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Woodstock Rising The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Opens

Sullivan County, NY (July 11, 2006)--The brainchild of cable television entrepreneur, Alan Gerry and his Gerry Foundation, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, held its grand opening on July 1--ten years after the idea began to take shape with the purchase of the 1969 Woodstock Festival site.

Sullivan County, NY (July 11, 2006)–The brainchild of cable television entrepreneur, Alan Gerry and his Gerry Foundation, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, held its grand opening on July 1–ten years after the idea began to take shape with the purchase of the 1969 Woodstock Festival site.

Rising from a landscaped bowl in rolling fields, the 4800-seat Bethel Center music pavilion opens with the New York Philharmonic, featuring pianist Lang Lang, soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and soprano Audra McDonald singing Gershwin and Bernstein. The performance is completely sold out.

The pavilion and orchestral shell were designed by JaffeHolden ( of Norwalk, CT and Santa Monica, CA. JaffeHolden has been closely involved with the $70-million Bethel project throughout its long gestation. The firm helped Gerry formulate the idea for the facility, introducing him to the Blossom Music Center, summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra, acoustic design by JaffeHolden.

Teaming with Architect Peter van Dijk of Westlake Reed & Leskosky, JaffeHolden designed the Bethel pavilion to support both amplified and orchestral music.
“Most pavilions can only do one thing well,” said JaffeHolden’s Mark Holden. “Either they’re designed for rock, and have no acoustic shell for symphonic music, or they are designed for symphonic music, like Wolf Trap, and are too live for rock. We needed a pavilion designed for a new century, one that acoustically supports and enhances the Woodstock sound legacy of rock and popular entertainment, yet also supports classical music such as the New York Philharmonic.”

For amplified music, the walls and ceiling of the Bethel stage are designed to absorb the echoes and boomy sound that can compromise a performance. For orchestral music, a portable, tunable orchestra shell was designed to JaffeHolden specifications.

“We designed a stage thrust that sonically and physically will move the performer out into the audience,” said Holden, “and helps create a connection between the artist and concert-goers.” The pavilion is equipped with full broadcast-capable digital video and projection systems that flank the sides of the proscenium, and 300-square foot video screens that magnify performances for up to 12,000 concert-goers on the lawn.
JaffeHolden also designed additional power and infrastructure systems to meet the requirements of touring shows, allowing backstage communication and easy tie-in of touring audio and video systems. Sound-proofed dressing rooms and secluded outdoor spaces make the off-stage experience very comfortable for performers, said Holden.

In addition to the pavilion, the Bethel Woods campus also contains the 4,500-square foot Interpretive Center. Slated to open in October 2006, the Center houses a multi-purpose event lobby, a 100-seat film theater, and a multimedia gallery commemorating Woodstock history. Acoustic design and audio/video systems design for the Interpretive Center is also by JaffeHolden.

The season’s performance schedule includes: Ashlee Simpson; the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows; Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops; Phil Lesh, of Grateful Dead fame; and Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish. Jazz performances include appearances by Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti, and Dianne Reeves. On August 13, Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, will appear–37 years after they performed at the original Woodstock Festival. A complete list of shows and ticket information can be found at

Throughout its many transformations, one component of Alan Gerry’s vision for the Bethel Woods Center remained steadfast: the New York Philharmonic would inaugurate the facility. To accommodate this central part of the vision, JaffeHolden incorporated an orchestral shell into the pavilion design.

An orchestral shell, whether for a symphony hall or an outdoor facility, serves two acoustic purposes: one, to balance and blend the onstage sound so that musicians can hear themselves play, and secondly; to blend and project sound into the audience. For the Bethel Center, sound for the pavilion seating area will be reinforced supplied by a system brought in specifically for the Philharmonic performance.

The Bethel acoustical concert shell–custom-built by Wenger Corp. of Owatonna, MN to JaffeHolden specifications–consists of 10 wooden towers that can be folded and wheeled away for storage, and four wooden ceiling pieces flown above the stage. The ceiling panels are adjustable in both height and angle via the rigging system. Adjusting these overhead panels above a stage that is larger than Radio City Music Hall’s is the acousticians job–Mark Reber of

On June 21, Reber and JaffeHolden’s Mark Holden, David Robb and David LaDue “tuned” the Bethel pavilion orchestral shell. The Mid-Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra played a “hard-hat” rehearsal concert that allowed the JaffeHolden team to adjust both the pavilion and lawn sound systems for the Philharmonic gala opening.

The sound system engineered by JaffeHolden for under the pavilion roof is a public address system. It consists of permanent podium speakers, fill speakers for the seating area, plus an RF (wireless) hearing assistive system. Conversely, the sound system for the lawn area must amplify music, not simply voice, from the stage. To address this need, JaffeHolden designed a series of 10 weatherproof custom speaker assemblies, each housing two loudspeakers weighing over 200 lbs. each. These loudspeaker assemblies are distributed under the rear edge of the pavilion roof, some 190 feet from the proscenium. They provide full-frequency coverage for all events to the entire 70,000 sq. ft. lawn seating area.

The lawn sound system consists of 24 source mixing capability; full complement of microphones to feed orchestral performance out to the lawn system; backstage sound system for performance audio in dressing rooms, other areas, and stage call announcements, and four-channel technical intercom system for technical personnel communication via headsets and boom mics.

The PA system (under the pavilion roof) consists of EAW loudspeakers, powered by Crown amplifiers: 8 EAW 2196E, two DSA230, four DSA250. The lawn speaker system consists of EAW loudspeakers, powered by Crown amplifiers with XTA signal processing: Top tier–10 EAW KF750F and Bottom tier–10 EAW KF755P. Orchestral mix and processing is handled by a Yamaha DM1000 digital audio console.


Bethel Woods Center for the Arts