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Minn. Orchestra’s Final Rehearsals Before Return Performances

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After $52 million in renovations and a labor dispute that left it sitting largely empty for months, harmony has returned to Orchestra Hall.

The newly-improved concert hall is finally set to host the previously locked-out Minnesota Orchestra this weekend.

“It’s incredible to be back home and playing here for our home crowd for sure,” said principal trombonist Douglas Wright.

In their final rehearsals before their return performances, musicians are trying to move beyond a painful period. Many, like Tim Zavadil, had to find work with other orchestras around the country during the lockout.

“For 15 months we had no salary or no benefits,” he said, “so we needed to find a way to support our families.”

Wright and Zavadil said there will be mixed emotions when they take the stage again this weekend.

“Probably the most comforting thing for all of us is to just be together on stage playing great music,” Zavadil said.

For people in the audience, it will also be a chance to see what $52 million in renovations can get you.

“The lobby is about twice the size of the previous Orchestra Hall,” said Orchestra spokesperson Gwen Pappas. “You can see, there’s a vast amount of new space, expanded space.”

It’s a much more open lobby, with larger bar areas and restrooms, and impressive views of the Minneapolis skyline.

Inside the auditorium, the acoustics have been upgraded for musicians to hear themselves better on stage. There are about 300 fewer seats, to give everyone a little more space.

“The seats are larger, there’s more leg room between them,” Pappas said.

It’s a shiny new space that’s been sitting for months, waiting for the music to return.

“We the musicians are going to do everything we possibly can to make this place as successful as it can be,” Wright said.

Friday night’s performance is sold out, but there are still tickets available for Saturday night.

There’s a free public open house both days, starting at 6 p.m.

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