One Season Under its Belt, The New Baldwin is a Resounding Success

Baldwin Auditorium reopened this past fall after a two-year, $15-million renovation funded by the Duke Endowment. In the year since, it has proved to be a beautiful place to hear music, both acoustically and visually.

In his remarks at the hall’s gala re-dedication on September 14, 2013, President Brodhead said that the most tactful description he could muster of the hall in its former incarnation was “profoundly suboptimal.” Looking out on the transformed space, with beautifully restored Georgian columns nestled in warm wood paneling, he continued, “It mades me so happy that instead of refurbishing Baldwin, we have actually created a whole new Baldin. We have created the great music hall inside this building that goes with its always beautiful and graceful outside. We’ve created the great musical space that never was, that now is, and that always will be as a result of the work we celebrate here.”

Soon after Brodhead spoke, the hall was christened with the pellucid opening notes of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, played by a chamber orchestra of music faculty. Over the course of the year, the Music Department presented three more special concerts to celebrate the hall’s transformation. The series was brought to a close with the titanic finale of Beethoven’s Ninth, a piece that showcased not only the superior acoustics of the hall but also the greatly expanded stage, which can now accomodate a full orchestra surrounded by a massed choir. It was a grand musical spectacle befitting a grand concert space.

Soon after the opening gala the renovated hall hosted another celebration, this one marking 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University. The main event that evening was the premier of Enlightened Souls, a composition by jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs, commissioned by Duke Performances for the occasion. Childs’ six-piece jazz ensemble plus the Ying Quartet and the supreme vocalist Diane Reeves brought the lyrical, thoughtful composition to life.

Baldwin is now a primary venue for Duke Performances, a world-class hall where world-class pianists and chamber ensembles can be heard and appreciated in all their nuance. An impressive lineup of renowned soloists and ensembles took its stage this year. Many of them played to sellout crowds, including The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Imani Winds, and King’s Singers; pianists Yuja Wang, Emanuel Ax, and Chick Corea; and the Tetzlaff, Emerson, Ariel, Ébène, Kronos, and Pavel Haas string quartets.

Baldwin also resumed its day-to-day service as the primary rehearsal and performance space for the Music Department’s large ensembles. Their debut in the new hall was during parent’s weekend. The Jazz Ensemble and Djembe Ensemble played on Friday night with trumpeter Willie Murillo and vocalist Becky Martin as guests. The Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Wind Ensemble followed on Saturday with a diverse selection of music covering many centuries, including pieces by faculty composers Scott Lindroth and Stephen Jaffe.

There was great fanfare when the hall reopened. It can now be declared a resounding success and a great asset to the community.