The venerable Oregon Bach Festival has long presented concerts of Bach, his contemporaries, and modern music that draws inspiration from early and baroque music. For years, OBF rehearsed and performed at various venues around Eugene, relying heavily on the University of Oregon’s Frohnmayer Music Building and Beall Recital Hall. Since 2015, the Berwick Academy for Historic Performance has complemented the Festival with an intensive tuition-free training course capped by performances in the Festival. Now, at last, OBF has a home of its own, nestled next to UO’s music building.
Berwick Hall includes office and meeting space for OBF, with the boardroom and one of the offices suitable for auditioning musicians. The heart of the building is a spectacular rehearsal room, designed specifically for early music. Soloists, small ensembles, choirs, and chamber orchestras can rehearse, perform and record in the room, and students can hear lectures and interact directly with musicians who are experts in early music.
Two walls of the rehearsal room are wood, shaped in sweeping curves that gradually direct sustained sound upwards. Two walls are split-face block, finished with limewash as a wall would have been in Bach’s day. These walls scatter high frequencies and gently absorb some of the very highest frequencies, for a warm, smooth sound. The sweeping ceiling high overhead provides easy communication and beautiful reverberance. Skylights and clerestory windows are well isolated to preserve a quiet ambience. Motorized banners allow the musicians to adjust the balance of reverberation and clarity for each rehearsal. Virtually silent air conditioning keeps everyone comfortable while ensuring that every nuance of a performance can be heard. The result is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind room.