Theater upgrades at CCM earn bravos

Corbett Auditorium getting new seats, stage floor and carpeting. Photo courtesy of CCM

I decided to go to UC’s College-Conservatory of Music last night to see what kinds of renovation upgrades the arts and media school got for $15 million.

After hearing a vibrant performance of the CCM Wind Orchestra and Wind Ensemble in Corbett Auditorium — the official unveiling of the redo — here’s the verdict: The new seats are more comfortable, the new carpeting is attractive, sight lines are great and Corbett’s wonderful ambiance and fine acoustics have been carefully preserved.

Launched in spring of 2016, the $15 million project has benefited all of CCM’s performance venues, including Patricia Corbett Theater (which has newly refurbished seats and new HVAC systems), Cohen Family Studio Theater, Werner Recital Hall and Watson Hall.

Corbett Auditorium, though, has the most extensive updates. They include an all-new stage floor, a new main curtain and valence and new LED house lights. You’ll also find new ADA seating locations and a new assisted listening system.

With slightly larger seats (20 to 22 inches wide) and more leg room, the auditorium has lost a few seats, with capacity now around 669, says Ray Dobson, senior director of performance operations.

Corbett now has comfortable, slightly larger seats and more leg room.

Behind the scenes, state-of-the-art upgrades won’t be immediately apparent to audiences, but will offer students the chance to work with the latest in theater technology.

“It was a big leap for us, but now we’re able to give students a solid foundation in what’s out there in new technology,” Dobson said during a pre-concert tour.

For instance, stage rigging to bring in scenery, previously done manually, is now completely computerized. Lighting and other theater controls are also computerized. Soon, new audio and video systems will be installed, allowing performances to be live-streamed.

And the new computerized technology is interchangeable between theaters, Dobson says.

The wind department concert offered an excellent test of the acoustics. The wide-ranging concert by the Wind Orchestra under Terence Milligan and the Wind Ensemble under Kevin Michael Holzman and guest conductor Ann Porter ranged from Gustav Holst’s lovely First Suite of 1911 to John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” with both ensembles.

For me, it was a treat to hear new CCM voice faculty member Quinn Patrick Ankrum, a lyric mezzo-soprano, in Steve Danyew’s Alcott Songs, a work of 2014. A song cycle accompanied by eight wind players and a string bass, this was a wonderful discovery. Ankrum captured the mood of each verse with humor and wonderful character, and every word was absolutely clear. The final lullaby was given an air of nostalgia. I can’t wait to hear her sing again.

Of course, the students played remarkably well. You can experience the renovated Corbett Auditorium tonight at the CCM Jazz Holiday Extravaganza or take in the CCM Mainstage Dance: The Art of Motion in the equally-lovely Patricia Corbett Theater tomorrow night through Sunday and CCM’s Feast of Carols in Corbett his weekend in the annual Feast of Carols ,Dec. 2 and 3 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day.







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