Orchestra Hall centennial: Celebrate 100th anniversary of DSO's home with special programming, a new commemorative book, and more

- October 4–6: DSO’s Opening Weekend restages first powerhouse program from 1919

- Just announced: free October 23 concert—A Century of Pops—on date of Orchestra Hall’s grand opening in 1919

- New book—Destiny: 100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community at Orchestra Hall in Detroit—by former Free Press music critic Mark Stryker to be published by the DSO this fall

- Six-episode webseries on Orchestra Hall from Detroit Public Television released online throughout the fall with TV airing of full special in December

- DSO partners with Detroit Historical Society and Museum for exhibitions throughout the season 

- Learn more about the centennial at dso.org/centennial

Detroit, (September 10, 2019) – The 2019–2020 season marks the centennial year of Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, the historic concert hall with perfect acoustics within Midtown Detroit’s Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center that serves as the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO).

Throughout the 2019-2020 season, the DSO will celebrate Orchestra Hall’s 100th anniversary with special programming and events, a commemorative book written by former Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker, a documentary series produced by Detroit Public Television, a two-site exhibition created in collaboration with the Detroit Historical Society and Museum, and more.

Today the DSO also announced a free concert at Orchestra Hall on Wednesday, October 23 to mark the concert hall’s 100th birthday. (The hall’s grand opening took place on October 23, 1919.) The program, titled A Century of Pops, includes repertoire from the DSO’s first popular concert program in Orchestra Hall as well as Broadway and film favorites, a tribute to Duke Ellington, and music by John Williams. Leslie B. Dunner will conduct and Assistant Principal Cello Abraham Feder (Dorothy and Herbert Graebner Chair) and mezzo-soprano Danielle Wright will be the featured soloists.

General admission tickets are free of charge and available now. To reserve tickets, please visit dso.org, call (313) 576-5111, or visit the DSO Box Office (3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit).

See below to read more about initiatives and events related to the Orchestra Hall centennial.

In addition to these events, the DSO is partnering with Detroit Public Television to produce “Orchestra Hall—A Centennial Celebration,” a series of six webisodes that will serialize the story of Orchestra Hall. These will be released weekly across DPTV’s broadcast and social media platforms, including WRCJ 90.9 FM, beginning in October 2019 to coincide with the DSO’s centennial celebration. The webisodes will culminate in a television event featuring the full documentary to air in December 2019. View the trailer for the series here.

The DSO will also partner with the Detroit Historical Society to present a joint exhibition on Orchestra Hall at both the Detroit Historical Museum and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center. More details on this collaboration will be announced in the coming weeks.

About the Orchestra Hall Centennial

Built for the DSO at the request of then-music director Ossip Gabrilowitsch during the summer of 1919, Orchestra Hall was designed by noted theater architect C. Howard Crane (who also designed the Fox Theatre and Detroit Opera House) and is renowned for its historic beauty and perfect acoustics. After the hall’s opening on October 23, 1919, the DSO entered a twenty-year golden age, which included its Carnegie Hall debut, its first records for RCA Victor, and making history as the first orchestra to perform a live radio broadcast concert, on February 10, 1922, from Orchestra Hall. 

When the DSO left for the larger Masonic Auditorium in 1939, Orchestra Hall took on a new life as the Paradise Theatre from 1941–1951, serving as Detroit’s premier venue for jazz, blues, and R&B. The hall was then long-dormant and nearly demolished in 1970 to make way for a fast-food burger chain, before a group of musicians and civic leaders rallied to save it from the wrecking ball and raise money to restore it over the course of 20 years. The DSO returned to a refurbished Orchestra Hall in 1989.

Leadership support for the Orchestra Hall centennial is provided by Ann and James B. Nicholson, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Motor Company Fund, the Honorable Avern Cohn and Lois Cohn, Bernard and Eleanor Robertson, and Varnum LLP. The DSO also thanks all members of the Centennial Club who contributed to the centennial season. Please call (313) 576-5114 or email friends@dso.org for more information about how to join the Centennial Club.


