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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ear, Ear! for the New Town Hall

Town Hall Seattle on First Hill, after two years of full renovation, has opened again for some early programs. This past Tuesday, Joshua Roman played a solo cello recital, and many were the curious ears present to check out the acoustical improvements. So far, very good!

The main enhancement comes from a dramatic, swooping canopy over the stage, which pushes the sound out to the sides and cuts down the “swimmy” acoustics as the music rises into the shallow dome and arched ceilings. Acoustician Mark Holden also wanted to make the Great Hall (upstairs in the converted church) less bass-heavy, and so he installed a large diaphragm right behind the stage to soak up low notes. Double-pane windows make the room very quiet, free from street noise. I found the cello sound to be resonant, rich in the lower notes, present and forward, and much more “directional” (meaning the sound comes from where your eyes take you). The real test for such space is the omnidirectional piano, not on show this night.

There’s much more to praise about the renovation. Lots of modern bathrooms. A dramatic reworking of the lower level into flexible, sociable space called The Forum. A lovely, brighter color scheme. Huge improvements in the stage lights.

The well-played concert ended with an encore performance of Leonard Cohen’s famous song, with the audience singing along the chorus: Hallelujah! Just the right word.

David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

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