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WelcomeBehind the scenes with Mark Melson


Concert Hall



Orchestra Lounge

Stage Door/Risers

Spiral Staircase

Hall Curtains

Reverb Chambers

Reverb curtains

Spotlight Booth

Triplets? The Meyerson, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Dallas Museum of Art

All three buildings’ exteriors look similar and that was deliberate. All are surfaced with Indiana limestone. The stone for the DMA and the Meyerson came from the same company, though different quarries. The Reserve Bank’s surface was chosen as an homage to Meyerson architect I.M. Pei. That’s also why the Bank’s windows facing the Meyerson look like the windows on the back of the concert hall.

Biggest budget item? It’s Not the Fancy Stuff

It’s not the travertine marble in the lobby, not the auditorium’s African and cherry wood paneling nor the expensive terrazzo floor that had to be flown in by American Airlines. It’s just the concrete. The expensive concrete you see - I.M. Pei required that it look like limestone. And the massive amounts you don’t, for the underground parking garage and the thick, sound-blocking roof.

Timber! That’s some tree

It’s not documented, but it’s been said that all of the balcony fronts in the auditorium -- the reddish-brown wood panels that line the front of the dress circle and grand tier levels – come from a single tree. They’re made of makore [mack-OH-ray], an African cherry wood.

Sound-alike When an organ wasn’t an organ

The organ looked finished when the hall opened – the pipes the audience sees were already installed. But the instrument’s more than 4,500 pipes weren’t. It took another three years to tune or ‘voice’ it. At the opening, during Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection,” the audience heard an electric organ plus a blower providing air for one of the big pipes to sound.

In Memory Tributes are among most touching moments

Mark Melson recalls the memorial service Edward Mata, the DSO’s first music director in the Meyerson, as one of his most powerful Meyerson memories. Jaap van Zweden cites a rehearsal following the death of a long-time orchestra member.

Tight fit

Orchestra members are positioned close together on stage. And Dwight Shambley plays a mighty big instrument – the double bass. If he could change one thing, he’d like a little more elbow room.

Creative Tension Infighting between I.M. Pei and Russell Johnson

Architect Pei and acoustic consultant Johnson, hired as equals, were infamously at odds. Pei hated the movable acoustic canopy, for instance, while Johnson dismissed Pei’s choice of seats, preferring harder ones (softer ones would be too sound-absorbent, he feared). Reportedly, Pei wanted a more traditional proscenium stage – like an old-style theater. Johnson felt that would be detrimental to the hall’s acoustics. The compromise: two giant columns flank the stage. They visually set the stage off, yet keep it open to the hall.

Most complex architectural feature?

The curving window or “conoid” -- its shape is essentially a slice out of a cone. No two glass panes are exactly alike. Each had to be cut and shaped to individual specifications. And that meant no two metal trusses are exactly alike, either. The designers might not have been able to do it without an early version of CAD, the computer design software.

Faux Finish Missing on opening night

The marble for the lobby railings, for one. They didn’t arrive in time, so painted Styrofoam was substituted (which curious visitors poked holes in). Carpeting covered parts of the terrazzo floors that weren’t done. And the Lay Family Organ wasn’t finished, either.

Fly Away The Meyerson’s unique canopy.

While the reverb chamber can expand the room when the organ is played or when the orchestra is augmented with a full chorus, the flying canopy above the stage is another highlight of the hall. It can shrink the performance space onstage, making it more suitable for chamber music.

Almost perfect If it weren’t for that one thing

Electrical outlets. If the Meyerson’s general manager, Les Studdard, could change just one thing, it’d be that simple: adding more of them to the lobby. When the DSO isn’t performing, the Meyerson hosts lots of other events. And to get adequate power, Studdard’s team has to use extension cords.

Last stop What’s next for the Meyerson?

Thanks for taking our tour of the Meyerson Symphony Center.
The tour is part of Secrets of the Meyerson, a special project from KERA’s Art&Seek to mark the building’s 25th anniversary.



Video/Photo: Dane Walters
Text: Jerome Weeks, Anne Bothwell
Pixels and Code: Ryan Tainter