Massey Hall gets a little bit bigger

The iconic Massey Hall is going to be getting something of a facelift!

Toronto’s MOD Developments recently bought the Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, which is located right beside the concert hall, and will be donating a 4,804 square-foot section of land to the hall. In tribute to its famous neighbour, MOD said it will rename the Commerce Building the Massey Tower.

The land donation will be used to add some amenities to the building, like extra washrooms and bars.

blog-23Jan2012-photo1The Hall has a rich musical history, and a long, long list of legendary performers. Young and old have taken in a show behind those red doors, making it nothing short of a great Toronto landmark.

It was commissioned in 1892 by industrial baron Hart Massey, who hired architect Sidney Badgley to design the hall as a memorial to his son, Charles Albert Massey, who passed away in 1884 at the age of 37. The elder Massey intended the hall as a “gift to aid in the development of the arts. . . [to be] an auditorium – spacious, substantial and comfortable, where public meetings, conventions, musical and other entertainments. . . could be given.”

blog-23Jan2012-photo2The first cornerstone was laid in September 1983, and the building was inaugurated less than one year later, with a five-concert festival, featuring Handel’s Messiah, performed by a 500-member chorus, with the 70-member Grand Festival Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Torrington.

A series of milestones would mark the concert hall in the coming years, including highest ticket price ($5 in 1903 for opera diva Adelina Patti’s farewell concert).

Pianists Oscar Peterson and 13-year-old Glenn Gould made their individual debuts at Massey Hall, within weeks of each other in 1946. Jazz legends Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach played together for the only time in their lives in 1953.

In 1965, Bob Dylan and his Canadian backups (later known as The Band) went electric for the first time at Massey Hall. In 1975, Dylan would rent out the hall for a solid week to film a movie about his life that is never released.

In 1967, Gordon Lightfoot began a long trail of solo performances at the Hall – the most of any performer. Luciano Pavarotti made is Toronto debut before a packed house at Massey Hall, again breaking records for ticket price – $50 each in 1973.

blog-23Jan2012-photo3Canadian rock legends, Rush, recorded their first live album at Massey Hall in 1976. The double album would sell over one million copies.

In 1993, Keith Richards announced he’d play at Massey Hall. Tickets sold out in just 40 minutes.

Four years later, Morrissey was hauled offstage during a concert at Massey Hall, after being mistaken for an audience member. The concert ended abruptly.

Massey Hall has had such a fabulous 118-year history, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Click here for a detailed timeline of the Hall’s long history, and click here for a wonderful album by architectural photographer, Peter MacCallum.

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