Blog: Smaller is beautiful

By Barry Kempton

At our Annual Luncheon last Wednesday, I announced that the majority of our International Artist Series recitals will move to the new 1100-seat Ordway Concert Hall currently under construction in downtown St Paul.  We have been watching it grow out of the ground for about a year.  I can see it from my office window here at Landmark Center.

The hall opens in February 2015, and though we will co-present three performances in this new venue during the opening celebration weeks (March 2015), our 2014-15 season International Artist Series recitals will take place in the existing 1900-seat Ordway Music Theater.  Our new venture in the Concert Hall begins the following season – 2015-16.

Those of you who attend International Artist Series recitals know how popular this series is.  Attendance for each recital is anywhere between 1500 and 1900 people.  There is always a buzz at the Ordway, and I think most would agree that this is our “flagship” series.  Since it’s such a success, we’ve been wary about tinkering with it.  However, we can’t ignore the fact that in just less than a year’s time, right next door to the Music Theater, there is going to be a beautiful new Concert Hall; a concert hall custom-designed for acoustic music, a space which will provide recitalists, chamber musicians and chamber orchestras – and let’s not forget audiences – with one of the best musical experiences in the vicinity.

So, here’s our plan.  Beginning in 2015-16, we will present most of our recitals twice – once in the evening and once in the daytime.  Clearly 1500 or more audience members won’t all fit into an 1100-seat concert hall, so we have the opportunity to double up and at the same time, offer our audience the option of attending either in the evenings or during the daytime.  We hear from long-time subscribers every year that they feel they need to give up their subscriptions because they are no longer comfortable driving in the dark evenings, especially during the winter months.

Certain major international artists will only be able to offer us a single performance due to their limited recital touring periods.  We need to be aware of that, and we will need to remain flexible if we are to continue to present the leading recitalists of the world.  Already in the 2015-16 season, I know that there will be one major artist who can offer us just one night in his (or her) limited tour itinerary.  In these instances, we will present the recital in the Music Theater – the current home of our International Artist Series.

We’re certainly adding a little complexity to our planning, but in return I am absolutely convinced that we will be providing a better audience experience, greater intimacy and options (daytime or evening) for hearing our guest artists.   It’s not that recitals in the current space (the Music Theater) are unsuccessful – far from it; but I am confident that once our audience begins to hear great recitalists in the smaller, purpose-designed Concert Hall, they will fall in love with the experience.  If you are curious (and local), your first opportunities to hear a recital in the Concert Hall will be Sunday March 8th and Friday March 20th, 2015.   Once you’ve experienced it, I’ll be glad to know what you think.

(photo above: Ordway Concert Hall construction as seen from Landmark Center on June 9, 2014)

Learn more about the International Artist Series

See the announcement following last week’s Annual Luncheon

Learn more about the opening events in the Concert Hall in March 2015