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Saving and Restoring Orchestra Hall

Once an acoustical legend, Orchestra Hall fell into disrepair after the Paradise Theatre closed.  By 1970, the building was slowly but surely becoming a ruin—peeling paint, cracked and crumbling plaster, rotting carpet and draperies.  Few gave much hope that the hall could be saved.  When word came that this once venerable concert hall was headed for the wrecking ball so the lot could be used for a new department store, local citizens led by former DSO bassoonist (and current Trustee) Paul Ganson rallied to save the great concert hall. Following a series of marches and sidewalk benefit performances, musicians and friends of the DSO succeeded in saving Orchestra Hall from demolition.

The task of saving Orchestra Hall was anything but an overnight success.  With months of work, millions of dollars and the help of hundreds of skilled crafts persons, the hall underwent a major restoration and renovation. The replacement of decorative plasterwork required the reproduction of hundreds of delicate designs in many sizes, some of which, while appearing the same in all respects were actually configured differently for the left and right sides of the Hall. Additionally, the building’s exquisite architectural details and decorative painting were replicated.

Old photos and historical documents were studied and C. Howard Crane’s original notes and sketches were consulted in an effort to maintain the building’s integrity. Finally after 20 years of restoration, the expense of $6.8 million and thousands of donated hours, the DSO triumphantly moved back into its historic home in 1989.  On opening night, Yo-Yo Ma joined the DSO in front of a sold-out crowd.  

One year later, the DSO back in its home, acclaimed and jovial Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi began a fifteen year partnership with the orchestra. Maestro Järvi and the DSO made more than 40 recordings in their fifteen years together, embarked on multiple tours to Europe and Asia, and garnered acclaim from packed audiences and critics worldwide.