AN INSIDER’S VIEW OF ALICE TULLY TRANSFORMATION

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The now-open box office of Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall is surrounded by the grinding of saws, shouts from construction workers and insistent hammering. But by Feb. 22, the only noise coming from lobby will be the hum of music, the buzz of patrons and the soft thud of velvet ropes being placed by performance utility person Larry Hall.

“I am waiting for opening night,” Hall said. “I know it will be a fine evening.”

During the 16 years that he has worked here, Hall, who says he’s in his 50s, has been setting up tables and velvet ropes and generally making sure that everything is just right in Alice Tully Hall’s public spaces. The job has also allowed him to enjoy performances from Lawrence Feldman and Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach), one of his old classmates from the New York College of Music. He has watched dress rehearsals, met musicians and even run into one of his favorite singers, Diahann Carroll, while she waited to go on stage.

Alice Tully Hall before renovations. Photo By: Larry Hall

Alice Tully Hall before renovations. Photo By: Larry Hall

Hall’s bushy salt-and-pepper mustache and large glasses make him easy to recognize. Working all over the city, he had been a freelance percussionist for 42 years. But as the need for musicians lagged, he decided the best way to be around music was to work somewhere people were playing it. He started ushering for Alice Tully Hall in 1992, just five years after he moved from his birthplace in The Bronx to the Upper East Side, where he lives with his wife, Nadira.

As Hall played less music, he got into photography, a hobby he has dabbled in since he was 12. Over the past decade, he trained himself to use various cameras. Taking his favorite, a little black Canon Power Shot, Hall documented the two-year makeover of Alice Tully Hall.

Built in 1969 by architects Pietro Bellushi and Eduardo Catalano, Alice Tully Hall stands on the triangular piece of land on West 65th Street and Broadway. Up until today’s construction, the building remained a dull block of concrete—a stark contrast to the modern architecture and grand structures around it.

The firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, working off the original building, conceived a looming entrance with a façade almost entirely of glass. Instead of the old, small steel letters secured onto the side of a gray wall, today the building proudly states “Alice Tully Hall” in bold, white lettering painted on the front of the space.

From gutted rooms to the ripped-apart exterior walls, Hall’s photos show this historic transformation. One of his favorite shots reveals the sky reflected in the finished glass panels of the dance studio.

Larry Hall, a trained percussionist, took a job at Lincoln Center so he could continue working around music. Photo By: Linnea Covington
Larry Hall, a trained percussionist, took a job at Lincoln Center so he could continue working around music. Photo By: Linnea Covington

Hall’s photographs also offer a glimpse of Alice Tully Hall’s past. There are pictures of the ruby red stalls in the old bathrooms, the simple lobby with its bluish carpet and small red clothed tables and the ripped up shells of rooms. Another photo captures the upstairs woman’s bathroom, which had intricate wallpaper featuring what looked like lions and giraffes. Hall said everybody loved the wallpaper, but he’s not sure if there are any remnants.

He’s still waiting for the official unveiling before offering an opinion on the renovations.

“The new design is very challenging,” Hall said. “I know there’s a meaning there, but it’s not complete.”

“But,” he added in reference to one of the other grand buildings at Lincoln Center, “I think its reputation might overtake the Metropolitan’s.”

Despite the massive makeover, Hall doesn’t expect any major changes in his job.
“After all,” he said, “the seating capacity is only four more seats then it used to be. But I might have to walk a little more.”

That he will, as the new outer lobby is almost 10 times bigger than the old one, and the inner lobby boasts a new 4,200-square-foot donor room on the mezzanine. Overall, the renovations have increased the space by almost 25,000 square feet.

Alice Tully while work was underway. Photo By: Larry Hall

Alice Tully while work was underway. Photo By: Larry Hall

Tickets are still available for the two-week “Opening Nights Festival,” which kicks off on Feb. 22 and features performances by viola da gamba player Jordi Savall, pianist Leon Fleisher, soprano Montserrat Figueras, the Emerson String Quartet and the Juilliard Orchestra. All seats are priced at $25. For more information, call 212-721-6500.

Hall, of course, will be there, putting up ropes, making sure everything is set up properly while happily listening to the music.

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