From Banking to Ballads – Historic Lancaster Trust Building Repositioned as Distinctive Setting for Elevating Humanity and Artistic Excellence

A century ago, no expense was spared to build the downtown headquarters of Lancaster’s largest bank. Finished in 1912, the vision of Lancaster’s leading architect, C. Emlen Urban, resulted in one of Central Pennsylvania’s most stunning buildings. The bank failed in 1932 and the structure remained vacant for 50 years until efforts were waged to revitalize it for the arts.

AD’s Senior Associate, Christopher Brooks played a part in this transformation beginning in1995 when he helped design a temporary drama theatre in the space for Actors’ Company of Lancaster. He recalled “The acoustic of this space was not suitable for theatre: it was far too “live” which made actor dialogue unclear and muddy.” He designed temporary sound-reflecting clouds and strategically placed sound-absorbing material around the main hall. As a result, every word of the Company’s premier “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was intelligible.

More recently, the building was purchased by Lancaster Bible College for use as their performing arts center (several other spaces in the building are also used for performance). Brooks was brought in to advise on the space’s anticipated use as a multi-purpose venue (for theater, music and dance) and develop an approach to adjusting the acoustics. He explained the importance of appropriate acoustics vs. great acoustics. “A room may be superb for one type of listening, and terrible for another. For certain types of performance (including choir and solo violin), the acoustics are heavenly. For others (piano, larger ensembles), less so: too muddy.” Brooks devised a strategy based on the Hall’s rectangular shape with curved, coffered ceiling and hard plaster surfaces to enable the room to be “tuned” for different uses. This plan is currently on hold.

Through these efforts, Brooks became well acquainted with the performance space and saw its potential in capturing artistry – particularly of his small musical ensemble. The ensemble, comprising violin, hand percussion, voice, and accordion recently recorded a CD album, kēnòr in the hall. kēnòr will be performing live at the Trust January 20th 2017.

 In this recording, one can hear the authenticity of the hall’s acoustics. The sound of each individual instrument can be heard, crystal clear, each in its location in audible space, enhanced by the room’s superb reverberance. The recording was achieved with careful micing and no electronic “tweaking” of the sound was required during post production. The CD is available on Amazon. The rich luscious sound is best listened to on good equipment, accompanied by the music-listening beverage of your choice.

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