The Chandelier in Springer Auditorium
The elegant Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier in Music Hall's Springer Auditorium captures the attention of visitors young and old. First time visitors are amazed at the size and sparkle; but like everything else, the cut-glass pieces lose their shine. So every other year, the chandelier is lowered and meticulously cleaned.
As part of the extensive renovation of the late 1960s/early 1970s, Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett traveled abroad seeking an elegant and traditional piece of lighting that would long grace Springer Auditorium in Music Hall. The Corbetts were long-time arts supporters and, with additional support from the City of Cincinnati, were financing the major, multi-year renovation of the stately structure. In Czechoslovakia, Mr. Corbett found a chandelier that was representative of royalty, one crafted of the finest crystal prisms with a frame of highly-polished brass.
The main chandelier was shipped to Cincinnati in pieces, with instructions on how to assemble it. The activity took some time, but the result -- radiant and elegant -- is a work of art. The main chandelier hangs from a motorized winch attached to the facility's sturdy roof and can be raised or lowered from a station on the stage. Weighing 1,500 pounds, the chandelier measures approximately 21 feet in diameter and features 96 candles, each with a 60-watt bulb. The chandelier is show-stopping in its beauty, mesmerizing young and old, even long-time visitors and staff.
Once every two years, budget permitting, the chandelier is carefully dropped to its lowest point (it takes around 8 minutes for the motor to gently position it) and cleaned by hand. It is not a job for the faint-hearted!
For over 20 years, Music Hall electrician Gary Kidney has undertaken the chore of climbing up into the chandelier. As you can see, seats are covered and plywood is laid on top. The ladder below the chandelier takes Gary between the brass arms. He positions additional, smaller pieces of plywood around the tier on those brass arms and uses a second ladder to reach the upper part of the chandelier.
''We use warm water to wipe it down,'' Kidney explains. Chemicals are never used. At the same time, they inspect each one to make sure it's securely attached and rewire any that may seem loose.
Mr. Kidney says it takes about 2-1/2 days for the cleaning; three if you include the ''baskets'' (smaller chandeliers) above the seats on the orchestra and balcony levels. Because maneuvering your way around the unit is a bit like walking on a boat in choppy water -- there's really no way to anchor the chandelier -- they like to limit their work to two-to-four-hour periods. ''While you're wiping down the crystals, you're looking at the wires on there, so you're going to concentrate on that.'' Kidney added ''But your legs are wobbling all over the place. Just make sure you don't fall. It's a weird feeling.''
For many years, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra would lower the chandelier a few feet so the audience could see it better while moving to their seats. They would then then raise it before the performances. In recent years, that practice has been abandoned, lessening the chance of crystals coming loose from the bounce it takes when the cable stops.
Indeed, the chandelier is the ''queen'' of the hall, and is strategically positioned and lit for photo shoots, operas and television tapings.