Orchestra Hall Centennial: Events, Initiatives, and Activities


Commemorative Book

This fall, the DSO will publish Destiny: 100 Years of Music, Magic, and Community at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, a 152-page lavishly illustrated book tracing the remarkable history of one of the world’s premier concert halls and home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Written by former Detroit Free Press music critic and arts reporter Mark Stryker, Destiny takes readers behind the scenes of the building of the hall in 1919 and the DSO’s first Golden Age under music director Ossip Gabrilowitsch. The story continues with the years 1941–1951, when the hall was renamed the Paradise Theatre and became a major destination for the country’s top jazz artists. The book then chronicles the fight by musicians and civic supporters to save Orchestra Hall from demolition in 1970, followed by the 20-year restoration of Orchestra Hall and the triumphant return of the DSO to its historic home in 1989. Finally, the book details the creation of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in 2003 and the present day activities within the expanded footprint of The Max. Along the way, the book explores the magic of Orchestra Hall’s acoustics, sheds light on little-known corners of the building’s history, and shows how Detroit, Orchestra Hall, and the DSO all share the same destiny.

Destiny will be available for purchase beginning October 4, during opening weekend of the 2019-2020 Classical Series. For advance digital review copies, please email Matt Carlson, DSO Director of Communications, at mcarlson@dso.org.

September 14: Centenary Sound Lab

Listen and explore at a Detroit Month of Design / Orchestra Hall sound laboratory where you’ll meet engineers who have helped to shape the acoustics of the hall and music-makers who are affecting the cultural landscape of Detroit. Science, history, and the arts will intersect for a conversation around the topics: What makes the sound of Orchestra Hall so appealing? Why is it important for communities to save and restore historic buildings for cultural enrichment? And, why is it important to present “new music” in “old spaces?”

See the sound of Orchestra Hall in real time with demonstrations by HEAD acoustics via their HEAD VISOR sound visualization device. Stay after for cocktails and conversation, or check out the adjacent Strange Beautiful Music festival, featuring New Music Detroit.

Panelists will include Russ Cooper, President and lead acoustic designer at Jaffe Holden; Wade Bray, Vice President at HEAD acoustics; Paul Ganson, retired assistant principal bassoonist of the DSO who led the Save Orchestra Hall campaign; Kaylan Waterman, Operations Manager at Assemble Sound; and Úna O’Riordan, cellist with the DSO (Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin Chair) and New Music Detroit. Mark Stryker will moderate.

This event is an official part of the Detroit Month of Design 2019 program which takes place September 1-30, 2019. Programmed by Design Core Detroit, Detroit Month of Design is a citywide celebration of creativity that gathers designers and the greater community to celebrate Detroit’s role as a UNESCO City of Design.

This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Learn more and make a reservation by clicking here.

October 4–6: Opening Weekend

The DSO launches its 2019–2020 season, October 4–6, with a program restaging the powerhouse Orchestra Hall opening concert from 1919. Michael Francis conducts Weber’s Overture to Oberon, Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto in E-flat Major with pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton, Bach’s Triple Piano Concerto in C Major with the Naughtons and pianist David Fung, and Beethoven’s immortal Symphony No. 5.

The concert on Sunday, October 6 at 3 p.m. will be webcast for free at dso.org/live and via Facebook Live as part of the DSO’s groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall series. The series is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Classical Series is generously sponsored by PVS Chemicals, Inc. Opening Weekend is sponsored by Varnum LLP.

Throughout the year, the DSO will perform other major works presented during the orchestra’s first 1919–1920 season at Orchestra Hall, including Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “The Great;” Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique; and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”

October 23: A Century of Pops

The DSO will celebrate Orchestra Hall’s 100th birthday with a free concert on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m., 100 years to the day that the concert hall first opened its doors. Titled A Century of Pops, the concert will feature the DSO performing selections from the first DSO pops program in Orchestra Hall, plus other great pops music from the past 100 years. The program includes music by Max Bruch, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, and more! Leslie B. Dunner conducts, with soloists Abraham Feder (Assistant Principal Cello; Dorothy and Herbert Graebner Chair) and Danielle Wright (mezzo-soprano).

