Massey Hall is reopening after a massive upgrade that preserves the magic of the legendary music venue – Post World

Jim Cuddy couldn’t hide his excitement when he toured the newly renovated Massey Hall for the first time this week.

“It’s so amazing. It’s beautiful, ”he said as he left the stage.

The songwriter, singer and guitarist from Blue Rodeo was on a private tour of the legendary Toronto music venue with Jesse Kumagai, CEO of Massey Hall and Eli Glasner of CBC. It was three days to the November 25th reopening, and construction workers and sound engineers were still installing seats and setting up equipment to prepare the room for its first audience since it closed for renovations in June 2018.

“I can’t wait to play here,” said Cuddy, whose band has performed dozens of times in the legendary hall. “Can’t wait to see anyone here. It feels like it’s got an incredible shine, but it doesn’t feel that different. “

CLOCK | Jim Cuddy gets his first look at the results of the Massey Hall renovation as the project nears completion:

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy gets his first look inside a revitalized Massey Hall

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy gets his first look at Canada’s legendary Massey Hall after three years of intense renovation. The hall is close to Cuddy’s heart, both as a musician and as a fan. 0:33

From the stage, Cuddy may be familiar with the feeling – but a lot has changed.

The brand new floor seats are now retractable, allowing general admission to some shows. Stained glass windows, which had been clad in plywood since the early 20th century, have been carefully restored. And the plaster of paris ceiling, which was once covered with dusty wire mesh to protect the audience from falling debris, has been precisely repaired.

  • CLOCK | The feature about the Massey Hall renovation project The national on Nov. 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET on the CBC News Network and 10:00 p.m. local time on your CBC television station. You can also catch The National online at CBC-Jewel.

The stage has also been completely rebuilt and the entire ground floor has been raised, bringing the stage closer to the balcony and gallery seats. All of this had to be done without detracting from what many call the magic of Massey Hall.

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

The goal of restoring a 127-year-old building, preserving its character and at the same time adapting it to today’s needs was a monumental task that was not only under the control of monument agencies and building inspectors, but also of many top Canadian musicians and music historians.

Massey Hall CEO Jesse Kumagai (left), Jim Cuddy (center) of Blue Rodeo and Eli Glasner of CBC discuss the recently completed renovations while on stage at the historic Toronto Music Hall. (Jag Gundu / Massey Hall)

The industrialist Hart Massey commissioned the hall as a gift to the city of Toronto in 1894. The world-famous building is steeped in history and lore.

It was built primarily for musical performance and has hosted some great and varied performances from Enrico Caruso to AC / DC to Tanya Tagaq.

It is also known for historically significant live recordings, including The greatest jazz concert of all time, Neil Young: Live in der Massey Hall and rushs The whole world is a stage.

It was the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 60 years. Massey Hall also hosted political rallies and even sporting events like wrestling and boxing.

Some of the live albums recorded at Massey Hall over the years and arranged on the Music Hall stage prior to the renovation include “All the World’s a Stage” by Rush and “Neil Young: Live at Massey Hall”. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

There were times when the hall was considered outdated and narrowly escaped the chopping block.

However, Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site in 1981 to protect its heritage.

The chief architect of the revitalization project, Marianne McKenna, wanted to build on this story.

Marianne McKenna is the chief architect of the Massey Hall revitalization project. She said many musicians had asked that nothing be changed and that it was a challenge to improve the outdated building and keep its charm. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

“We started with clear instructions from the musicians who love this place: fix everything. Don’t change anything, ”said McKenna.

“That happened quickly on the track. We had to improve everything on the pitch. “

Anyone who has been to Massey Hall knows that one of the worst aspects of the experience was the limited number of bathrooms and their basement location. This was remedied by building a tower at the rear of the original building, made accessible via exterior walkways called passerelles that now protrude from the side of the building.

Glazed walkways on the side of Massey Hall now give spectators access to the newly built seven-story tower at the rear of the hall. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

“It was something that was floating around in the ’60s,” McKenna said. “I don’t know where they were thinking then because there was nowhere to go.”

Now with the seven-story tower on the south side of the building, the walkways lead to brand new bathrooms, an (almost completed) bar and elevators that make the hall accessible to many who could never sit on the balcony before or gallery levels.

The tower also contains another unfinished venue, rehearsal rooms, and the Deane Cameron Recording Studio, named after the former CEO of Massey Hall, who suddenly passed away in 2019.

The bar in the basement of the old building has been completely renovated and will soon also be used as a small performance room.

Some of the newly discovered and restored stained glass windows in Massey Hall. The windows were clad in plywood for decades. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

The ongoing revitalization project is priced at $ 184 million. It is funded by all three levels of government, as well as by corporations and private donors.

When asked what the major personal challenge of the Massey Hall revitalization project was, McKenna essentially said it all.

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

The ceiling of Massey Hall has been covered in wire mesh for the past few decades from crumbling plaster. It has now been completely restored. (Greg Hobbs/CBC)

Massey Hall will open its doors to the public on Thursday, November 25th, when veteran artist Gordon Lightfoot takes the stage. Lightfoot has played the venue more than 165 times.

In the coming months, viewers and musicians will decide whether the Massey crew has achieved their goals. But for Cuddy, the verdict has already been given.

“I was ready to accept it as something new and just put my memories together of what it was,” he said. “But I think that goes wonderfully with what I loved about it.”

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