The flooding Cumberland River has caused terrible destruction in Nashville. The water is several feet high at the door of the Grand Ole Opry, and LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans, looks ready to stage mock sea battles. The Opryland Hotel looks ruined. (The Tennessean has a gallery of images on its website, though I couldn’t get it to work in Firefox.) Today I see that the Schermerhorn Symphony Center has been added to the list of damaged buildings. This is a pity, because of all the recent concert halls built in the United States, the Schermerhorn is one of the few I find aesthetically appealing. Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is a masterpiece, of course, but Verizon Hall in Philadelphia is ugly, and, apparently, acoustically flawed. Other halls constructed in recent decades seem to aim for the appearance of modern, but instead look bland and soulless. Schermerhorn Hall, on the other hand, is unashamedly neoclassical. The architects must have recognized that a hundred years from now, when the trendy glass and steel boxes commonly built today are all torn down, columns and sculpture-adorned pediments will look as handsome as ever.
Sadly, Schermerhorn Hall, with its classic box shape and interior windows like the Musikverein, will now have to go extensive restoration. The flood waters destroyed the organ console and pump, and trashed two Steinways in the basement. Something has me confused, however: I know there probably wasn’t any way to move the organ’s mechanical equipment from the basement, but I am certain that the organ console could have been lifted onto the stage. And, surely the pianos could have been brought up to the stage on an elevator, as well. Why didn’t anybody think of that?