For Torontonians, and for those beyond our city's boundaries who keep track, the question of whether or not Toronto is a great city—all too often couched in terms of us being "Word Class" or not—is never convincingly settled, each debate testing another set of qualifications for greatness. One measure where we do have an increasingly impressive roster to boast of is of Toronto being a great place for musical performances.
We have had some missteps over the years. The O'Keefe/Hummingbird/Sony Centre and Roy Thomson Hall have both had their issues with dead sound, but both halls have been improved significantly thanks to recent alterations. Conversely, Massey Hall is an early example of a Toronto music venue with great acoustics, and happily a number of new performance halls here have been met with great enthusiasm in the last few years. These include the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts, the Glenn Gould Studio at the CBC Broadcasting Centre, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and Koerner Hall at the Telus Royal Conservatory. Toronto boasts other fine smaller halls too, but these four in particular are considered amongst the best of their type in the world.
Another jewel was added to Toronto's performing arts venue crown last fall when a Tafelmusik-led enhancement of the sanctuary of Trinity-St. Paul's Church was completed. Tafelmusik is a multi-award-winning period instrument orchestra, renowned internationally for its baroque and classical era performances. The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir, specializing in baroque performance practice and vocal technique, complements the orchestra and is equally esteemed across the globe. As well as regularly taking their show on tour around the world, the two have been presenting some 50 concerts a year at Trinity-St. Paul's for over thirty years. While the sanctuary of the church suited in the early years, Tafelmusik's growing experience of playing in the best concert halls in the world meant that a better home base was desired.
Managing director Tricia Baldwin coordinated a best-in-the-business team made up of ERA Architects under principal-in-charge Edwin Rouse, and London-based collaborators, the world acclaimed acoustician Robert Essert of Sound Space Design and theatre consultant Anne Minors. Essert and Minors had previously worked on Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory just to the east along Bloor, while Essert's claims to fame also include the Four Seasons Centre for the Canadian Opera Company. Typically working on much larger projects, huge improvements to the look, sound, accessibility, and comfort of the room were achieved here for just $3 Million.
Completely re-plastered and repainted in historically appropriate colours, the space gained a permanent stage made of solid oak, new ground floor seating, more comfort for pew seating upstairs, textured hardwood acoustical panels, and new hardwood floors. Looking beautiful and now allowing rich bass notes to fill out the spectrum of sound in the space (instead of being absorbed into carpets and softer materials), the result has been described as spectacular, and has far exceeded Tafelmusik's, the Toronto Consort's, and even the audience's expectations. At one of the first concerts in the renewed space last fall, the hall was officially renamed—to thunderous applause—in honour of longtime Music Director Jeanne Lamon, a request by the Hon. Hal Jackman, philanthropist and a former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who donated $1 Million of the renovation total cost.
While Jackman, the Trinity-St. Paul's congregation, and a lengthy list of donors enabled what has been completed so far, Tafelmusik is soon embarking on phase two of the revitalization project, focusing on additional physical upgrades to the lobby, lighting and multimedia equipment upgrades, and increased accessibility at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre, and is looking for further generosity from the public to complete the work.
This week, Tafelmusik and the Toronto Consort, the city's premier chamber music ensemble, have joined with ten other cultural organizations to form the Bloor Street Culture Corridor. The twelve partners, all located along a mile-long strip of Bloor Street West, have joined together to raise the profile of their offerings to Torontonians and visitors to the city. An accompanying article spells out the details of this latest polishing of Toronto's increasingly glittering cultural crown.
Meanwhile, Tafelmusik's 2013/14 season wraps up over the next two months with performances at Koerner Hall in April and then back at Trinity-St. Paul's in May, ending with a tribute to retiring Music Director Jeanne Lamon. The 2014/15 season begins in September. The Toronto Consort is currently presenting Giasone at Trinity-St. Paul's, while their 2014/15 season kicks off in November.