Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Chosen Spot 3: Weill Hall

The Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, a new 1,400 seat concert space modeled after Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall, is opening at Sonoma State University this September 29th with a concert by the pianist Lang Lang. He is a friend of the donor Mr. Weill, who among other positions, is Chairman of the Board at Carnegie Hall while wife Joan has a similar position with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre.

The all-wooden concert hall is visually and sonically stunning, with its wooden lattice work reminding me of the Luther Burbank Gardens and the local Arts and Crafts Movement in Northern California. There are very few buildings I walk into that feel holy, but this was instantly one of them. (The San Francisco Opera House is another, while Davies Hall is not, and if we're going to be making these kinds of comparisons, San Francisco's Old First Church on Van Ness feels holy while the Unitarian Church on Franklin Street does not.)

The hall is going to be the Santa Rosa Symphony's new home base, student groups will be using it for a variety of purposes, and the San Francisco Symphony has promised four concerts during next year's season. There is also supposed to be some synergy between Carnegie Hall through Weill's connections and the music curriculum at Sonoma State, and who knows how that will work out?

Most exciting is the prospect of the San Francisco Symphony possibly changing its Summer in the City Pops concerts, which are subsidized by taxpayers through the San Francisco Arts Commission, and engaging in a real summer music festival such as the Boston Symphony does every summer in the country in Tanglewood. The back of Weill Hall opens to the air, and there are concerts planned to include an additional 2,000 people on the adjoining lawn seating. After nearly forty years in the summer fog in San Francisco, I long for a sunny place to hang out nearby in nature while listening to music, and this would be a perfect opportunity.

There could be buses to take freezing city people into the warm country summer, with different neighborhoods and affinity groups having their own afternoons and evenings. In fact, if any of these pipe dreams come true, I promise to charter a bus so all the cool people can get lubricated and enjoy themselves and argue with each other about music, with a pickup and dropoff at Davies Hall.


John Marcher said...

That is really a gorgeous hall. But what happened to your previous comment comparing its funder to Bernie Madoff and implying he should be in prison?

Civic Center said...

Dear John Marcher: I edited the sentence out this morning because it was poorly written. As for Mr. Weill's similarities to Bernard Madoff, they should be obvious to anyone who's paying attention.

I also thought of writing a comparison between Luther Burbank and Weill, one known for serious accomplishments that benefit the world and the other an amasser of capital who likes to have his name slapped on edifices, but decided that should be obvious too.

John Marcher said...

Good decisions. It's almost too bad you don't live in LA- Eli Broad needs someone like you on his ass. If you do rent that bus I hope you'll save a space on it for a poor reprobate like myself.

AphotoAday said...

Oh lord, reading your description of entering a holy place reminded me of an opportunity I had the other day to walk inside the base of a huge old growth Redwood tree at Samuel P. Taylor State Park. The Patriarch tree is HUGE but fire has hollowed it's base. Holy, in the true sense of the word, and I don't even believe in a traditional god.

So, it's a long walk getting there and I don't get there often, but next time, in your honor, dear Mike, I'm going to take my little instrument--a recorder I found years ago at Roy's Redwoods--along with me next time and perform a little concert just for the birds and squirrels. I only know one actual song--"In the Still of the Night", and it's only the first 14 notes, but I always get a big kick out of it. Maybe I'll start working on a special tune, just for the Patriarch Redwood, and the ring of her children that surround her, sprouted from her roots. Amen.

Civic Center said...

Dear Donald: