Take a Look Inside Toronto's Newly Revitalized Massey Hall

CEO Jesse Kumagai and principal architect Marianne McKenna detail the historic venue's numerous upgrades

BY Allie GregoryPublished Nov 25, 2021

After closing its doors for renovations in 2018, Toronto's historic Massey Hall is finally reopening to the public today with a three-night run of performances by the legendary Gordon Lightfoot. And, after some significant upgrades, it has returned bigger and better than ever.

At an exclusive sneak peek held yesterday (November 24) at the 127-year-old venue, CEO Jesse Kumagai gave us a tour of the newly revitalized space alongside principal architect Marianne McKenna.

The pair outlined the numerous upgrades Massey has undergone in the last three years, including architectural detailing and preservation, improved accessibility, back-of-house and load-in restructuring, restored stained-glass windows, new artist facilities, more washrooms and bars, more comfortable seating — yes, even those gallery seats — and much more.

One major new feature is the addition of removable main-floor seating, meaning Massey Hall will now be able to accommodate general admission performances with standing-only tickets.

"All of the seats slide underneath the stage," McKenna explained. "[It's] what everybody wants, but the other part of the everybody, they want to sit down. So we can do both. We've introduced adaptability, flexibility. This really is a hall for the 21st century."

Kumagai added: "It's something that's going to allow us to attract a lot of artists who maybe wouldn't have made Massey Hall home before ... It's going to create a whole new dynamic — something that I don't think anybody really conceived of in 1894. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Additionally, Kumagai shared that the venue's seated configuration will now allow for slightly more than 2,500 people, while the general admission configuration will hold about 2,800.

Moreover, Massey's top floor now includes an artist-only facility, which can be used to record interviews, work on music and collaborate with other musicians.

Many sections of the venue are still under construction, including the adjacent seven-storey Allied Music Centre, and the expanded basement — which has been redesigned to include a full stage with sound and lights.

While Exclaim! wasn't able to access these yet-to-be-completed areas, Kumagai promises fewer issues with crowd congestion downstairs, a more comfortable environment, and plans for after-parties and performances in the newly outfitted subterranean performance area. 

Following this weekend's run of concerts from Lightfoot, the venue has plans to host performances all the way through to December 2022. Upcoming performers include Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mustafa, Majid Jordan, City and Colour, Patrick Watson, Chilly Gonzales, Frazey Ford, Emmylou Harris & Patty Griffin, Choir! Choir! Choir!, Courtney Barnett and more. See the full schedule of events over at the Massey Hall website.

Take a look inside the new and improved Massey Hall below. 

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