CHADRON – When hundreds of regional high school musicians took to the stage in Chadron State College’s Memorial Hall Auditorium during the 45th Annual High Plains Band and Choir Festival they heard a new sound.
An acoustical shell, completed in late January will help the performers hear themselves and fellow musicians better. The inaugural event for the shell is the High Plains final concert Tuesday at 5 p.m.
The shell, which consists of two large, lighted ceiling panels and seven towers is the final component in a multi-phase project spanning several years, according to Blair Brennan, construction project coordinator.
“There are a lot of moving parts in this system,” said Brennan, referring to more than 25 lines sets used to lower and raise scenic backdrops, lights, curtains, projections screens in addition to the new acoustical ceiling panels.
Preliminary work to prepare the theatrical rigging system, known as a fly, included electrical upgrades, additional winches and counterbalance weights, according to Brennan.
Dr. Jim Margetts, dean of the School of Liberal Arts, said current plans are to use the modular and movable shell during acoustic or non-amplified instrumental and vocal performances.
“The basic principle in its design is to allow the musicians performing on stage to hear one another, providing better intonation and blend, and also to facilitate the distribution of more of the sound out into the auditorium space. Without the acoustical enclosure, much of the sound being produced by the musicians travels straight up into the rafters and never makes it out into the audience,” Margetts said.
Margetts said the design of the shell is ideal because it still allows the auditorium to function both as a theatre and as a concert stage.
“Once we establish the routine for assembling and disassembling the shell, it should be possible to accomplish the transformation in less than an hour. The enclosure consists of panels that can be configured in several combinations. For instance, there is an option to create a smaller stage for events with fewer musicians, like a piano recital.”
The initial planning for the acoustical shell began about five years ago, according to Margetts.
“Any project of this magnitude, as you can imagine, requires the collaboration and contribution of many individuals. I know that the music faculty is very appreciative of all of the assistance and support they have received from many administrators, professional staff members, and support staff members in seeing this project through to its completion,” he said.
Margetts thinks audience members will be surprised by the improved sound and also the visual appeal of the new acoustical enclosure.
“It really transforms the space in a way that should enhance many future performances. We can hardly wait to share it,” he said.
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