CINCINNATI -- On any given day for the last year and a half, 200 to 300 workers swarmed over Music Hall.
They ripped out walls only to put them up again. They took Springer Auditorium right down to the dirt.
They unearthed treasures such as the leaded windows of Corbett Tower as well as unexpected problems.
"Every time you opened a wall, it was like, 'Ugh, I have to fix that now,' " said Jeff Martin, vice president of project management for 3CDC, which managed the $143 million renovation.
The project, funded with public and private money and involving dozens of organizations and consultants, was the largest 3CDC has undertaken, Martin said. And because the 139-year-old building is so iconic, everyone had opinions about what a renovated Music Hall would look like.
"It's such a majestic place, there was concern," Martin said. "But as we've brought people through during the process, it's been an overwhelmingly positive response."
You'll have a chance Oct. 7, during a free community celebration, to see Music Hall for yourself. In the meantime, here are nine things to know when Music Hall reopens.
Rolling opening weekends
Although Music Hall officially reopens Oct. 6, a series of opening weekends will highlight the five performing arts organizations that call the historic building home.
The orchestra is up first with concerts on Oct. 6 and 7, and these performances weren't included in any CSO subscription pass. Everyone has an equal opportunity to snag a seat for the program, designed to show off the "sonic splendor" of Springer Auditorium.
Cincinnati Pops returns to Music Hall Oct. 13-15 with the music of John Williams. (Yes, that includes "Star Wars.")
Oct. 21 and 22 brings Cincinnati Opera back to Springer with Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," while the Cincinnati Ballet returns Oct. 26-29 with "Romeo and Juliet."
Finally, on Nov. 4 and 5, the May Festival will perform a program called "The Storm That Built Music Hall." Here's the story behind the name: Reuben Springer decided to raise money to build Music Hall after a storm pounded on the tin roof of Saengerhalle and drowned out the voices of the 1875 May Festival Chorus. Our modern May Festival singers will perform music from that fateful season.
The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall will resume its normal tour schedule Nov. 1. But you can sign up for a Behind the Bricks outdoor tour at 10 a.m. Oct. 7 that will give you details on the art, architecture, history and construction of the building.
Free for all
Presented by ArtsWave, the Re(NEW)ed Celebration opens Music Hall to everyone for free tours and performances. The event is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 7, and during that time, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati will offer tours of their respective new and renovated buildings. Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Art Museum and the Contemporary Arts Center also will have free admission for this celebration of the arts.
Let there be light
One of the goals of the renovation of Music Hall was to better connect the fortress-like building to Washington Park and the surrounding community. Heavy doors into the lobby were replaced with glass ones and windows, giving people a clear view into the park, and vice versa. Windows into the carriageway -- covered up when carriages stopped arriving at Music Hall -- are open again and let natural light stream onto the sweeping staircases. Hidden under a dropped ceiling, tall windows topped with leaded starburst rosettes were unearthed in Corbett Tower.
In daylight, Music Hall feels sun-dappled and airy, and at night, globe sconces around the lobby ceiling and another dozen torchieres on tall pillars on the balcony will bathe the room in warm light.
Where did the chandeliers go?
The large chandeliers that used to hang in Music Hall weren't original to the building. Still, the iconic chandeliers survived the renovation -- they have just moved to a different spot. Find them in Corbett Tower, home to special events and the CSO chamber players series.
During the renovation, workers removed the dropped ceiling in Corbett Tower to reveal an extra 14 feet of wall and windows -- the room faces Washington Park -- and a beautifully stenciled but faded ceiling. Thanks to the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, the stencils were fully restored, and the cleaned chandeliers shine underneath them.
Meanwhile, the massive crystal chandelier in Springer Auditorium remains unchanged, but sparkles and twinkles more than ever thanks to a thorough cleaning.
There are plenty of powder rooms
The renovation increased Music Hall's restroom capacity by 62 percent. Women's restroom fixtures went from 44 to 68; men's from 33 to 52; and family restrooms doubled to four. There also are more hooks and shelves in each bathroom and stall, as well as changing tables.
"We spent a lot of time thinking of all the little details," Martin said.
Behind the scenes, the orchestra's locker rooms were changed, too, to accommodate the increase in female orchestra players since Music Hall was built. (The CSO has 29 regular female members.)
Contract to expand
Springer Auditorium lost 1,000 seats. The reconfiguration, which still accommodates roughly 2,500 people, means more room in each seat. You've got an extra couple inches in your seat and 2-3 inches more leg room between each aisle. The boxes also are more open, no longer cloaked in curtains.
Meanwhile, there's an extra 10 to 12 feet on the stage, which allows, for instance, the orchestra to move out fully in front of the proscenium, projecting the music directly into the audience.
The whole effect makes the auditorium feel more intimate and less cavernous.
Lounging in the lobby
Sleek modern bars sit in corners of the lobby, as well as on the balcony and gallery levels. In the lobby, a lounge space will be decked out with comfortable furniture and screens that will live-stream performances, so if you come late to a show, you won't miss a single note.
Historic character, 21st-century technology
Because historic tax credits helped to pay for the renovation, Music Hall's "character-defining features" had to remain. Detail work -- carved mouldings, ceiling murals, piers down hallways -- all had to be restored, and the new carpet and paint colors were chosen to be true to the era when Music Hall was built. The detail work in Springer Auditorium, for instance, is no longer a bright, flashy mid-century gold but a muted, bronzier gold tone.
Underneath the historic details, the renovation put in place a layer of 21st-century infrastructure. Speakers are hidden throughout the lobby and auditorium, and wiring allows for performances to be live-streamed.
Acoustic clouds, last replaced in the 1990s, float above the stage and were positioned and tested by a battery of consultants and experts. The orchestra came in September to play in the auditorium and were happy with the sound, said Meghan Berneking, CSO director of communications.
Combined box office, more accessibility
A new box office at street level offers tickets for performances from any of the five resident companies. If you've bought your tickets in advance or online, you'll still enter up the steps through the wide front doors into the lobby. But guests with disabilities can use the street-level entrance near the box office and find themselves right next to two new elevators that will deliver them to any level of the building.
1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine
Performances: 8 p.m. Oct. 6-7; tickets: $14-$120
Re(NEW)ed Celebration open house: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 7. Free admission.