Before heading north to the Yukon, we make our only stop in Alberta at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre, one of the finest performance spaces in North America and home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Despite opening in 1997, the origins of the hall date back to 1980. At the time, Tommy Banks, a local jazz legend and now a member of the Canadian senate, felt that Edmonton needed to have a proper concert hall that was built to international standards. While the city did have the multi-purpose Jubilee Auditorium, it was not built to present music in its clearest, most pristine form. From there, the fundraising process began to build a proper concert hall for the people of Edmonton.
After years of work, a turning point took place in 1988. Dr. Francis G. Winspear, a former ESO board member and longstanding philanthropist, made a $6 million donation to have the hall built. This donation, the largest single private donation to a performing arts facility in Canadian history, got the attention of all levels of government. Winspear’s donation resulted in the Canadian federal government to put up $15 million, with the provincial government signing on to match the funds. After a location was determined and a $45 million budget was determined, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music was constructed and opened in September, 1997.
A key feature of the Winspear Centre is its organ. On September 14, 2002, the Davis Concert Organ was launched at a sold-old gala performance. Built by Orgues Létourneau Limitée of St. Hyacinthe, Québec, it features 96 stops, 122 ranks, and 6,551 pipes – a stunning aural as well as visual delight. Additionally, the hall also features adjustable acoustics through the use of velour banners and curtains that are used to control reverb depending on the music being performed.
The Winspear has been a favourite venue for NYO Canada in the past and this summer, we look forward to returning to this magnificent hall on August 8th.