Clear as a Beall

UO's premier concert venuue due for acoustic upgrades

June 15, 2015—Designed by the architectural firm Lawrence & Holford and completed in 1924, Beall Concert Hall is the grande dame of music venues for the city of Eugene, not to mention the University of Oregon. After nearly a century of continuous use, it’s safe to say that many thousands of music students, faculty performers, and revered guest artists have performed in Beall’s intimate 520-seat house.
Even divas need a bit of coaching now and then to keep a beautiful voice sounding clear, and our beloved Beall is no exception. Thanks to a generous gift by supporters Phyllis, BEd ’56, and Andrew Berwick, BBA ’55, Beall Concert Hall is getting the attention she deserves.
The hall is acclaimed for its acoustics, but when a large ensemble performs, the hall’s small stage and high ceilings can sometimes produce a jarring acoustic effect, according to a report by Kirkegaard Associates, a Chicago-based acoustician firm.
Audiences for large, powerhouse ensembles including the Oregon Wind Ensemble, University Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Jazz Ensemble, and UO Gospel Singers find themselves practically blasted from their seats by the robust sound, which has been described as harsh, cutting, and muddy.
A 2013 report by Kirkegaard Associates identified four recommendations for changes to Beall that will improve the acoustics. Partnering with Rowell Brokaw Architects of Eugene, the School of Music and Dance’s facilities staff has already implemented one of these, the installation of new sound-diffusing fabric treatments on the upstage walls.
The Berwicks’ generous $425,000 donation will help the SOMD achieve the three remaining priorities to produce a richer, fuller, more modulated sound:
  • Installation of a velour curtain to close off the hall’s Jürgen Ahrend pipe organ when it is not in use (work begins summer 2015)
  • The addition of movable, retractable, sound-absorbing banners on the stage’s side walls (work begins summer 2015)
  • Replace the inverted Plexiglas pyramids of the ceiling’s “sound cloud” with four curved canvas sound reflectors (anticipated summer 2016)
Generations of student performers have given the hall a storied history. Beall Concert Hall has given us much; it’s time to return the favor.