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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007
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Before and after photos of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra's new acoustical shell at the VBC Concert Hall.
Courtesy photos
Before and after photos of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra's new acoustical shell at the VBC Concert Hall.

FEATURED EVENT
New sound at Huntsville orchestra

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

A new acoustical shell will make its debut this weekend, along with the 2007-08 Huntsville Symphony Orchestra season.

Concerts are planned at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday to showcase the "Diva" shell, which has been installed on the stage of the Von Braun Center Concert Hall.

Music director Carlos Miguel Prieto, who is beginning his fifth season in Huntsville, selected Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to direct for this opening weekend.

It will be performed with full orchestra, a 300-voice chorus and several soloists, including Susanna Phillips, soprano; Charlotte Paulsen, mezzo soprano; Thomas Studebaker, tenor; and Kurt Link, bass.

Billy Orton, chorus master, will lead the chorus of voices from the Huntsville Community Chorus, University of Alabama in Huntsville Concert Choir, University of North Alabama Collegiate singers and Bob Jones High School Concert Choir.

Evelyn Loehrlein, public relations director for the symphony, said the old acoustical shell purchased 25 years ago when it was an amateur orchestra was no longer adequate for the size and sound of today's professional symphony.

One-third of the musicians had to sit outside the old shell, with sound traveling backstage instead of toward the audience. Aging materials and safety also were factors, she said.

"Since a symphony orchestra uses no amplification, an acoustical shell is required to direct the sound toward the audience," she said. "A well-designed shell helps the musicians hear each other and themselves with greater clarity, and has the acoustical impact of doubling the size of the orchestra sound when heard in the audience."

The world-class Diva shell, manufactured by Wenger Corp., is used in many halls throughout the world, including the venue of the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra where Prieto formerly was music director.

A capital campaign to obtain one began soon after he arrived in Huntsville. Donations are still being accepted toward the $265,000 cost.

"I can promise that our audience will enjoy new polish and clarity of sound," said Prieto. "The new season will be one of discovery as the musicians and I explore the wondrous possibilities offered by our new shell."

Prieto is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Mexico's most important orchestra, as well as the Orquestra Sinfónica de Minería and the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans, where he is one of those leading cultural renewal following Hurricane Katrina.

Along with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, "Choral," the program will include "Promenade Overture" by John Corigliano and the world premiere of "The Distant Beacon" concerto for flute and orchestra by Christopher Weiss, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Prieto will conduct, and Loehrlein will be featured on flute. At 6:45 p.m. Saturday, a free pre-concert conversation will be held in the Concert Hall.

Prices range from $27 to $66; students are half price, with $5 student rush tickets at 7:20 p.m. Reserve tickets by calling 539-4818 or order online at www.hso.org or purchase at the door an hour before the concerts.

One-third of the musicians had to sit outside the old shell, with sound traveling backstage instead of toward the audience. Aging materials and safety also were factors, she said.

Sound doubles

“Since a symphony orchestra uses no amplification, an acoustical shell is required to direct the sound toward the audience,” she said.

“A well-designed shell helps the musicians hear each other and themselves with greater clarity, and has the acoustical impact of doubling the size of the orchestra sound when heard in the audience.”

The world-class Diva shell, manufactured by Wenger Corp., is used in many halls throughout the world, including the venue of the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra where Prieto formerly was music director.

A capital campaign to obtain one began soon after he arrived in Huntsville. Donations are still being accepted toward the $265,000 cost.

“I can promise that our audience will enjoy new polish and clarity of sound,” said Prieto. “The new season will be one of discovery as the musicians and I explore the wondrous possibilities offered by our new shell.”

Prieto is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, Mexico’s most important orchestra, as well as the Orquestra Sinfónica de Minería and the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans, where he is one of those leading cultural renewal following Hurricane Katrina.

Along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, “Choral,” the program will include “Promenade Overture” by John Corigliano and the world premiere of “The Distant Beacon” concerto for flute and orchestra by Christopher Weiss, a student at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Prieto will conduct, and Loehrlein will be featured on flute.

At 6:45 p.m. Saturday, a free pre-concert conversation will be held in the Concert Hall.

Symphony tickets

Prices range from $27 to $66; students are half price, with $5 student rush tickets at 7:20 p.m. Reserve tickets by calling 539-4818 or order online at www.hso.org or purchase at the door an hour before the concerts.

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