Formal Opening of the Blaisdell Concert Hall

Although the Concert Hall is one of 3 venues at Blaisdell Center, this building, then called the Theater- Concert Hall, had its own formal dedication. And oh, it was grand!

It was the evening of September 13, 1964. The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra performed to a very well dressed audience–men wore bow ties and women wore furs. A far cry from today’s symphony events where it’s not uncommon to see concert goers in shorts and slippers. And no one wore leis, normally worn at such events. Perhaps people wanted to pretend, for one night, they were in New York City and not Honolulu?

Program for formal opening of the Blaisdell Concert Hall
Program for formal opening of the Blaisdell Concert Hall

The symphony played a fine selection of music, and ended with an encore rendition of Old Plantation–a nod to the historic Ward estate, whose mansion once stood approximately where the Concert Hall stands now. One concert goer years later remarked that she couldn’t recall what was performed, as people were so busy talking about and admiring the new hall, they hadn’t paid much attention to the show.

Afterwards, complimentary champagne was served in souvenir glasses that read simply: “Formal Premiere Theatre-Concert Hall, September 13, 1964”. A few complaints after the fact–one noted several guests took more than one glass, leaving some concert goers without.

Another lamented how the Concert Hall appeared to serve just Hawaii’s elite. Fortunately that has not been the case, as all segments of society today enjoy even the highest art forms in the Blaisdell Concert Hall, even if it must be in the occasional slippers and shorts.