By Molly Denver
This past weekend marked an exciting event in my family. My sister-in-law, Stacy, sang at Carnegie Hall with the Monmouth Civic Chorus. They performed Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.
Sitting in the great hall, I could not help closing my eyes and wishing I could be transported into the past. Amazingly, upon looking up information about Andrew Carnegie, the Hall barely made a blip on Wikipedia’s radar. He was so generous that Carnegie Hall is practically a footnote.
Carnegie Hall’s tale began not in New York City, but at sea in 1887, when Andrew Carnegie, on his honeymoon, found himself aboard a ship with Walter Damrosch, the conductor and musical director of the Symphony Society of New York and the Oratorio Society of New York. The two became friends and when Damrosch described his vision for a new concert hall, Carnegie offered a portion of his wealth to realize the dream.
After Andrew returned to New York, he set in motion the building of the Hall, enlisting William Burnet Tuthill, architect and violinist on the board of the Oratorio Society. Mr. Tuthill rose to the challenge and enlisted the aid of Richard Morris Hunt with assistance from Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. In May of 1890, Mrs. Carnegie cemented the cornerstone in place.
Completed in the spring of 1891, horse-drawn carriages lined up for a quarter mile to see performances directed by Damrosch and Tchaikovsky, the elite paying up to $2 for the privilege.
Two Dollars! Ah, the good old days. It wasn’t a desire for lower prices that sent my mind daydreaming to the past, (although I’d like that too!)…it was the acknowledgement of the institution and its historical significance…its tireless commitment to excellence and the arts…and the pride in my heart that a dear family member of mine is now forever a part of that important legacy.