chandler’s open house

It’s official: Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph is ready for business again as of today’s community open house, only 15 months after the first ceremonial spade of dirt was turned on the historic building’s major renovation project.

The thing is, though, Chandler never closed. Not even when the building lost heat in the heart of subzero overnight winter temperatures last February, causing the piano to throw a tuning tantrum on the day Simone Dinnerstein and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble were scheduled to perform.

Programs at Chandler also continued as usual through this spring and summer, when the planned expansion in the rear of the building became an UNplanned major-scale engineering feat to build a retaining wall, create a switchback driveway, and add drainage pathways to the street below.

The result of all this volunteer labor, generous community contributions and hard work is nearly 6,000 additional square feet of space, a new elevator that provides access to every floor, greener operations (in the lights, insulation, and water systems) and many other improvements for the 1907 building.

I arrived at the open house just as the party was getting started around 10 this morning. There were already music groups playing on all three floors and several tours were underway, guided by volunteers who I recognized from their dual roles as ushers from my many past visits to the music hall. As I came down the stairs just off the lobby I was especially curious to see the downstairs hallway. I recalled the drywall, plastic sheeting and dusty plaster that decorated the hallway last winter, when that space housed the reception following Simone Dinnerstein’s concert. That evening Chandler’s Board President Janet Watton reassured everyone about the progress that was being made on the renovations, and promised a spiffy new space when it was done. She was right! The handsome gray slate floors, silver fixtures and soft lighting completely transformed the hallway into an elegant transitional space. Walking further along, I encountered the new ‘green room’ kitchenette, the spacious new guest restrooms, and the impressive storage rooms afforded by the expansion.

Backstage – that is, the immediate backstage – remains as it ever was, with heavy black velvet curtains hanging at the periphery of the stage along with the usual assortment of gear and equipment. The backstage behind the immediate backstage is all new, another product of the expansion. The house piano looked comfortable in its new, dedicated temperature and humidity-controlled storage space and ample, light-filled dressing rooms with large mountain view windows make the vision complete. Not bad!

Chandler’s 2010/2011 performance season officially opens this coming Friday, October 1st with the bluegrass duet Tim O’Brien and Brian Sutton. The next night, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s “Made in Vermont” tour makes a stop there, and then the season will be well underway.

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