Massey Hall

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Massey Hall
Massey Hall August 2017 02.jpg
Massey Hall in August 2017
Address178 Victoria Street
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°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
OwnerThe Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall
TypeConcert hall
OpenedJuly 14, 1894 (1894-07-14)
Years active1894–present
ArchitectSidney Badgley
Official nameMassey Hall National Historic Site of Canada
DesignatedJune 15, 1981 (1981-06-15)
Designated1975 (1975)

Massey Hall is a performing arts theatre in the Garden District of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The theatre 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 1982 opening of Roy Thomson Hall.

Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on June 15, 1981.[2] The Hall closed in July 2018 for a two-year-long renovation including a new seven-storey addition and two smaller concert rooms.


The idea for Massey Hall began with Hart Massey.

The idea of Massey Music Hall began with Hart Massey, who wanted to build a music hall in order to fill the need for a secular meeting place where people from Toronto and area could meet and enjoy choral music not of a religious theme. Massey also wanted to construct the building in memory of his son Charles, who loved music.[1] Massey also did not want the music hall to make large profits. He wanted both rich and poor to attend events. Ideally, once all expenses were paid, Massey wanted tickets for a season of lectures to sell for $1.[3]

The building 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.[1] The exterior neoclassical facade was a preference voiced from Lillian, Hart Massey's daughter.

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.[5] The Albert Building, at 15 Shuter Street, was added as a janitorial residence in 1917, and later converted as backstage space.[6] However, it will be demolished and replaced by a new addition during pending renovations in spite of potential historic value (featuring a two storey oriel window).[7] The exterior is Palladian architecture while the interior is Moorish Revival architecture.[7]

10 years after the completion of construction, a pair of fire escape staircases were installed along the front face of the building.[3] They were installed to deal with fire concerns of the building.[3] These fire escapes are considered an iconic part of Massey Hall's exterior. At some point in its renovation history, three of the windows at the front of the venue were converted into doors, 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.

Entrance of Massey Hall in August 2017.

In 1933, the Massey Foundation undertook further renovations to the hall. The venue simplified its name to Massey Hall at this time.[8] It is currently used for a variety of events and is operated by the same corporation as Roy Thomson Hall.

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.[3] 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.[9]

According to the venue's website: "Massey Hall is undergoing the most significant renovation in its 124 year history and is closed for two years as of the beginning of July, 2018",[10] including a new seven-story addition and two smaller concert rooms. The addition will be called Allied Music Centre and will have an artists' lab, studio, lounge and theatre; there will also be a new retractable seating system at Massey Hall.[11]

Notable appearances[edit]

A memorial held for King Edward VII at Massey Hall in 1910.
Interior of Massey Hall during Video Games Live concert series in 2006.

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.[5]

Many prominent figures have appeared on the broad stage of this stately hall, including Montserrat Caballe, William Booth, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, George Gershwin, Jerry Seinfeld, Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot, Luciano Pavarotti, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan, Cream, Thomas Mann, The Kinks, Billy Joel, Lenny Kravitz, Oscar Peterson, Joe Satriani, Arturo Toscanini and Yngwie Malmsteen.

It was the location of the 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.[3]

Neil Young's performance on January 19, 1971, was recorded and later released as a live album, entitled Live at Massey Hall 1971.[3]

Rush, in June 1976, recorded the live album All the World's a Stage here.[3]

Matthew Good performed and recorded his concert, on May 29, 2008, which was released as a live album, entitled Live at Massey Hall.[12]

During the Natty Dread Tour, Bob Marley and The Wailers performed for the first time in Toronto on June 8, 1975.

On January 8, 1995, Ronnie Hawkins celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a concert here, which was documented on the album Let It Rock.[3] 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[3]".

On December 21, 2011, Justin Bieber performed a special Christmas concert, which sold out in 30 minutes.[13]

Max Webster, a Toronto band, headlined at the venue in 1977 and again in 1978, as well as opening for Rush for three nights in June 1976.[14]

Kim Mitchell, former guitarist and lead vocalist of the band Max Webster, played to a capacity crowd in 1984 after the release of his platinum selling album Akimbo Alogo.[15]

American rock band Van Halen played their first ever Canadian concert on March 14, 1978, to a capacity crowd at the venue.

