There was jazz, played in a meeting room on the ground floor. There was opera, and a song from West Side Story, belted out upstairs by singers from Cincinnati Opera. In all an appropriate abundance of music prevailed May 21 at Memorial Hall, on a night marking the last time music will be heard there for a while. The 600-seat venue, Music Hall’s quirky little sister alongside Washington Park, is undergoing $7.8 million in renovations.
At a fundraiser sponsored by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the public was given a chance to raise the roof one more time before the curtain comes down until next spring. A panel discussion emceed by Enquirer reporter Sharon Coolidge described details of the project. Lead architect John Senhauser detailed the work ahead. The infrastructure–plumbing, heating, air conditioning—will all be overhauled; a seven-foot addition will extend the rear of the building, giving it a backstage area it sorely could use; the stage extended. Sara Bedinghaus, senior development officer at Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, reminded the 90 or so folks present how change had been brought to Washington Park, and now was on the way to the 115 year-old Hall.
As Senhauser spoke, an illustration of the work ahead filled the hall. A torrent of sirens from emergency vehicles racing past momentarily drowned out his words; he held up his hands and then made gentle note of the venue’s challenging acoustics (Memorial Hall was built as a venue for speakers). More than one speaker noted the “resonant” nature of the room, whose challenging acoustics can direct a tunnel of sound right at you. “We are doing what we can to attend to [the acoustics],” he assured the crowd.