"Undoubtedly the most splendid, the most widely appreciated, the most significant event in the musical history of Detroit." — Detroit Journal on the October 23, 1919, opening of Orchestra Hall
The 2019-2020 Season was a yearlong celebration of the centennial of Orchestra Hall, the historic home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and one of the premier concert halls in the world. Thanks to a contractual demand from then DSO music director Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Orchestra Hall was announced, built, and opened all within the same year of 1919. News reports mention the demolition of the building which formerly stood in its place beginning April 1919, meaning that this magnificent hall was built in just six months.
Orchestra Hall was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, whose first Detroit theater was a five-and-ten-cent nickelodeon called The Crystal Theater in 1905. Over his remarkable five-decade career, Crane designed around 40 theaters in Michigan, showing movies, live theater, and music. The initial success of Orchestra Hall led to further prestigious commissions for Crane, including The Capitol Theater in 1922 (now the Detroit Opera House) and three of the five national Fox movie palaces, including Detroit’s own Fox Theatre, opened in 1928.
In the century since its opening, Orchestra Hall has represented Detroit’s rich cultural atmosphere, including a ten-year run as the Paradise Theatre from 1941 to 1951 when the greatest jazz and blues artists performed on its stage. Musical superstars like Sergei Rachmaninoff, Pablo Casals, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Itzhak Perlman, Kathleen Battle, Yo-Yo Ma, and countless others have played Orchestra Hall. But so have young students just beginning their musical journeys. So have community ensembles, church choirs, rock bands, and Chinese opera troupes. High school seniors walk for graduation here. Mayors and politicians stop by, sometimes to give speeches, but sometimes just to enjoy the music like everyone else.
As we recall Orchestra Hall’s first 100 years we eagerly look to the next. We envision this space as one where creativity and community can merge. And we invite you to join us in celebrating one of Detroit’s most exceptional landmarks.