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Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
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Cliburn’s performance 20 years ago among memories of Meyerson celebration

by Chris Shull / Star-Telegram (September 13, 2009)

DALLAS — Van Cliburn was a featured performer during grand opening concerts at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center 20 years ago.

He was captured on a video in concert with conductor Eduardo Mata in September 1989, part of a 20-minute video played Saturday night during a tribute to the building and its principal backers when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra celebrated the concert hall.

A black-tie gala at the Meyerson featured the orchestra playing Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio under its conductor, Jaap van Zweden.

The program also looked back at opening festivities with a set by pianist-conductor Marvin Hamlisch and crooner Johnny Mathis, who performed together to help inaugurate the hall 20 years ago.

Hamlisch is a born entertainer, at ease and funny.

Besides conducting the orchestra in show tunes — the Overture to Gypsy and a medley of songs by Jerome Kern — he played his own award-winning music. Hamlisch led hits from his musical A Chorus Line and played piano on The Way We Were, offering fun quips about his successes and near misses; he bemoaned that one of his songs lost an Academy Award to The Theme from Shaft.

Cliburn, named an honorary gala artist in the program, could not be present to accept the gratitude of the dressed-to-the-nines crowd because he was invited to Moscow to lead master classes under the auspices of the Rostropovich Foundation — an offer Cliburn couldn’t refuse.

But as Mathis launched into classic hits such as It’s Not for Me to Say and Chances Are, nostalgia settled over the hall. Mathis’ tenor was light and sweet, vibrating like a fine cello.

But the filmed reminiscences of Morton Meyerson, Margaret McDermott, Ross Perot and others recalled the hall’s construction that gave Dallas a landmark.

The project was challenged with financial difficulties but backed by strong personalities whose enthusiastic attitude carried the day.

The symphony center, in downtown Dallas, was designed by legendary architect I.M. Pei.

Saturday’s gala honored a concert hall named by van Zweden as one of the top in the world. With the Dallas Symphony still growing into its acoustics, its best years perhaps lay ahead.

Artec provided Design and Planning services covering Pre-Design Phase services, Auditorium Design, Facility Planning, Specialized Performance Equipment Systems Design, and Background Noise and Vibration Control consulting services for the center.


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