Jesse Kumagai, Pres/CEO of Massey and Roy Thomson Halls, turns on the lights. Photo: Bill King
Jesse Kumagai, Pres/CEO of Massey and Roy Thomson Halls, turns on the lights. Photo: Bill King

Massey Hall's Magnificent Makeover

The Grand Old Lady is kicking up her heels again.

After being shuttered for the past three years and four months, Massey Hall finally reopens its doors tonight with a concert by the Canadian legend who has played the hallowed venue on more occasions than anyone else - Gordon Lightfoot.

But before the gentle strains of If You Could Read My Mind resonate throughout the revarnished hall of splendid acoustics, it was the sound of drills from several construction workers whirring in the background that serenaded the Toronto media a scant 24 hours prior to showtime as they were treated to a preview of the newly restored crown jewel, perhaps the city's most beloved musical stage.

At a renovated cost of $184M - a sizeable increase from the initially announced $139 million revitalization and more than 1,210 times the $152K amount fronted by Canadian industrialist and philanthropist Hart Massey way in 1894 to build it - Massey Hall is back and better than ever.

Thanks to the generosity of several patrons, both public - federal, provincial and city governments, take a bow  -  and private -  The Slaight Family Foundation's $10M bequest; Slaight Music's $100K plus; Derrick Ross and Jennifer Walsh $50K plus; outgoing Warner Music President Steve Kane and his wife Debbie Rix, Triumph's Gil Moore, former Universal Music Canada President/CEO Randy Lennox, UMC, RUSH, Sarah MacLachlan School of Music, Donald Tarlton, and Canada's Walk of Fame each donated $25K plus towards the cause - Massey Hall returns with an expanded mandate that includes additional venues, a gorgeous passarelle, a restoration of its original art deco lobby that adorns the entrance to the  Allan Slaight Auditorium & Stage and the return of the original 104 stained glass windows that surround the 2534 seats and give it so much beautiful character.

The verdict?

Nothing short of magnificent. 

And certain changes have been made for the better: floor seats can be removed to expand Massey Hall's offerings to now include general admission and an expanded capacity of 2,800 for those occurrences thanks to a retractable seating system.

"That's something that's going to allow us to attract a lot of artists who maybe wouldn't have made Massey Hall home before," said Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall President and CEO Jesse Kumagai.  "It'll create a whole new dynamic. Maybe it wasn't something that anyone would have thought of back in 1894, but it's going to be a whole lot of fun."

The seats themselves are thinner and provide better legroom, and there are fewer visual pillar obstructions due to the re-arrangement of the seats.

When everything is finished - at some point in 2022 - Massey Hall will also include two additional venues, the Deane Cameron recording studio, and exhibition space.

The only mystery that truly remains is what the Allied Music Centre looks like...that wasn't part of the tour and they're still working on it. 

With its new look, Hart Massey would have been proud had he lived to see this day.  Toronto music fans will be proud of this venue they can once again claim as their own.

Perhaps Jesse Kumagai said it best when asked if he had heard Lightfoot's band performing soundcheck earlier yesterday afternoon.

"I did," said Kumagai. "It was nice hearing music in here again."

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