One of my favorite college professors argued that it’s difficult to find anyone willing to listen to an entire piece of music. Really listen. Every piece tells a story – sometimes about its composer, and other times about something much larger, like a city. For 81 years, Kleinhans Music Hall has hosted countless performances like this that, collectively, help contribute to Buffalo’s rich history in the performing arts. So, when I had the opportunity to take in a show, I went for it.
The visit didn’t come without a couple of questions. Who’s performing? What composers are featured? And who’s Kleinhan?*
(* – After checking the latter, I confirmed that Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans were instrumental in the Hall’s construction, designating close to one million dollars in their estate’s wishes “to erect a suitable music hall…for the use, enjoyment and benefit of the people of the City of Buffalo.” Good idea.)
From the onset, I found a few reasons why a night a Kleinhans has an ageless quality, appropriate for anyone.
Home to the acclaimed Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) since 1940, Kleinhans has hosted performances across classic and contemporary composers (from Mozart to Mussorgsky), and now also explores fusion with modern day artists like Stewart Copeland. But the modern flair doesn’t compromise its grandeur. There’s plenty to take in – from tasteful twentieth century architecture, to the main stage centerpiece that serves as an impressive backdrop for the room’s rich acoustics. It’s a contrast to the more stately architecture of Boston’s Symphony Hall or New York City’s Carnegie Hall, but no less impressive.
For music wonks who can’t get enough, every ticket comes with the opportunity to attend Musically Speaking – an intimate 30-minute conservation with conductor, guest artist(s) and orchestra musicians about the evening’s program.
If that’s not your thing, I still recommend arriving early to hear the warm hum of orchestra tune-ups – a sound etched in the classical soundtrack of our minds that will get you tuned in (pun intended). When the lights dim, attention to detail shifts to the performance. Every section – woodwinds, strings, percussion, and more – is superbly audible from the front row to the back balcony. On this night, the BPO was conducted by Music Director JoAnn Falletta who has led the orchestra to Grammy award-winning, international recognition for more than 20 years. The night reflected on the BPO’s versatility and polish. Combine this with incredibly reasonable cost of admission (ticket prices start at $39), and it’s an easy decision.
The Full Experience
A night at Kleinhans doesn’t have to start or end with the performance. After the final curtain call, there are a few options within a short drive – or a slightly longer walk. For a more highbrow excuse to socialize, Left Bank, The Place or Providence Social can provide a great nightcap. More ambitious social seekers can also head out to one of many nightspots along the Allentown Amble.
But whatever your preference, a night at Kleinhans is about taking part in one of Buffalo’s treasured cultural traditions. Descriptions and recommendations serve their purpose. But in the end, you just need to go and listen for yourself.