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Assessing concert halls

EDITOR: This past week, I attended a Santa Rosa Symphony rehearsal/hall tuning at the Green Music Center and the final Wells Fargo Center concert. The concert was wonderful, but what I heard at the two halls begs many questions.

The Wells Fargo Center is known to have poor acoustics. The Green Center is touted as a paragon of acoustic design. Not necessarily so. Any instruments close to the rear wall of the Green Center's stage sound marvelous, yet the strings, especially the violins, sounded dull and distant. At Wells Fargo, the strings had a wonderful presence and bright sound. Flute soloist Jean Ferrandis projected his beautiful tone much more effectively at Wells Fargo. On the other hand, the bass tones there are muffled. I've talked to musicians who say they have trouble hearing one another at the Green Center — not a good characteristic.

The questions: Will the Green Center be a better venue than Wells Fargo, or just a different sounding one? Can the apparent imbalances in tone and brightness be resolved with tweaks, or will it require significant acoustic alterations at significant expense? The Green Center has already cost 2? times the original estimate. This premium was supposed to buy acoustic perfection. When will this perfection be realized? What will perfection eventually cost?

JIM LOTTER

Gualala


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