Canadian rock band Spirit of the West's 2015 concert at the venue, and the preparations for it, are profiled in the 2016 documentary film Spirit Unforgettable.[16]

Toronto-born comedian Russell Peters filmed his Netflix Original stand-up special Almost Famous over two nights at Massey Hall in April 2016.[17]

On his first solo tour, after One Direction went on hiatus, English singer Harry Styles performed at the venue on October 4, 2017. His tour sold out in seconds, setting a new Ticketmaster record.[18]

Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish performed at the venue on March 21, 2018, as part of their Decades: World Tour.[19]

In conjunction with their first-ever performance at the venue, folk-rock band Whitehorse released the 2013 EP The Road to Massey Hall, comprising covers of songs by other musicians who had played the hall in the past.[20]

For their first concert in Toronto, K-pop group Seventeen performed at Massey Hall on August 25, 2017.

For the Juno Awards of 2021, which was performed from a variety of venues across Canada, the surviving members of The Tragically Hip performed their 2002 single "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" with Feist on lead vocals, which marked the band's first televised performance since Gord Downie's death.[21]

Public transportation[edit]

An entrance to Queen subway station on Line 1 Yonge–University is located nearby at the corner of Shuter Street and Yonge Street.

The 501 Queen streetcar line has stops at the corner of Victoria Street and Queen Street.

Historic designations[edit]

In 1973, Toronto City Council designated Massey Hall a Heritage Property under the province's Ontario Heritage Act.[22] Massey Hall was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on June 15, 1981.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Kilbourn, William (1993). Intimate Grandeur: One Hundred Years At Massey Hall. Toronto: Stoddart. ISBN 9780773727427.
  2. ^ a b "Massey Hall". National Register of Historic Places. Parks Canada. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bateman, Chris (2013). "A brief history of Toronto's Massey Hall". blogTO.
  4. ^ Gillen, Mollie (1965). The Masseys: Founding Family.
  5. ^ a b Stroumboulopoulos, George (2014). "Celebrating Massey Hall: The Grand Old Lady of Shuter Street". CBC.
  6. ^ "Massey Hall".
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ "Nightclubs and other venues". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. 2003.
  9. ^ "Historical Timeline". The Corporation of Massey Hall & Roy Thomson Hall. Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  10. ^ "Allied Music Centre".
  11. ^ "Here's what Massey Hall and it's new 7-storey music complex in Toronto will look like". blogTO. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  12. ^ "Matthew Good Live At Massey Hall | Chart Attack". Chart Attack. 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  13. ^ Naulls, Kevin (19 December 2011). "Justin Bieber's Massey Hall Christmas concert sells out in 30 minutes (prepare to be gouged by scalpers)". Toronto Life. Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "KIM MITCHELL LIVE - 1984 !!! - The Party". YouTube.
  16. ^ "'Unforgettable' Spirit Of The West documentary". Toronto Sun, April 29, 2016.
  17. ^ Slotek, Jim (2016). "Russell Peters sounds off on Netflix special 'Almost Famous". Toronto Sun.
  18. ^ Hirsh, Sophie (2017). "Harry Styles's Solo Tour Sells Out Instantly, Sets TicketMaster Record". Teen Vogue.
  19. ^ "Photos: Nightwish @ Massey Hall". Aesthetic Magazine. March 22, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  20. ^ "Whitehorse Cover Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot on 'The Road to Massey Hall' Live EP" Archived 2013-02-02 at the Wayback Machine. Exclaim!, January 29, 2013.
  21. ^ Huddleston, Jess (May 13, 2021). "The Tragically Hip set to perform with Feist at the 2021 Juno Awards". CBC News.
  22. ^ Yu, Andrea (7 May 2013). "Massey Hall: Past, Present and Proposed Future". Urban Toronto. Retrieved 24 December 2014.

External links[edit]