Good Vibes: From Storeroom to Concert Showplace
By Glenda Rice Collins, Arts Columnist
Published August 31, 2015, For GlendaRiceCollins.com
BARTLESVILLE, Okla., USA — Picture a concert hall in a ‘shoebox,’ and you may have some idea of the acoustical challenges for David E. Marsh, FASA, in relation to converting a narrow, rectangular-shaped storeroom into a gracious, acoustically-sound concert venue — on a ‘shoestring’ budget.
Such was the challenge for Marsh, the president of MARSH/PMK International, LLC, a Richardson, Texas-based firm that specializes in consulting and project management related to acoustics considerations, plus audio/video and “extra low voltage” ELV systems solutions, worldwide.
Globally familiar with acoustics challenges, Marsh was contacted by Ambler Architects of Bartlesville, Oklahoma about two years ago, to address the needs of OK MOZART (OKM), a non-profit, international music festival organization, currently based in a donated office building formerly owned by the Lewis Ambler family.
Currently celebrating 31 years of annual OKM music festivals, the home office is located near the ‘main street’ of this historically, Phillips Petroleum Company headquarters- influenced community. Bartlesville claims, for its historic architectural-centerpiece jewel, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, where the Ambler Architects firm is located. (Read more about David E. Marsh, OKM and the Price Tower Arts Center in new articles coming soon to this website).
Ambler Hall Celebration
As patrons settled into their seats for Friday night’s “sold-out” inaugural chamber concert, featuring Tulsa’s Midwest Trio, in the newly repurposed OKM home-office space, Ambler Hall awakened to a new life and a new name, in honor of three generations of Ambler family patrons and supporters.
Named after Lewis Ambler, in recognition for his generous gift of the three-story Aurora Building at 415 Dewey Avenue, to the OK Mozart International Festival organization in 1988, Ambler Hall now represents Bartlesville’s newest acoustic concert venue and meeting facility, and the support of three generations of Amblers.
The significant contributions of architect Scott Ambler and Ambler Architects, include the donation of his professional time and expertise to the redesign of a challenging space for acoustics and musical entertainment. According to OKM executive director, Randy Thompson, “It was Scott’s getting in touch with what I had in mind that really nailed the vision…and Scott could pick the right things to get done, if not everything could get done” within budget constraints…And Chris Ambler has agreed to help with the ongoing operations when the space is rented for special events.”
According to international acoustics consultant David Marsh, “Necessity became the mother of invention,” when cost factors ruled out many of the expensive “off the shelf” sound diffusers originally recommended. “Joey Evans, at Ambler Architects, modeled it in 3D…and then (we) got creative with bricks” for the functional side-wall bricks patterns, which evolve into different, variable patterns on each side of the room. Jim Hamlin, Ambler Architects construction administration project manager, served as Ambler Hall construction project manager.
For overhead diffusers, or “acoustic clouds” in the performance area. the use of drywall material, cut to fit, played a part. And for the rear of the audience space, which is actually the front of the office building, Marsh incorporated a built-up design to surround a large, tilted window, to allow for sound balance at the rear of the seating area, which accommodates some 100 persons. This window design, plus three nearby “off the shelf” sound diffusers, prevent disturbing echoes.
David E. Marsh
“A shoebox room is very desirable for un-amplified musical performances. You get strong lateral reflections, not possible in a fan-shaped room, where sound can become an echo,” says Marsh, whose Oklahoma acoustics projects have included: the University of Oklahoma Meacham Auditorium renovation, and an OU experimental theater, the Tulsa Community College 1500-seat VanTrease PACE theater, the Rose State College Communications Complex performance hall; the Bartlesville High School Fine Arts Center, and the Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa — among dozens more.
Marsh’s international project reach extends from Australia to Dubai and beyond.
On With the Show
Marsh purposefully chose to seat himself near the back of the Ambler Hall audience seating area Friday evening, in order to give the acoustics a personal ‘ear test,’ near the rear, as The Midwest Trio performed music ranging from dances for a set of three orchestral suites, Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, recreated for the modern orchestra over time, and later transformed for cello, piano and harp by harpist Dewey Owens — to tango music originated in Buenos Aires, Carlos Gardel’s Por Una Cabeza Tango, with trio arrangement by Midwest Trio.
The Midwest Trio
Among Oklahoma’s finest musicians, University of Tulsa violin instructor Maureen O’Boyle, who is concertmaster for Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College, joined with Lorelei Kaiser Barton, the principal harpist with Signature Symphony and Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra; along with cellist and composer Pete Peterson, a veteran performer with Gettysburg Symphony, Tulsa Philharmonic, Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Ballet and the TCC Signature Symphony. With polished presence, the trio brought auditory delights throughout the evening program, with somewhat stereophonic sound incorporated within the acoustic space.
“Imagine how big (the sound) is…compared to the size of the instrument,” (such as a solo violin), says Marsh. “The compact group (the trio) seemed to be 20 feet wide!” — due to the lateral sound reflection. Of the brick wall patterns, left and right, says Marsh “you have no repeating patterns.”
To sum up the acoustics achievement, Marsh says, of the entire ‘shoebox’ space:
Overhead: The reflectors (or acoustic clouds) contribute to uniform sound, front to back
Side walls: Variable brick patterns reflect and scatter sound, somewhat like stereo, where we hear differently in each ear — widens the whole experience — “makes it more broad”
Rear: Tilted window design “kicks back the sound,” plus three rear diffusers aid in preventing echoes
According to OKM executive director Randy Thompson, the Ambler Hall reclamation project was financed for less than $200,000, with major funding provided by the Ted and Melody Lyon Foundation, and assisted by the Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority. Bravo to all!
The Ambler Hall inaugural program featured a formal dedication to the Ambler family ‘up front,’ and champagne toasting, post performance, under the grand sparkling chandelier. near the hall’s entrance.
Program notes about the music define Johannes Snoer’s Preghiera (Prayer), Op. 35, as “the only piece on the program composed specifically for our trio instrumentation.” The musical prayer was followed by Faure’s serenely sumptuous Pavane, Opus 50, Claude Debussy’s expressive Children’s Corner Suite selections, Arthur Foote’s “At Dusk,” and the Aria (Cantilena) from the Heitor Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brazileiras No. 5, with trio arrangement by Midwest Trio.
With Ambler Hall formerly referred to as the ground-level storeroom, Marsh now chooses to define his acoustics consultancy here as a “reclamation” success, based on his own analytical ears, the enthusiastic response from the three veteran musicians, and the “surround sound” enhanced audience experience, tested from a rear row seat, during the concert. For OKM leaders, the inauguration concert represents a decades-long dream fulfilled, with a line-up of musically diverse in-house concerts and events to celebrate onward.
Up Next at Ambler Hall: Lennie Baker
September 26, 7 p.m.
Soft rock favorites, plus country and blues, could lead to dancing in the aisles, and an overflow crowd, when locals follow the “Godfather of the Bartlesville music scene” to any venue — sure to sell-out. Tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Visit okmozart.com or call 918.335.9800.
Photos courtesy of David E. Marsh
The OK Mozart Ambler Hall audience is shown enjoying the acoustically balanced concert sounds of violin, harp, and cello — echo-free — during the hall’s “sold-out” inaugural concert Friday, featuring the Tulsa-based, The Midwest Trio at Bartlesville, Oklahoma’s new OKM performance venue, seating 100 attendees.
# # #Glenda Rice Collins 8-31-15 All rights reserved.