Steamboat Springs Almost out of sight behind a wall of snow, work is progressing steadily on Strings in the Mountains Music Festival's new performance pavilion at the intersection of Pine Grove and Mount Werner roads.
This winter's unusually heavy snow bumped the construction timetable a couple of weeks behind, Strings Operations and Non-classical Programming Director Betse Grassby said Wednesday. However, she remains confident the new facility will open on time in late June. The building has been dried in all month, and the interior was a hive of activity this week with crews from general contractor TCD.
The building rose this winter over the exact same concrete risers that served as the seating base in the old Strings performing arts tent. However, the new stage is twice as big as the old one.
The question that will pop into the minds of people entering the new $3 million-plus concert facility is likely to be, "How did they make the seats so close to the stage?"
If the stage looks startlingly close from the rear seats, Strings patrons should take their first opportunity to stand at center stage and grasp the intimate view the artists will have of individual members of their audience.
Strings President and Executive Director Kay Clagett said the perception that the new stage is closer to the stage is partly illusion.
"The taller roof changes your perception and makes the horizontal plane look closer," Clagett said. "And the roof seems to float above the audience."
The new ceiling melds artistic design and functionality. The building is designed by Spearhead Timberworks of British Columbia in consultation with Bill Rangitsch of Steamboat Architectural Associates.
The ceiling style is called a bowstring truss. At the same time the engineering supports the roof, it also evokes the neck, bridge and even the strings of an instrument.
The new stage is big enough to host a 45-piece orchestra, something Strings will do for the first time ever in August with a performance devoted to the works of Beethoven. It features an extension that puts a concert grand in the lap of the first row.
"The proscenium is perfect. The piano is going to be right there," Clagett said.
Visiting artists may be as excited by the backstage area as the performance stage. In addition to proper dressing rooms, there are green rooms and a practice/assembly area where ensembles can tune their instruments behind a soundproof wall. The area is big enough to accommodate two grand pianos.
The new Strings performance pavilion also will offer many less-glamorous advantages that will benefit artists, organizers and audiences. They begin with the availability of both air conditioning and heat.
Many Strings regulars may worry that the new permanent concert hall will sacrifice the open feeling the old tent offered. But the huge glass doors wrapping the seating area telescope to open wider than the tent flaps ever did. Even better, they were designed with acoustic glass that frames views of Mount Werner to the east and Emerald Mountain to the west.
When the weather is fine, the doors will slide open.
Both Clagett and Grassby are pleased to note that more than 500 people have donated to their capital campaign.
"I can't tell you how many $25 gifts we've received," Clagett said. "It's incredibly broad-based. We know the community has high expectations of us."