This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Learn more and make a reservation by clicking here.

A Century of Pops will be webcast for free at dso.org/live and via Facebook Live as part of the Live from Orchestra Hall series. The series is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A Century of Pops is sponsored by Varnum LLP.

20th Anniversary Paradise Jazz Series

The 2019-2020 season also marks the 20th anniversary of the Paradise Jazz Series, which was inaugurated by the DSO in 1999 to honor Orchestra Hall’s ten-year history as the Paradise Theatre, and the DSO remains one of few major orchestras to present a jazz series on its main stage.

The 2019-2020 Paradise Jazz Series kicks off with a performance by the Branford Marsalis Quartet (September 21). Orchestra Hall centennial-related programs on the Paradise Jazz Series will include:

  • The Duke Ellington Orchestra (December 6) — Relive the swinging days of the Paradise. Duke Ellington and his Orchestra headlined a week-long engagement just four weeks after the official opening of the Paradise Theatre, ushering in a decade of performances by jazz legends. The Duke Ellington Orchestra—the only ensemble directly carrying on the tradition from Duke himself—returns to the Orchestra Hall stage to perform celebrated classics.
  • The Music of Louis Armstrong (January 24)Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra was the first act ever to grace the stage of the Paradise Theatre on December 26, 1941. Bassist Rodney Whitaker, who performed on the inaugural Paradise Jazz Series concert in 1999, leads a top-notch ensemble to pay homage to Armstrong. Whitaker will be joined by trumpeter Marcus Printup, pianist Eric Reed, drummer Herlin Riley, saxophonist Victor Goines, trombonist Vincent Gardener, and vocalists Rockelle Fortin and Chris McDole.
  • Paradise Jazz Series @ 20 with Terence Blanchard (May 2) — Blanchard, the Oscar-nominated composer and trumpeter who serves as the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair at the DSO, will lead an all-star band featuring artists who have performed on the series over the past 20 years to celebrate the decades of world-class jazz on the Orchestra Hall stage.

Other Paradise Jazz Series performers in the new season include Dianne Reeves, Charles Lloyd, Gerald Clayton, and more. Learn more about the entire series at dso.org/jazz.

The Paradise Jazz Series is made possible with support from MGM Grand Detroit.

November 2: Young People’s Family Concert — The Ghost of Orchestra Hall

On the Young People’s Family Concert Series, a special program designed for children ages six and up tells the story of Orchestra Hall’s friendly resident ghost, Ossip Gabrilowitsch. The Ghost of Orchestra Hall is conducted by Chelsea Gallo and features the DSO, actor Éva-Sarai Vesprini, and pianist Gavin George. Purchase tickets by clicking here, and visit dso.org/family to learn more about the DSO’s family offerings.

March 6–7: Classical Roots

For the 42nd Annual Classical Roots Celebration (March 6–7), the DSO has commissioned a new work from composer Nkeiru Okoye as part of the Orchestra Hall centennial. Okoye’s work Black Bottom—inspired by the historic African-American neighborhood of the same name—will receive its world premiere by the DSO at this season’s Classical Roots concerts conducted by Thomas Wilkins.

Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were hubs of African-American life and culture in the early and mid-20th century, but both were razed during the 1960s to make way for highway and other urban construction projects. Okoye’s new work brings this history to life through music. During Orchestra Hall’s Paradise Theatre years, much of the culture of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley played out onstage at the Paradise.

Further details about this year’s Classical Roots Celebration will be announced at a later date.

About the DSO

The most accessible orchestra on the planet, the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the institution. Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who recently concluded an acclaimed decade-long tenure at the helm, now serves as the DSO’s Music Director Laureate, endowed by the Kresge Foundation. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while the outstanding trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair. Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of America’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall will celebrate its centennial in 2019-2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings. A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a radio broadcast and continues today with the free Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.