Friday, April 1, 2016

Wallace Sabine: A Tour of Symphony Hall, Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

My husband and I had a great time touring Symphony Hall despite our learning about the Wallace Clement Sabine Harvard-or-MIT Controversy. We had stood onstage briefly, visited the green room where the musicians hang out before performances and at intermissions, and then we were allowed to wander around the enormous basement. 

It felt familiar; it has much in common with the basement of the Museum of Fine Arts, where we both worked for many years. Both are maze-like, fluorescent-lit, grungy spaces full of dinged-up dollies and sturdy crates designed to hold precious objects. They both have the same exposed ceiling pipes, painted brick walls, and cement floors punctuated with rackety metal plates. Both have zero aesthetics, but they're interesting, powerful places all the same. Because they're essential to making the magic that happen upstairs.

Symphony Hall's backstage and basement have a little more humor, however:

A backstage door and staircase, with some historic signage.

A view from the stage. When our group was still  seated in the hall, as our
tour was starting, someone backstage accidentally killed the house lights and
couldn't turn them back on. So I have no photos of the hall and its racy statues. 
(Naturally, I wanted to march backstage to try and fix the light problem.)

The xylophone. I have seen images like this in my nightmares, where I'm 
onstage and expected to perform something I'm clueless about.

Our tour of about 30 explored the basement, while a chorus 
gathered in a rehearsal room and several schoolchildren had lessons and 
practiced wherever they found a spot. This would never happen at the MFA, where 
visitors are not allowed in the basement without a staff escort, security clearance, and so on. 
Husband and I were quietly appalled but it didn't stop us from enjoying the experience.

My kind of basement.

Harp cases.

I think these are for storing musicians. 

On a bulletin board, I got to see those plaster statues after all. 

This diagram and the one below look so old they could be from 1900,
when Symphony Hall opened. Nothing has changed after all.

The steam has finally stopped coming out of my ears and I'm contemplating my next move in settling the Wallace Clement Sabine Harvard-or-MIT Controversy. I think I might contact whoever is in charge of tours at Symphony Hall and offer to donate a copy of Professor Sabine's biography for use in guide-training. It seems they need one.

1 comment:

  1. Symphony Hall was a bucket list item for me when I visited Boston a few years ago. One of my friends works for the BSO and she gave me an abbreviated "backstage tour" and now I wish I had done the formal one!

    I kind of hate going on tours of something that I know really well. I previously worked at a historic house and when I would go on the docent-led tours with my parents or friends, the things that docents left out or brushed over drove me NUTS. I did not know of the Sabines connection with Symphony Hall - next time I am there I will look for the plaque! I do know about the legendary acoustics and the great care that is taken to protect them - to the point that they are even afraid to replace the stage floor as it might affect the sound.

    You should go more often. I would give my right arm to be able to see the BSO whenever I wanted. When I went to my first concert, I cried. Dream come true. But then again, I'm an orch dork so I may be slightly biased.


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