Massey Hall reopens after large modernization that preserves iconic music venue’s magic

Jim Cuddy could not disguise his enthusiasm when he bought his first take a look at the newly renovated Massey Hall this week. 

“It’s so amazing. It’s beautiful,” he mentioned as he walked out on stage.

The songwriter, singer and guitarist for Blue Rodeo was on a personal tour of the long-lasting Toronto music venue with Massey Hall CEO Jesse Kumagai and the CBC’s Eli Glasner. It was three days away from the Nov. 25 reopening, and development staff and sound engineers have been nonetheless putting in seats and establishing gear to get the corridor prepared for the primary viewers because it closed for renovations in June 2018.

“I can’t wait to play here,” mentioned Cuddy, whose band has carried out on the legendary corridor dozens of instances. “I can’t wait to see somebody here. It feels like it got an incredible shine, but it doesn’t feel that different.”

WATCH | Jim Cuddy will get his first take a look at the outcomes of the Massey Hall renovation because the undertaking nears completion: 

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy will get his first take a look at a revitalized Massey Hall

Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo will get his first take a look at Canada’s legendary Massey Hall, following three years of intensive renovations. The corridor is pricey to Cuddy’s coronary heart, as each a musician and a fan. 0:33

From the stage, the texture could also be acquainted to Cuddy — however a lot has modified.

The model new ground seats are actually retractable, permitting for common admission at some reveals. Stained glass home windows that had been lined up with plywood for the reason that early 1900s have been fastidiously restored. And the plaster ceiling, as soon as lined in dusty hen wire to guard audiences from falling particles, has been exactly repaired.

  • WATCH | The characteristic concerning the Massey Hall renovation undertaking on The National on Nov. 26 at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network and 10 p.m. native time on your CBC tv station. You can even catch The National on-line on CBC Gem.

The stage has additionally been utterly rebuilt and all the floor degree has been raised, bringing the stage nearer to the balcony and gallery seats. All this needed to be executed with out affecting what many seek advice from because the magic of Massey Hall. 

“We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing anything that was going to change that for the audience,” Kumagai mentioned.

The objective of restoring a 127-year-old constructing, preserving its character while additionally updating it to swimsuit as we speak’s wants, was a monumental job — one that was not solely executed below the scrutiny of heritage departments and constructing inspectors, but in addition a lot of Canada’s top musicians and music historians. 

Massey Hall CEO Jesse Kumagai, left, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, centre, and CBC’s Eli Glasner focus on the newly accomplished renovations while standing on the stage on the historic Toronto music corridor. (Jag Gundu/Massey Hall)

Industrialist Hart Massey commissioned the corridor in 1894, as a present to the town of Toronto. The world-famous constructing is steeped in historical past and lore. 

It was constructed primarily for musical performances and has held some nice and diversified ones, from Enrico Caruso to AC/DC to Tanya Tagaq.

It’s additionally identified for traditionally important dwell recordings, together with The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever, Neil Young: Live at Massey Hall and Rush’s All the World’s a Stage.

It was dwelling to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 60 years. Massey Hall additionally hosted political rallies, and even sporting occasions akin to wrestling and boxing.

Some of the dwell albums recorded at Massey Hall over time, arrayed on the music corridor’s stage earlier than its renovation, embrace ‘All the World’s a Stage’ by Rush and ‘Neil Young: Live at Massey Hall.’ (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

There have been durations when the corridor was seen as outdated and narrowly escaped the chopping block. 

However, Massey Hall was designated a National historic website in 1981, defending its legacy.

The revitalization undertaking’s chief architect Marianne McKenna was eager to construct on all this historical past. 

Marianne McKenna is chief architect of the Massey Hall revitalization undertaking. She mentioned many musicians requested that nothing be modified, and it was a problem to enhance the outdated constructing while preserving its attraction. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

“We began with clear instructions from the musicians who love this place: Fix everything. Change nothing,” mentioned McKenna.

“That quickly went by the wayside. We had to improve everything about the place.”

Anyone who has ever been to Massey Hall is aware of that one of many worst components of the expertise was the restricted variety of bogs and their location within the basement. This was remedied by constructing a tower on the again of the unique construction, made accessible by out of doors hallways referred to as passurels that now jutt from the facet of the constructing.

Glass passurels along side Massey Hall now permit viewers members to entry the newly constructed seven-storey tower behind the corridor. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

“It was something that was floated in the ’60s,” McKenna mentioned. “I don’t know where they thought they were going then because there was nowhere to go.”

Now with the seven-storey tower connected to the South facet of the constructing, the passurels result in model new bogs, a (practically completed) bar, and elevators that make the corridor accessible to many who have been by no means beforehand in a position to sit within the balcony or gallery ranges.

The tower additionally comprises one other yet-to-be-completed efficiency venue,  rehearsal areas and the Deane Cameron Recording Studio named after the earlier Massey Hall CEO, who handed away all of the sudden in 2019. 

The bar within the basement of the unique construction has been utterly refurbished, and will quickly even be used as a small efficiency house.

Some of the newly uncovered and restored stained glass home windows at Massey Hall. The home windows had been lined up for many years by plywood. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

The ongoing revitalization undertaking has a price ticket of $184 million. It is being funded by all three ranges of government, in addition to company and personal donors.

When requested what the largest private problem of Massey Hall’s revitalization undertaking was, McKenna basically mentioned all of it.

“I’m a contemporary architect,” mentioned McKenna. “You know, we do things in very contemporary ways, but to acknowledge and respect the history, to try not to change it but to augment the feeling of being here. To make it better. It’s a big challenge for an architect.”

Massey Hall will open its doorways to the general public on Thursday, Nov. 25, with veteran performer Gordon Lightfoot hitting the stage. Lightfoot has performed the venue greater than 165 instances.

Over the approaching months it will be as much as viewers members and musicians to resolve whether or not the crew at Massey has achieved its targets. But for Cuddy, the decision is already in.

“I was prepared to accept it as something new, and just bundle my memories of what it was,” he mentioned. “But I think this marries beautifully with what I loved about it.”

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