When Kleinhans Music Hall opened 75 years ago Monday, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra struck up an orchestral arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, some Beethoven and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1.
“That was the opening night concert, but it was actually a three-day affair,” said Lauren Becker, curator of the Music Hall’s new Archive Room.
The following day featured many of Buffalo’s choral societies, while the third day highlighted Kleinhans as a lecture hall. Journalist Dorothy Thompson used her soapbox to urge the U.S. to aid Great Britain in World War II, which the U.S. would enter a little over a year later, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Opened on Oct. 12, 1940, Kleinhans Music Hall was designed by the Finnish father-and-son team Eliel and Eero Saarinen, along with architects F.J. and W.A. Kidd.
Seventy-five years later, it is recognized worldwide for its superior acoustics and bracing, timeless design.
Count among its admirers William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who was the featured guest at a 75th anniversary gala celebration Monday night. Adams grew up in suburban Detroit among the art campuses of Cranbrook, which also contains the Saarinens’ work.
“I feel pretty at home here,” Adams told The Buffalo News. “The aesthetic is something that I know and admire a great deal. It’s a real jewel for the city and it’s great that it’s been restored and taken care of in the way that it has.”
Kleinhans was renovated this year to include new carpet and seats. The Archive Room, which opened last week, lets concertgoers browse through photos, documents and artistic renderings that illustrate the hall’s rich history.
“I admire the cultural community and I admire the support that it obviously has,” Adams said. “I see it as a real asset in this rebirth of the city and I think it will have tremendous consequence as that process continues.”