I had heard about the impeccable acoustics at the $30 million Wentz Concert Hall, which opened a little more than a year ago in downtown Naperville. The sound in the 605-seat theatre has been compared to New York's Carnegie Hall.
You can hear a pin drop.
I was at Wentz for the first time on Sunday to celebrate my Mother's 88th birthday. We were in the balcony to see the Du Page Symphony Orchestra's "Winter Dreams" program.
Not long after a group of children joined the symphony to play percussion on "Up on the House Top," "Jingle Bells" and others, an elderly man collapsed on the main floor. The symphony was between songs. We were in the balcony.
I could hear the "thud" of the man hitting the floor from our seats.........
Now, those are great acoustics.
(He apparently is okay, I asked a staff member about his welfare and she told me he had a diabetic episode). Bonnie Klee Roberts, Music Director and Conductor of the Naperville Men's Glee Club stopped the show. She actually did the "Is there a doctor in the house?" routine which was sort of exciting for me.
I've seen a few dozen shows at the dangerous Aragon Brawlroom and I've never heard an on-stage page for a doctor in the house. Actually, an orchestra member jumped from his seat and raced to the aisle to attend to the striken patron.
The sound from the balcony was better if you stood up from your seat. Glass partitions muffled the acoustics when sitting down, although when I stood up I noticed the balcony does not project over main floor seating. This opens up the sound for those sitting on the main floor. The concert hall is filled with dark brown acoustical panels.
The acoustics were designed by the Talaske Group, acoustical consultants for the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. The 13,000-square foot concert hall was built by North Central College. The hall is on the downtown edge of the campus. Wentz Hall is named after Dr. Myron Wentz, a scientist and music fan who provided the lead gift for the center. He is a 1963 graduate of North Central.
During the first Tchaikovsky half of the show I had ample time to daydream about the acts I would like to see at Wentz Hall. John Prine for sure. (Back in the day I saw Steve Goodman and Jethro Burns at North Central's Pfeiffer Hall down the street from the Wentz Center). Jack Johnson. Maybe the legendary Cuban group Sepeto Nacional, who played last month at the off-the-beaten path Alhambra Palace restaurant in Chicago. Mavis Staples.
And George Wendt.
These are some of the more unique shows booked for 2010 at the Wentz: Harlem Gospel Choir (Feb. 10) Take 6 (Feb. 20), Chick Corea and Gary Burton Duets (April 10). And unlike a night out at a Chicago concert venue, parking is free. Wentz Hall is at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Ellsworth Street.
Also thanks to reader Jeff Schum, a fellow '73 graduate of Naperville Central High School. Jeff writes from Dallas, Tx. that when we were growing up in Napeville our homeless population included "Gus" and "Joe" in addition to my friend "Pickles."