Massey Hall in August 2017
|Address||178 Victoria Street|
|Owner||The Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall|
|Opened||July 14, 1894|
|Official name||Massey Hall National Historic Site of Canada|
|Designated||June 15, 1981|
Massey Hall is a performing arts theatre in the Garden District of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The theatre was designed to seat 3,500 patrons, but after extensive renovations in the 1940s it now seats up to 2,765.
Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on June 15, 1981. The Hall was closed in July 2018, as it started a two-year-long renovation, including a new seven-storey addition and two smaller concert rooms.
The idea of Massey Music Hall began with Hart Massey, who wanted to build a music hall in order to fill the need for a secular meeting place where people from Toronto and area could meet and enjoy choral music not of a religious theme. Massey also wanted to construct the building in memory of his son Charles, who loved music. Massey also did not want the music hall to make large profits. He wanted both rich and poor to attend events. Ideally, once all expenses were paid, Massey wanted tickets for a season of lectures to sell for $1.
The building was designed with a neoclassical facade, and features moorish arches that span the width of the interior hall. This interior was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Spain as well as Louis Sullivan's Chicago Auditorium. The exterior neoclassical facade was a preference voiced from Lillian, Hart Massey's daughter.
Designed by architect Sidney Badgley, Massey Hall was completed in 1894 at a cost of $152,390.75. Construction was financed by Hart Massey of Massey-Harris (later Massey Ferguson) holding company. The hall's debut concert was on June 14, 1894. The Albert Building, at 15 Shuter Street, was added as a janitorial residence in 1917, and later converted as backstage space. However, it will be demolished and replaced by a new addition during pending renovations in spite of potential historic value (featuring a two storey oriel window). The exterior is Palladian architecture while the interior is Moorish Revival architecture.
10 years after the completion of construction, a pair of fire escape staircases were installed along the front face of the building. They were installed to deal with fire concerns of the building. These fire escapes are considered an iconic part of Massey Hall's exterior. At some point in its renovation history, three of the windows at the front of the venue were converted into doors, The doors at the front of the venue were painted red (from their earlier brown-gold colour), a large neon sign was hung above the main entrance, and notice boards listing upcoming acts were revamped on either side of those doors.
In 1994, to commemorate the hall's 100th anniversary, the basement was completely refurbished to include Centuries, a fully stocked bar. Prior to this addition, alcohol was not permitted in the hall. The decor of Centuries includes hundreds of photos of artists who have performed there over the years (largely collecting portraits of popular music stars since the eighties) including many autographs. Centuries has a capacity of 220 people, and often hosts CD release parties and post-show parties for the visiting artists. Roughly five years after Centuries was created, an additional bar in the balcony lounge was added.
According to the venue's website: "Massey Hall is undergoing the most significant renovation in its 124 year history and is closed for two years as of the beginning of July, 2018", including a new seven-story addition and two smaller concert rooms.
Many dignitaries have attended the hall since its inauguration. In 1901, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (the future King George V and his wife Queen Mary) visited with Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier.
Many famous figures have appeared on the broad stage of this stately hall, including Montserrat Caballe, William Booth, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, George Gershwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot, Luciano Pavarotti, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Cream, Neil Young, Thomas Mann, The Kinks, Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz, Oscar Peterson, Joe Satriani and Arturo Toscanini.
It was the site of the legendary Charlie Parker-Dizzy Gillespie concert, recorded as Jazz at Massey Hall, in May 1953. Accompanying Gillespie and Parker in this acoustically sound hall were Bud Powell, Max Roach and Charles Mingus.
On January 8, 1995, Ronnie Hawkins celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a concert here, which was documented on the album Let It Rock. The concert featured performances by Hawkins, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Band and Larry Gowan. Jeff Healey sat in on guitar for most, if not all, of the performances. Hawkins' band, The Hawks, or permutations of it, backed most, if not all, of the acts. All of the musicians performing that night were collectively dubbed "The Rock ‘N’ Roll Orchestra".
American rock band Van Halen played their first ever Canadian concert on March 14, 1978 to a capacity crowd at the venue.
The 501 Queen streetcar line has stops at the corner of Victoria Street and Queen Street.
In 1973, Toronto City Council designated Massey Hall a Heritage Property under the province's Ontario Heritage Act. Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on June 15, 1981.
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