Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's in a Name . . . Continued

It's been suggested, in a comment on this blog and elsewhere, that it is time to stop grousing about the name change of the Hudson Opera House and move on as a community to celebrate the completion of this monumental project. Perhaps it is. It's likely the only concession from those convinced of the necessity of changing the name is the one already made: dropping the name Henry to temper the association with the explorer driven to find a Northwest Passage and ultimately cast adrift by a mutinous crew to settle on the uninspired and undistinctive Hudson Hall, with the tag line "at the historic Hudson Opera House." It's also likely that it will take another twenty-five years before the name Hudson Hall fully supplants Hudson Opera House. For some, that may never happen.

Photo: Rural Intelligence
Recovering from a stroke suffered just before Christmas and hence focused on other matters, Dr. Norman A. Posner was late to join the conversation about the name change, but his opinions about it are strong. He asked me if I would publish his statement on Gossips, and of course, I agreed. Posner and I have been friends for two decades, ever since we worked together--he as a board member, I as a volunteer--on a committee to plan and carry out a historic house tour in Hudson in 1996 as a fundraiser for the Hudson Opera House. Posner's statement about the name change follows:
I am outraged by the decision to change the name of the Hudson Opera House, and I question the reason given to justify it. The name is a barrier to understanding what the place is all about? That seems an inadequate reason.
I wasn't one of the original group that organized and raised money to buy the building, but I was part of the board early on--when the group was working hard to raise money for the building but didn't yet occupy it in any way. It was Janet Marsh Ebel and I who insisted that the organization needed to be in the building if the effort was to succeed. And so it began--the "Open the Door" campaign. First the West Room, which served as office, exhibition and performance space; then the center hall; then the workshop; then the space that had been Hudson police headquarters; and now--the crowning achievement--the entire building has been restored and readied for use. Through all that time, the building was known as the Hudson Opera House, a name it was given in 1881, when every city and town in American thought it needed an opera house as evidence of its respectability and civic pride. To change the name now is to disregard that history, as well as the history of the past twenty-five years during which the Hudson Opera House developed and evolved and defined itself. It is also an example of dumbing down, as if people are incapable of grasping a historic meaning of "opera house" that is greater than a place where operas are performed.
Hudson Hall means nothing. It could be a dormitory or an apartment house. There are Hudson Halls all over the place. More things happen at 327 Warren Street than can be described by such a bland name as Hudson Hall. The name is at variance with the mission. Is it meant to suggest this is Carnegie Hall in Hudson?
The name Hudson Opera House is unique and has a special place in the history of Hudson--both in the 19th century and in the past quarter century. Before it is discarded or reduced to a tag line, those making this momentous decision should find out what past and present supporters think. This past and present supporter, for one, thinks Hudson Opera House is the name that should be retained into the future.


  1. Thank you Norman Posner for a brilliant statement. I have voiced my opinion on numerous occasions which has fallen on deaf ears. I don't think anyone who made this idiotic decision was on the Board or on the staff 25 years ago when I was approached by Bill Ebel to get involved. Our only true leverage is to refuse to support Hudson Hall financially and I will not attend the Gala, which will be the first one I ever miss and will not be renewing my membership. For these newbies to make such a dumb name change without asking the people who were involved from the beginning for our input was mean and nasty. I'd like them to re-sell my 2 seats in the front row club and give me back the monies I donated very early on to help keep the project going.

  2. Dr Posner, wise as he has always been, cogently, eloquently, and definitively advances the argument for keeping the name. His voice, added to the very very many who have also spoken, should be heeded by those who are determined, without reference to the wishes of the community, to make this ill-advised change.

  3. we should honor the past !!

  4. Management at the HUDSON OPERA HOUSE clearly underestimated the extent to which the name is embedded in the cultural DNA of the community. Putting together 'focus groups' and 're-branding' was practically guaranteed to alienate long-time supporters of the HUDSON OPERA HOUSE. And if I recall correctly, the institution has been boasting of its status as the oldest OPERA HOUSE in the state of New York. Seems a bit odd to toss that legacy aside.

  5. Hudson Hall is such a bland nothing name and Hudson Opera House is a wonderful name.....really wake up !

  6. For those who missed my Facebook post a week ago, take a look!

    Where is the Hudson Opera House? It's only in Hudson NY!

    Where is Hudson Hall? EVERYWHERE!!!
    Dutchess Community College, Mercy College, Duke University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Hudson Hall Restaurant NYC,
    Willamette University, Lincoln University, University of Georgia,
    Hudson Valley Community College, Culinary Institute of America,
    Oh, and he also played linebacker for the University of Kansas!

  7. Such a sad state of affairs this is . Which never needed to happen in the first place.

  8. It has been gratifying to hear so many in so many places—Gossips, Facebook, Imby--say they were angered, others shocked or disappointed, others outraged, others incredulous, by the original decision to eradicate the name Hudson Opera House from history in favor of Henry Hudson Hall. Surely precisely because Hudson Opera House is a “historic” name is why so many so strongly objected to the first high-handed erasure of a name etched in the city’s history and the substitution for it of a name derived from both an inaccurate and ignorant reading of history. But then, after some clumsy back-peddling in response to the outcry, even more were appalled, by the next decision: to revise the name again, now to Hudson Hall at The Historic Hudson Opera House.
    If one were to parse language precisely, if “Hudson Hall” is “at” the Historic Hudson Opera House, then where is it? is it someplace “in” The Historic Hudson Opera House?
    But the confused nomenclature aside, and more importantly, until those who manage HOH are made aware by the community- and by more than only online posts that they have made an error-- I fear and doubt that those who made what they seem to think is a sufficient gesture by dropping “Henry” will not want to admit that they have continued to misread the sentiment of the community by insisting on the unoriginal Hudson Hall, and appending to it, “at The Historic Hudson Opera House” as if The Hudson Opera House is an afterthought, a mere footnote. How do we let them know?