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This blog is about my Comenius experience in Finland

Great acoustics, but don't cough

NewsPosted by Sylvie Hendrickx Tue, December 13, 2011 08:09:09

The Helsinki Music Centre's Symphony Choir, the Helsinki City Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Sibelius Academy Orchestra performed together at the Centre's opening in August 2011.

The acoustics and services at the new Helsinki Music Centre concert hall have been getting a mixed reception from the general public. While the acoustics have been widely praised by performers, the hall's sensitivity to noise from the audience has been a problem.

After decades of putting up with the less than satisfactory acoustics of Finlandia Hall, Helsinki concert-goers have had to learn a few new lessons. Audiences in the Helsinki Music Centre concert hall can neither whisper nor cough. One concert this past autumn was even paused because of distractions originating from the audience.

According to Concert Operations Manager Antti Pylkkänen, the main hall's acoustics have created some challenges for staff.

"We are looking for the best practices, what is acceptable and what is disturbing," says Pylkkänen.

He adds that it is a fact that the excellent acoustics mean that not only the music, but also everything else can be well heard throughout the hall.

"This is the fact that we're now wrestling with at the Music Centre."

Since its opening, there has also been discussion of the Music Centre's services. Coat check and refreshment services have been criticised as being slow. Pylkkänen points out that the Centre is new not just as a concert venue, but also as a service provider. An effort is being made to expand the number of spots where concert-goers can purchase refreshments.

No coughing, please

The general manager of Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tuula Sarotie, notes that audiences have started to gradually adapt to the demands of the new concert hall. There is already less coughing heard than was the case in Finlandia Hall. However, Sarotie is adamant that audiences should not make their own contribution to a concert.

"If a member of the audience is indifferent to others, comes to a concert and, for example, falls asleep and starts snoring, or brings small children to a concert and doesn't take into consideration that children need to be taught how to behave in this situation, then something has to be done about it, one way or another," Sarotie says.

The Radio Symphony Orchestra's general manager does point out that in most cases people themselves realise that they may be disturbing the enjoyment of others and leave the hall on their own.

From:, dd 12/11/2011