The hall that built a sauna for musicians (updated)
August 31, 2011 by Norman Lebrecht
Ahead of tonight’s opening, I had a private backstage tour of Helsinki’s promising Music Centre, perhaps the most auspicious concert hall since Walt Disney in LA – and with the same acoustician. But more of that when I have heard it in action.
Yesterday, I got to see where the two resident orchestras get to hang their bows and bells. Being Finland, the musicians were asked what facilities they wanted backstage. The Helsinki Philharmonic put in for coffee machines and spartan, designer armchairs. The Finnish Radio Orchestra asked for saunas.
And got them. Separate ones, men and women, already in use after sound-test rehearsal by evidence of yesterday’s puddles on the floor.
These are strictly orchestra-only saunas. I guess they might allow an occasional soloist to squeeze onto a crowded bench if he or she asks really nicely. But no conductors. That’s the rule. Unless some musician gets an overwhelming urge post-concert to beat a maestro with birch twigs.
UPDATE: Paul Curran, outgoing artistic director of Norwegian Opera and Ballet, has messaged me to say his new house has backstage saunas, too. I guess they let singers in, disturbing the perfect peace.
LATEST: The conductor Jesper Nordin tweets that the radio hall in Copenhagen installed a sauna (below) for the use of Leif Segerstam when he became conductor. Helsinki, more democratic, has listened to its musicians.
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