Top: the new space is ideal for recitals, and the acoustics are excellent.
Above: This drawing of Dudley Birder, used on Music Theatre souvenirs, is the work of Chris Ayers ’97.
New music hall opens in
Music has recently breathed new life into a historic site at St. Norbert.
On Feb. 14, the college will officially unveil Dudley Birder Hall, a transformation of the former St. Boniface Church at the corner of Grant and Fourth streets. The day’s events include a formal dedication ceremony at 12 noon with a celebratory luncheon to follow.
The $1.7 million donor-supported renovation has created a performance space designed especially for musical use, including rehearsals, recitals and chamber concerts.
“The sound quality is seriously perfect for small events,” says Sarah Parks (Music), who had the chance to rehearse her choir in the hall as the customized acoustics were being tested.
Double-paned windows and special shades have been added to better dampen external noise, and ceiling clouds were installed to help resolve resonance issues.
Other enhancements have been made or are in the works. They include adjustments to the stage flooring, installation of a projection system, and the addition of a digital soundboard and new lighting.
“The house lights and all the production lights for the stage are 100 percent LED,” says Paul Mashl (Theatre Facilities). “They are highly energy efficient.”
The new hall seats about 200, with plenty of room to adjust to the performance at hand. The movable seating can be arranged to feel like a concert hall or, Parks notes, the flexible space creates the potential to host theatrical performances, film screenings, guest speakers and other campus events.
“This is really exciting from all angles,” she says. “We look forward to this being a great performance environment for our campus.”
While the improvements have transformed St. Boniface into a state-of-the-art musical venue and multipurpose facility, much of the building’s historic feel remains.
“You will see the bones of that church there,” says Mashl. “We tried to preserve as much of it as possible and only did the things that we had to do to make it a performance space. When you walk into that building you still feel what that building was, you still recognize it for what it was and what it is, and the college worked very hard to maintain that connection to its history.”
Dudley Birder, the hall’s namesake, joined the St. Norbert music faculty in 1958. During his tenure he founded and directed the Chamber Singers and the Swinging Knights, while serving as the artistic director of the college’s Music Theatre. Since retiring from his academic duties in 1993, he has continued to direct Music Theatre and the Dudley Birder Chorale, which will rehearse in the new facility.
With event planning and scheduling already well under way, it won’t be long before the building is filled with music once again. To see the events already scheduled in Birder Hall, visit the Box Office website.