, whose $2 million organization serves 20,000 patrons annually. “And on a practical level, the venue is available for many more date options.”

Kempton, whose International Artist recitals often sell out the bigger Music Hall, said the Schubert Club would experiment with moving some of those concerts to the Concert Hall, making up for the smaller number of seats by programming both a daytime and an evening show by a visiting artist.

Construction on the hall is expected to be finished later this year. Inside the hall, which retains the original McKnight stage, a thicket of scaffolds supports workers installing the wavy, custom-built mahogany dowels on the ceiling.

A distance of just 87 feet separates the hall’s farthest-back seat from the front of the stage, said Andy Luft, production manager at the Ordway. About 117 seats circle behind the stage area, a space that may double as a choir loft.

Original architect Ben Thompson’s glassy exterior continues over the facade of the new concert hall, save for a non-glass 5-foot area between the two structures that construction workers have dubbed “The Bermuda Triangle.”

“It’s a strong presence on Rice Park,” Carl said, and there are glassy corners at 5th Street that even allow a view back to the St. Paul Cathedral.

Of its $83 million goal, the Ordway has raised $81 million to date, according to officials. Of that, $32 million is for an endowment, $42 million is for construction and $9 million is for transition costs.

Read the full article on StarTribune.com here.

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