Friday night's grand opening of The Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall proved that Toronto has truly become one of the world's top cities for the performing arts. The magical evening of music showcased exceptional Canadian talent and a music hall that, after years and many millions in the making, is undoubtedly among the best in the world. The night included Spirits of the House, a world premiere by R. Murray Schafer, especially commissioned by Michael and Sonja Koerner for the grand opening, and a video commemorating RCM student and musical genius Glenn Gould. Artists included the Royal Conservatory Orchestra under Canada's own star conductor Jean-Philipe Tremblay, Grammy-nominated ARC (Artists of The Royal Conservatory), Anton Kuerti, The Toronto Mendelsson Choir, and vocal soloists Erin Wall, Wallis Giunta, Colin Ainsworth and Robert Pomakov.
L to R: Len Gamache, Chief Development Officer; Jean Chretien, former Canadian Prime Minister; Tony and Elizabeth Comper, Co-Chairs, Building National Dreams Capital Campaign; Peter Simon, President, The Royal Conservatory; Aline Chretien
L to R: Peter Simon, President RCM; Donor Michael Koerner; Eleanor James; R. Murray Schafer, Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist
Said by some to be the jewel in the crown of Toronto's cultural renaissance, expectations were high on Friday for Koerner Hall, with Torontonians eager to experience a night of classical music in a hall whose acoustics had been tweaked for many months leading up to the grand opening. The result seemed, to me, perfect. Every note was crisp and clear and I felt enveloped in sounds of stunning quality. I am admittedly not an acoustic expert; however, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Paula Citron, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM and a contributing writer for The Globe and Mail, who is an expert, and she was nothing short of effusive in her accolades. She spoke of how alive and immediate the music was, how the integrity of every note, loud or soft, was heard. And we were not alone. An enraptured audience immediately fell under the spell of Koerner Hall and the musical geniuses that played there Friday night, giving them standing ovation after standing ovation.
One of many standing ovations
Donor Michael Koerner and RCM President Peter Simon both spoke to the audience about the importance of fostering cultural creativity and the importance of having a world-class music hall in the heart of downtown Toronto. Founded in 1886, the RCM is the largest and oldest independent arts educator in Canada, internationally renowned for their educational programs and performances. Friday's grand opening of Koerner Hall, the final phase in the transformation of the RCM's national headquarters, the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, represented a spectacular move into the future for RCM. At the end of the wondrous evening Simon told me he was feeling "a lot of exultation... just pure joy. It was such a great concert... the beginning of new era." Indeed, everything about the night reverberated with a fresh and forward moving force, from the young luminary Jean-Philippe Tremblay conducting the night's lineup to Koerner describing the veil of twisting oak strings on the ceiling as canoes representing "continual discovery." With so many superbly talented young performers on stage it's inconceivable to deny the cultural investment that the RCM has made in Canada; they are ushering in a new generation of musical talent that is sure to win the hearts of music lovers at home and around the world, as they did Friday night in Toronto.
With fingers floating across keys, bows gliding over strings and smiles spreading over the faces of musicians and audience members alike, the RCM's grand opening of Koerner Hall was an enchanting evening and a smashing success. Beethoven's masterpiece Choral Fantasy ended the program, and was performed with such magic and genius by all that I felt moved to tears, privileged to be in attendance and incredibly proud to be Canadian. The standing ovation was so long and so passionately congratulatory that conductor Jean-Philippe Tremblay returned to the stage three times. Friday night's grand opening of Koerner Hall is truly emblematic of a new era for the RCM and is a gift of immeasurable value to not only Toronto, but to Canada and the world.
A long and passionate standing ovation to end the evening
To find out more about The Royal Conservatory of Music, Koerner Hall and The TELUS Center for Performance and Learning go to www.rcmusic.ca
Photos of the Grand Opening of Koerner Hall courtesy of Lisa Sakulensky. RCM building images courtesy of RCM.