The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Greensboro, North Carolina is now the home to the largest Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system in the United States. The center’s events will be supported by world-class audience amenities and advanced technologies, including variable acoustical environments tailored for each performance. The project was both boldly ambitious and fiscally conservative. It was ambitious in that the $90 million facility would incorporate the latest technologies for acoustical and staging flexibility, allowing the venue to serve as a concert hall for symphony performances and opera as well as an auditorium for spoken word events and a road house for touring shows from rock concerts to Broadway musicals. It was conservative, however, in that the cost was substantially less than what would be needed to build two separate venues.
“I knew from the outset that the economics would be driven by selling out touring shows, which is why we set 3,000 as our minimum capacity and designed our staging to accommodate tours well into the future,” states Matt Brown, who as managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum Complex now also carries responsibility for the Tanger Center. “Yet following the demolition of the old War Memorial Auditorium, the Greensboro Symphony was in need of a new home. Our goal was to provide an optimum environment for both types of performances without compromising either.”
The challenge was handed to the acoustical consultants for the project, Arup of New York, with acoustical design at various stages guided by Matthew Mahon, Christopher Darland and Ed Arenius. Arup’s recommendation was to design the hall with relatively dry physical acoustics to accommodate spoken word and amplified music with electroacoustic enhancement added as required for most other musical events.
“The symphony would have preferred a 1,600-seat symphonic concert hall, but Guilford College’s Bryan Series and Broadway series were selling double that number,” recalls Brown, “so we needed to acoustically accommodate both. That led to a thorough education on electroacoustic technology culminating in the selection of a Constellation system.”
Also involved early in the process was Cliff Miller, president of SE Systems, eventually selected as the AV systems integrator. Although brought on board primarily to consult on road house requirements, Miller also helped connect key people in Greensboro to the Meyer Sound team in Berkeley.
“To a great extent, the choice of Constellation was driven by a push from Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the music director of the symphony,” recalls Miller. “He visited Meyer Sound in Berkeley to hear Constellation early on when other systems were still under consideration. He also consulted with other conductors familiar with the technology before tilting strongly toward Constellation.”
Not only did Sitkovetsky hear Constellation in the audience at Meyer Sound’s Pearson Theatre, he also sat in with a string quartet, playing his Stradivarius violin. In addition, he had previously noted the acoustical improvements at Moscow’s Svetlanov Hall following installation of Constellation there. Also traveling to Berkeley to audition Constellation was Tom Philion, president and CEO of ArtsGreensboro.
The Constellation system as installed by SE Systems comprises a total of 205 small full-range loudspeakers mounted laterally and overhead. Eight different models were deployed, both full-range and subwoofers, all incorporating Meyer Sound’s exclusive IntelligentDC for self-powered systems with simplified cabling requirements. For ambient acoustical sensing, 57 miniature condenser microphones are arrayed throughout the hall, feeding signals to the 18-module D‑Mitri® digital audio platform. Five of the modules are D-VRAS processors hosting the patented Virtual Room Acoustic System algorithm. Installation project manager for SE Systems was Sam Trexler.
The Tanger Center schedule for 2021 and beyond features the Greensboro Symphony subscription series highlighting concerts with Kenny G and Sting. Also on tap is the inaugural Broadway season with Wicked, The Lion King, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical. Speakers for the Bryan Series include actress Sally Field and former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
“The acoustical toolset we have in Constellation as applied in a 3,000-seat setting affords economic advantages that I believe will be a model for all future performing arts venues of this type, not just here in the United States, but around the world,” summarizes Matt Brown.
It was a disappointment to the arts community in Greensboro, North Carolina when COVID-19 forced cancellation of grand opening festivities for the new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts only days before the scheduled event. The multi-day celebrations in March 2020 were to include performances by, among others, Josh Groban, Tony Bennett and Jay Leno. A new opening date has not yet been set.