A Sneak Peek at Guarneri Hall, a New Classical Music Space with a Radical Mission

By Keegan Morris |

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A view of the Loop’s newest classical music performance and recording space, Guarneri Hall.

A brand new space for recording and performing classical music is always something to celebrate, especially when it aims to support and enrich classical music in Chicago and beyond. After 12 years of development, Guarneri Hall, a not-for-profit music incubator located at 11 East Adams Street in the Chicago Loop, opens on Tuesday, October 23. They celebrate their grand opening with a concert tribute to Oliver Knussen, the celebrated British composer who passed away earlier this year.

Stefan Hersh, the co-founder and president of Guarneri Hall, hopes that Guarneri Hall will redefine the role of a performance space by actively championing emerging artists and new music. Along with Stefan, the project is an initiative of his brother Julian Hersh as well as Michael Darnton, the three of whom are partners at Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins. In addition to their stringed instrument dealership and workshop, both Hersh brothers have backgrounds in musical performance — Stefan is an accomplished violinist and Julian is an experienced cellist who has taught on the faculty at the DePaul School of Music and Roosevelt University.

Their years of collective experience have informed the approach and mission of Guarneri Hall. “The design decisions have been born of our experiences performing and recording,” Stefan Hersh explains. He says the 85-seat space boasts the scale and intimacy of a house concert but the high technical standards of a great recording space.

Guarneri Hall aims to be something of an unconventional presence in the way it hopes to encourage collaboration. Hersh says that they are not interested in renting out the space. Rather, he says the goal is to partner with worthy artists and organizations, giving them access to Guarneri Hall and helping the musical community as a whole. He plans to give artists access to resources and support that would otherwise be hard to come across.

Guarneri Hall’s multi-camera livestreaming system, here capturing cellist Alexander Hersh in rehearsal, will allow audiences from all over the world to view concerts.

Guarneri Hall has been outfitted with a multi-camera streaming system that will allow the video and audio from concerts and events to be live-streamed on the web. This too serves to support artists and their music by letting people around the country, and the world, view performances.

Tuesday night’s grand opening recital, the Oliver Knussen Tribute, exemplifies the mission of the space. “Knussen’s body of works doesn’t get the recognition it should, in my opinion,” Hersh shares. “We’re giving airtime to pieces that don’t get played alongside those that do get played more frequently. And we’re also contextualizing them around three composers [Webern, Stravinsky, and Debussy] he named as most influential to him.” The concert will be streamed on Guarneri Hall’s website.

The performance will also put young musicians onstage with experienced names — one way that Hersh says the organization will seek to empower the next generation of artists. Composer Augusta Read Thomas, who was friends with Knussen, will host the event. Veteran performers Stefan and Julian Hersh, on violin and cello respectively, and Roger Chase, playing viola, will be joined by younger artists: Rachel Blumenthal, flute, Michael Maganuco, harp, and Gabriela Lara, a 19-year-old violin student at Roosevelt University. Stefan praised Lara, an emerging talent. “She’s playing beautifully. She’s holding her own with those of us who have 5s and 6s in front of our ages. Music has the power to break down those divisions.”

Guarneri Hall’s grand opening concert, a tribute to Oliver Knussen, is Tuesday, October 23 at 7:30 pm at 11 East Adams Street in the Loop. The concert will be live-streamed on the Guarneri Hall website.