Massey Hall opens doors after more than 3 years, extensive renovations

After three long years, music is once again echoing within the walls of Massey Hall. Melissa Nakhavoly was on hand for the reopening as was a familiar voice from the iconic music venue's past

By Michael Ranger

A Toronto staple is back up and running after being shut down for renovations for more than three years.

Massey Hall reopned its iconic red doors on Thursday night, with Gordon Lightfoot headlining the first show in the newly restored venue for the first time in 40 months.

It cost $184 million for the top to bottom renovations of the 127-year-old downtown building at Victoria and Shuter streets, just east of Yonge.

“The core principles for us was to not do anything that would diminish the magic, charisma ,or character of Massey Hall” said president and CEO Jesse Kumagai. “But there were a lot of things that stood to improve.”

Restorations aimed to make the National Historic Site more accessible for patrons and improve the sound by installing state of the art sound systems and acoustics. The entire stage was rebuilt and the ground floor was lifted so the performers are closer to the balcony seats.

Additional concert rooms were added, larger seats were installed to provide more leg room, the halls have been redone and there are now bathrooms on every floor. The ceiling arches were restored and the original stained glass windows were preserved.

“We didn’t really change the geometry of any of this, it’s very much still the gallery experience that people remember, except a lot more comfortable,” said Kumagai.

The renovations are part of a larger project called the Allied Music Centre, a new multi-purpose complex that includes several stages.

“In the basement bar, we’ve added a stage down there,” said Kumagai. “That will be up and running before too long.”

There is a new seven-story tower that is attached to the south side of the building that will hold additional performance venues and rehearsal spaces.

The opening of the new complex will come in stages starting with Massey Hall on Nov. 25, with other sections of the building to follow in early to mid 2022.

Lightfoot made his 170th appearance at the hall. The 83-year-old will also perform on Friday and Saturday.

Mayor John Tory has pronounced Nov. 25 Gordon Lightfoot Day in the city to mark the occasion.

The iconic singer-songwriter also had the honour of being the final performance at the venue before the doors were shuttered in July 2018.

In addition to Lightfoot, the venue has announced a full slate of artists set to perform through to the end of 2022, including the likes of Buffy Sainte-Marie, City and Colour, and Broken Social Scene.

Some upcoming shows will feature general admission-seating where concertgoers will stand on the floor of the Hall — a new feature at the venue. The new chairs are able to roll into the floor to provide an open space.

With files from CityNews reporter Melissa Nakhavoly

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