Francis Winspear Centre for Music

Funding and DevelopmentIn 1983 a feasibility committee confirmed the need for a new concert hall for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and the same year the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation was formed under president David Norwood.
Francis Winspear Centre for Music, Exterior
The Francis Winspear Centre for Music is situated in the arts district in the heart of downtown Edmonton (photo by the Ellis Brothers).

Francis Winspear Centre for Music

 Francis Winspear Centre for Music. Concert hall located at the corner of 99th St and 102 Ave in Edmonton. Completed in 1997, it houses the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Pro Coro Canada chamber choir, and is operated by the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation. CEOs of the Winspear Centre have included W.R. (Bob) McPhee, John David Sterne, and Peter Gerrie beginning in 2006.

Funding and Development
In 1983 a feasibility committee confirmed the need for a new concert hall for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and the same year the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation was formed under president David Norwood. The centre received federal and provincial support ($15 million each), following an initial donation in 1988 of $6 million from Francis G. Winspear - the largest individual donation to a Canadian arts centre at the time. The city of Edmonton contributed the land, leasing it to the centre for $1 for 90 years.

The Concert Hall

Construction on the $45-million Francis Winspear Centre for Music began in 1995 under Calgary-based architects Cohos Evamy Partners and acousticians Artec Consultants Inc (New York). With the goal of achieving an acoustically balanced environment for unamplified and amplified performance, the designers produced one of Canada's top performance spaces. Modeled after Vienna's Musikvereinssaal and Zurich's Tonhalle, the intimate Enmax Hall is a rectangular "shoebox" shape and seats just 1,932, or 1,840 with the choir loft retracted. Small groups of seats are dispersed over five levels (orchestra, terrace, and three balconies), and most face the stage directly, allowing for superior sightlines and sound clarity. Reverberation is controlled by an adjustable sound-reflecting canopy, reflector panels, and velour curtains. The hall is capped off by a "top hat" feature - an empty space in which sound is free to resonate. The semi-circular stage measures 18.65 m wide by 13.7 m in depth and sits in close proximity to the audience.

The Davis Concert Organ, named following a $2-million donation from Stuart Davis, was built by Orgues Létourneau Ltée and made its debut 15 Sep 2002 in a recital by Christopher Herrick. With 6,551 pipes, 4 manuals, 96 stops, and 122 ranks, it was the largest concert organ manufactured by Létourneau.


 The Francis Winspear Centre for Music opened 12 Sep 1997 with an inaugural ten-day concert series attended by 60,000. Highlights included performances by Jann Arden, Terri Clark, Herbie Hancock, and the Richard Eaton Singers, among others; an all-Canadian program of works by Glenn Buhr, Malcolm Forsyth, and Allan Gilliland; premieres of Gilles Tremblay's l'espace du coeur (performed 15 Sep 1997 by Pro Coro Canada) and a Triple Concerto by John Estacio (commissioned for the event and premiered 13 Sep 1997 by Angela Cheng, Juliette Kang, and Shauna Rolston); and a rare performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 by the Edmonton Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Since opening, the Winspear Centre has also seen performances by Blue Rodeo, Michael Bublé, Nelly Furtado, Sarah Harmer, Diana Krall, the Rolling Stones, Yo-Yo Ma, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

In 1999 the centre was named Performing Arts Centre of the Year by the Canadian Session and Touring Industry Awards.

See also Francis Winspear Centre for Music, and Michael Bublé in The Canadian Encyclopedia

Further Reading

  • Kellogg, Alan. "A dream becomes a reality: concert hall announcement caps years of work . . . ," Edmonton Journal, 8 Jul 1994

    "Winspear's magnum opus: Edmonton will finally build a $40-million concert hall," Western Report (Edmonton), 25 Jul 1994

    Boddy, Trevor. "Sounding a fortissimo for civic pride . . . ," Globe and Mail, 13 Sep 1997

    Weber, Bob. "New concert hall opens to rave reviews," Canadian Press Newswire, 14 Sep 1997

    Cosh, Colby. "The space that makes the music: architectural restraint equals acoustic success . . ." Alberta Report, vol 24, no 42, 29 Sep 1997

    Wetherill, John. "Edmonton's new organ is unveiled," Organ Canada, vol 14, no 4, Dec 2001

    "Pipe dream coming true for Edmonton music lovers," Music Alberta Magazine, Fall 2002