Orpheum TheatreOrpheum Theatre (Vancouver). 2,688-seat theatre-turned-concert hall, located at Smithe and Seymour on Granville Mall, Vancouver, and administered by Vancouver Civic Theatres. It is the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Designed by architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca in "conservative Spanish Renaissance" style and financed by Vancouver businessman Joseph Langer, the Orpheum Theatre was for many years Canada's largest and most opulent theatre. It opened 7 Nov 1927 (its first concert was 8 Nov 1927) as a vaudeville house, and hosted performances by Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Rudy Vallee, and others affiliated with the US-based Orpheum Circuit. Although it became a movie theatre in the 1930s (Ivan Ackery was manager 1935-69), it remained one of two halls used by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) 1930-59.
1973 - Present
By the early 1970s the Orpheum Theatre had fallen into disrepair. Redevelopment plans were made by its owners, Famous Players, and in 1973 a campaign to convert the theatre into a permanent concert hall was spearheaded by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and mayor Art Phillips. With federal, provincial, and private support, the city purchased the theatre for $3.9 million in March 1974. It was restored to its original grandeur in 1976 by Vancouver architects Thompson, Berwick, and Pratt, and reopened 2 Apr 1977 as a civic concert hall and the home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The inaugural concert featured the VSO and Maureen Forrester under conductor Kazuyoshi Akiyama.
During restoration, the stage was extended (reducing seating by about 100) and the fly system and stage curtains removed to make way for a permanent orchestra shell. Other adjustments were made by acoustician Theodore J. Schultz (of Bolt, Beranek and Newman Inc, New York) to accommodate the sound of the orchestra, including a system of microphones and speakers (creating some controversy) to distribute the sound evenly throughout the hall. The new acoustics were praised by Gerald Jarvis, then concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, for "a European sound, a warm, generous sound quite different from the clinical sound of many North American concert halls" (Toronto Star, 4 Apr 1977). The theatre's Wurlitzer organ, once used to accompany silent films, is maintained in playing condition and has been used occasionally in recital and with the orchestra and for a recording by Patrick Wedd (CBC MVCD-1019). In 1983 a new foyer, Westcoast Hall, was added.
The Orpheum Theatre remains one of Canada's largest concert halls. It presents a variety of classical and popular concerts, and has been the main venue for the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Vancouver Cantata Singers, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and the Vancouver Recital Society. In celebration of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad, it hosted performances by Canadian musicians Feist, K'NAAN, Joel Plaskett, and Stars.
The Orpheum Theatre has been designated a national historic site.