The only con­cert hall in Toronto that mat­ters

Massey Hall has seen it all since it opened 120 years ago this month, from Win­ston Churchill to Bob Dy­lan

Midtown Post - - Looking Back -

On June 14, 1894, Massey Hall opened its doors to the pub­lic as a con­cert hall of great ac­claim. For the past 120 years, it has hosted ev­ery­thing from wrestling to royalty to po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, in ad­di­tion to the finest mu­si­cians in the world and a num­ber of leg­endary con­certs.

The hall was fi­nanced by Hart Massey, of farm equip­ment man­u­fac­turer Massey-Har­ris, and the project was a me­mo­rial to his son Charles Al­bert Massey.

The first con­cert in the then 3,500-seat Massey Mu­sic Hall was Han­del’s Mes­siah per­formed by a 500-mem­ber choir.

Jazz has al­ways had a home in Massey Hall. In 1946, for ex­am­ple, both Os­car Peter­son and Glenn Gould made their de­buts. Gould was just 13 years old. And in 1953, one par­tic­u­lar evening’s lineup in­cluded Char­lie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Pow­ell, Charles Min­gus and Max Roach. That night is now con­sid­ered by many to be the great­est jazz con­cert ever. But, Massey Hall is far from an over­sized jazz club. In 1965, Bob Dy­lan played be­fore a sold-out crowd with the Band (Levon Helm, Rob­bie Robertson, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko) back­ing him up.

The con­cert is no­table be­cause of the ou­trage Dy­lan caused when the band played the sec­ond half of the con­cert, gasp, elec­tric. For shame!

In 1971, an up-and-com­ing singer-song­writer named Neil Young gave an in­cred­i­ble acous­tic solo per­for­mance that was meant to be recorded for an al­bum, but it wasn’t re­leased un­til 2007 when it de­buted at num­ber one on the Cana­dian al­bum charts. And he is just one of many artists who have recorded live al­bums at Massey Hall, in­clud­ing Rush, Matthew Good, Bur­ton Cum­mings and Gor­don Light­foot.

In 2013, dur­ing the Lu­mi­nato fes­ti­val, Joni Mitchell cel­e­brated her 70th birth­day play­ing two shows with an in­cred­i­ble lineup of guests, in­clud­ing Ru­fus Wain­wright, Her­bie Han­cock and Esper­anza Spald­ing.

Last year, the On­tario govern­ment com­mit­ted $8 mil­lion for the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Massey Hall, so it looks like the ‘grande dame’ on Vic­to­ria Street will con­tinue to pro­vide an in­valu­able ser­vice to the city for years to come.

Light and noise flooded through the orig­i­nal stained glass win­dows

(L-R) Some Massey Hall mem­o­rable mo­ments in­clude Johnny Cash, Si­mon & Gar­funkel and iconic Cana­dian mu­si­cian Neil Young

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