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Kleinhans officials hope new, roomier seats enhance the concert-going experience

Kleinhans Music Hall will have 407 fewer seats this concert season, following the installation this summer of the first new seats since 1969.

Each blue-upholstered seat will be 3 inches wider – 22 inches – to give patrons added comfort.

The installation of the new seats in the home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is part of the music hall’s 75th anniversary celebration this year.

“People who have tried the new seats say they can feel the difference,” said Daniel Hart, the BPO’s executive director.

It’s all part of “repairing and revitalizing the space to make it more audience-friendly,” Hart said.

The number of seats in the orchestra and balcony will drop from 2,839 – that was 35 more than Carnegie Hall – to 2,432.

Although the seating capacity is being reduced, just one row in the orchestra will be lost. That will provide more leg room in the first 10 rows.

Installation is 80 percent complete. All of the seats are expected to be installed by Sept. 4, less than two weeks before the Sept. 16 start of the new season.

Because the house is not usually sold out for performances, the fewer seats will enhance comfort while presenting a fuller auditorium.

The new seats have wooden, metal frames and curved, rather than rectangular, armrests, and are being installed on the same metal rail system as the 47-year-old seats that are being replaced.

There also will be custom-made handrails in the balcony, made to look like aluminum from the 1940s, Hart said.

Ted Lownie, Kleinhans’ architectural consultant, paid close attention to the original seat specifications and materials of Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen. The building was the first collaboration between the father and son – a significance not lost on architectural historians.

A former storage room off the mezzanine is being converted into an exhibition space to celebrate the history of Kleinhans and the BPO, and for use by researchers. Space also is being freed to install a portable sound board in the right-center section of the orchestra, about two-thirds of the way back, for pop concerts.

“We’re just trying to make things a little bit better for the next 75 years,” Hart said. “But it’s a testament to this building that it has withstood the test of time very well.”

Other recent improvements to the National Historic Landmark – acclaimed for both its architecture and acoustics – include a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, expansion of the women’s lavatory downstairs, repairs to woodwork, updates to the electrical system and installation of cost-efficient lighting.

The John R. Oishei Foundation, Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and M&T Bank provided the major funding to replace the seats. The City of Buffalo, which owns the building, and the state have paid for most of the other renovations.

The concert hall – with a reflecting pool that wraps around the eastern end of the building facing Symphony Circle at Porter and Richmond avenues – opened on Oct. 12, 1940. It cost $1.3 million to build.


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