Massey Hall

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Massey Hall
Massey Hall sign of snow.jpg
Massey Hall in February 2011
(showing entrance on Shuter Street)
Address 178 Victoria Street
Coordinates 43°39′15″N 79°22′44.50″W / 43.65417°N 79.3790278°W / 43.65417; -79.3790278Coordinates: 43°39′15″N 79°22′44.50″W / 43.65417°N 79.3790278°W / 43.65417; -79.3790278
Owner The Corporation of Massey Hall and
Roy Thomson Hall
Type Concert hall
Capacity 2,752
Opened July 14, 1894 (1894-07-14)
Years active 1894-present
Architect Sidney Badgley

Official name: Massey Hall National Historic Site of Canada
Designated: June 15, 1981 (1981-06-15)
Type: Municipally-designated
Designated: 1975 (1975)

Massey Hall is a performing arts theatre in the Garden District of downtown Toronto. The theatre originally was designed to seat 3,500 patrons, but after extensive renovations in the 1940s it now seats up to 2,765.[1]

Massey Hall and the more intimate Eaton Auditorium were the only substantial concert venues in Toronto before the opening of Roy Thomson Hall as the new home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on June 15, 1981.[2][3]


A postcard of Massey Hall, circa 1910

Designed by architect Sidney Badgley, Massey Hall was completed in 1894 at a cost of $152,390.75.[4] Construction was financed by Hart Massey of Massey-Harris (later Massey Ferguson) holding company. The hall's debut concert was on June 14, 1894. In 1933, the Massey Foundation undertook further renovations to the hall. It is currently used for a variety of events and is operated by the same corporation as Roy Thomson Hall.

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 William Booth, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, George Gershwin, Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot, Luciano Pavarotti, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Thomas Mann, The Kinks, Oscar Peterson, 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.

Rush, in June 1976, recorded the live album All the World's a Stage here.

Neil Young performed and recorded his concert, on January 19, 1971, which was later released as a live album, entitled Live at Massey Hall 1971.

Matthew Good performed and recorded his concert, on May 29, 2008, which was released as a live album, entitled Live at Massey Hall.

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".

On December 21, 2011, Justin Bieber performed a special Christmas concert. It sold out in only 30 minutes.[5]

Israeli musician Idan Raichel has performed in several occasions at Massey Hall in association with the nonprofit organization Motek Cultural Initiative which aims to promote Israeli music and culture.


Massey Hall, as seen from Shuter St.

In 1975, Toronto City Council designated Massey Hall a "Heritage Property" under the province's Ontario Heritage Act.

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.

At some point in its renovation history, three of the windows at the front of the venue were converted into doors, and a pair of fire escape staircases were installed along the front face of the building. 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.

Design Purpose and Inspiration[edit]

Massey Hall was built due to the need for a secular meeting place in which people from Toronto and area could meet and enjoy choral music not of a religious theme. It 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 and Opera house.[1] The exterior neoclassical facade was a preference voiced from Lillian, Hart Massey's daughter.

See also[edit]

Other performing arts venues in the city include:


  1. ^ a b Kilbourn, William. Intimate Grandeur: One Hundred Years At Massey Hall. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, 1993.
  2. ^ Massey Hall, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada
  3. ^ Massey Hall, National Register of Historic Places
  4. ^ Mollie Gillen (1965). The Masseys: Founding Family
  5. ^

External links[edit]