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100 Things - See the BPO at Kleinhans Music Hall

Don’t be shy. Applauding the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall, go ahead and shout a big “Bravo.”

Shout it out not just for the musicians, but for Edward Kleinhans, the Buffalo men’s clothing king who, in 1934, bequeathed most of the money to build this place.

What a gift it is.

Just looking at Kleinhans Music Hall, ringed by its beautifully restored reflecting pool, you feel a thrill. And a sneaky feeling that this place is grander than we deserve. It’s a little like the glow that we got climbing to the top of Buffalo City Hall, a recent stop on our list of 100 things every Western New Yorker should do at least once. But Kleinhans has a unique elegance.

The hall is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. And yet it never grows old. Designed by the Finnish father-and-son team Eliel and Eero Saarinen (who edge out the Scajaquada as Western New York’s keenest spelling challenge), it looks simultaneously classic and modern. Its design and acoustics are the envy of the world.

Choose a concert. Walk in. Revel in your surroundings.

Western New Yorkers do not tend to check our coats. But do notice the coat check as you walk past it. Notice the counter’s graceful curves. Also admire the gracefully symmetrical staircases. It has been said that there are no straight lines in Kleinhans Music Hall, that the hall is completely curves.

Gawk at the five sets of sky-high doors to the Mary Seaton Room, the smaller hall named for Kleinhans’ wife and used for chamber music. The doors are 22 feet high and over 8 feet wide. Smaller details are equally fascinating. The custom-designed chairs and couches still look fresh and modern. The water fountains, too, were fashioned expressly for Kleinhans. And no men’s room or women’s room – please, how gauche. Instead, lighted signs indicate the “Men’s Lounge” and “Powder Room.”

It’s time for a toast. The streamlined bar, on the lower level, in keeping with the hall’s sleek spirit. Up on the balcony, you’ll find another bar, and a shop with gifts for the music nerd on your list.

As you relax by the balcony, ponder a mystery: How did the Saarinens sense Buffalonians’ intrinsic need to look around for people we know? The Kleinhans balcony, with its low railing, allows you to scan the crowd below with unbeatable efficiency. It is one of the best places in Buffalo to see and be seen.

Ding! Ding! The bells are ringing. The number of chimes is the number of minutes you have to find your seat. Ushers will help you.

The seats are new this season. Sit back and enjoy. Admire the discreet lighting, the soft glow of the wood. Kleinhans’ fine woodwork is a tribute to Buffalo’s Arts and Crafts traditions.

Picture the legends who appeared on the stage – pianist Serge Rachmaninoff, violinist Jascha Heifetz, contralto Marian Anderson. Absorb the age-old traditions: the musicians in their formal wear, the concertmaster tuning the orchestra to the clear A of the oboe. Thrill to the moment when the conductor appears. If it’s JoAnn Falletta, it is perfectly normal to refer to her at intermission as JoAnn. This is your hall and your orchestra.

Then sit back and savor the Sibelius. Kleinhans Music Hall allows you to do that. Your iPhone is off. The world is shut out.

There is nowhere you have to be – but here.


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