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Source of Carnegie Hall Complaints Discovered: Concrete Under Stage

MARY CAMPBELLSeptember 14, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ For nine years, the people who run Carnegie Hall insisted there was nothing wrong with the acoustics at the famed concert hall.

Wednesday, they sang a different tune

This summer, a layer of concrete, apparently left over from a major renovation job in 1986, was discovered under the stage. The concrete was ripped out and a new floor was installed that administrators say should improve acoustics.

Since the renovation, musicians and critics have complained about the acoustics, saying the sound the hall was world famous for wasn’t the same, that the bass had become washed out and the higher instruments harsh.

Executive Director Judith Arron said Wednesday she had been assured there was no concrete under the stage since arriving at the hall in 1986.

But the tongue-in-groove maple stage floor, which usually lasts 20 years, had warped so badly after just nine years, it was difficult to push a piano across it.

The hall closed for repairs after three Frank Sinatra tribute concerts the last week in July. ``As we tore the whole floor up,″ Arron said, ``we learned we had a lot more hard substance than we had anticipated.″

She speculated the concrete was added to reinforce the stage while scaffolding was on it during the 1986 renovation and then simply left there in workers’ haste to finish.

The concrete had been placed under two layers of plywood, on which the maple stage floor rests.

``Concrete retains moisture,″ Arron said. ``As the moisture collected in the concrete, it went into the plywood, which expands with moisture and pushed up the floor.″

Jim Nomikos, the hall’s director of operations, compared the removal of hundreds of pounds of concrete to ``an archeological dig.″

Nomikos said the floor is now constructed the way it was from Carnegie Hall’s opening in 1891 until 1986.

``In my opinion we’re not reconstructing the floor. We just restored it,″ he said. ``I think what we have now is a floor that will have some resonance, as opposed to a floor that was dead.″

The project cost $180,000.

Aaron said there are no plans to sue anybody for the way the floor was laid in 1986. ``We’ve been focused on doing the job right,″ she said. ``We think this is going to be great.″

The new floor will meet its first test Sept. 26, when the Philadelphia Orchestra plays. The hall’s official gala opening for its 105th season will be Oct. 5 by the Boston Symphony.

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