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Tarrytown Music Hall Still Singing After 126 Years

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Bjorn Olsson is sitting on some risers next to the stage at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The Indigo Girls are set to perform, and people are slowly filling in the seats as the musicians’ warm-up music grows louder.

Olsson describes why he thinks a historic theater like the Tarrytown Music Hall still attracts a crowd even with newer, bigger theaters out there. He assumes an air of an old blues musician who once performed here and says in a scratchy voice that the singer once told him, “This theater has bones!”

“I think that’s what people feel,” he said.

Olsson is the executive director of the Music Hall, which just celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. Sitting next to the stage, he explains that the nonprofit organization that oversees the Music Hall has grand plans for the theater’s restoration.

Olsson didn’t go into full details of their plans because they haven’t discussed the renovations with their board of directors, but he said the process was exciting. He said the Music Hall is planning to raise the money for the renovations sometime in the future. And while they’re planning to update the theater, Olsson said they want to also preserve its historical elements.

“We have all these challenges, and we’re hoping to fix that,” he said. “And we’re hoping to modernize the theater without chasing away the ghosts.”

The Tarrytown Music Hall was built in 1885. When it was completed, it had a much smaller balcony and didn’t have an actual stage. A bigger balcony was constructed in the 1930s, when the Music Hall was turned into a movie theater. Today the hall is a concert space, serving about 85,000 people a year. It hosts about 150 to 200 events a year, including shows from the youth theater company in residence.

“Most living Tarrytowners who grew up here know this as their old movie theater, but it was built before they even invented movies,” Olsson said.

Like most historic theaters, the hall has natural acoustics that many musical acts love. Olsson said he loves singing on the stage.

“All this wood and plaster—they knew how to build a room because they didn’t have microphones,” he said. “They had to build a room where it was easy to project. And most acts that come in, they love using that natural acoustic, even for an amplified show.”

Olsson said the hall’s dense atmosphere is a big hit with the musical acts.

“Most of them love to perform here because as you see, it’s a big enough room that you can fit a critical mass amount of people so you get that rock-concert, that really tight, almost loving feeling that people are really in the same space,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s really intimate.”

Among the things the Music Hall wants to renovate are some smaller projects: adding a handicap-accessible restroom and fixing up the restrooms that already exist. Olsson points to some boarded-up arches high above the audience and says that colored glass, which was covered up when they put in air conditioning in the 1940s, remains behind it. According to Olsson, they want to bring the glass back.

“The main thing that we’re doing here is laying out a plan for the whole building for what we want this building to be for the next 125 years and that’s as much as a vision as anything,” he said. “So it’s basically trying to figure out what we need and then we have to raise the money to do it.”

Do you have a favorite memory of the Music Hall? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page .

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