Woolsey Hall is the primary auditorium at Yale University. Woolsey Hall, which seats 2,695 people, was built as part of a complex, including the Memorial Rotunda and the University Commons, for the Yale bicentennial celebration in 1901. The architects were Carrère and Hastings, designers of the New York Public Library.
The ornately decorated hall is home to the Newberry Memorial Organ, one of the most renowned orchestral organs in North America. This hall serves as the main performance venue for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Bands, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia, the Yale Glee Club, and many smaller, student-run ensembles such as a cappella singing groups.
Woolsey Hall's murals represent the ideal of a classical education and include images on the nine muses and the goddess Athena. They reflect the age when Yale was an all-male college. The Hall is entered via the Memorial Rotunda, a vestibule containing memorials to sons of Yale who lost their lives in all American wars from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War.
The hall's lack of draperies, carpeting and upholstered seats all contribute to its acoustics for organ performance, though the acoustics work far more in favor of the organ than for other sounds. Woolsey Hall predates any major studies within the field of acoustics, so aside from its large size, rectangular shape, hard surfaces and high vaulted ceiling, it has no peculiar architectural properties that contribute positively to its sound. Some student musicians at Yale[who?], especially choral singers, resent Woolsey's muddy resonance, which easily obscures text and delicate timbres, and can also make it difficult to hear oneself on stage. Though Yale University's primary recital hall, it still lacks modern amenities including: universal accessibility for people with disabilities, air conditioning, and industry-standard lighting.
One seat on the first balcony was reputedly made extra large to accommodate Yale's ultimate "big man on campus," trustee and alumnus William Howard Taft.
The Bicentennial Buildings, of which Woolsey Hall is a part, sit on Hewitt Quadrangle.
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