Right before the first performance after the $53 million renovation to the Civic Center Music Hall during the original MAPS, the lights came down. But so did the air conditioning and the sound system, because a lightning strike killed the power.
Kirk Humphreys, who then was mayor of Oklahoma City, suggested headline performers Jimmy Webb and Michael Feinstein try an a cappella performance, and if nothing else, it would be a test of the new acoustics at the renovated, cozier main theater.
“They went out there with two grand pianos and no amplification, no microphones for their voices, and played a concert,” Humphreys recalled last week. “Some people will tell you it was the best concert they'd ever been to. My wife leaned over and said, ‘This is special. This is romantic.' In the back row on the balconies, you could hear every note. Every word.”
The Civic Center Music Hall celebrates the 75th anniversary of its opening this year. Humphreys and former Mayor Ron Norick say it's a shining example of the city's renaissance and evidence the region's cultural gems should be lovingly polished and refurbished.
In the years before the MAPS renovation, the Civic Center was criticized as aging and outdated. It failed to attract significant performances.
Architects got to work on the refurbishing plans and decided to shrink the size of the main auditorium to create a more intimate venue.
The result was better acoustics, along with state-of-the-art amenities, and a soaring, five-story atrium to greet patrons where the rear of the auditorium used to be.
Clear sightlines in the atrium help create a buzz on performance nights, building Event Manager Richard Charnay said.
“My favorite is when there's something in all four venues we have,” Charnay said. “You can see everyone moving around, the people coming and going. You can feel it. The building really comes alive.”