Friday 6 July 2018

Toronto's Archbishops Live at Massey Hall

Last weekend Gordon Lightfoot played the last concert at Toronto's Massey Hall before two years of renovations. In its 124 year history, the greatest names in music including Igor Stravinski, George Gershwin, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Glenn Gould, Charlie Parker, Joni Mitchell, and St. Michael's Choir School amongst many others have performed in the space. It holds the distinction of being Canada's oldest concert hall, but its design has held up as an intimate space to hear world-class musicians.

Over the years, the Archbishops of Toronto have been invited to and have attended many events at Massey Hall including a 1933 protest against Hitler. In 1959 Cardinal McGuigan joined the St. Michael's Choir School boys onstage: 

Cardinal McGuigan addresses the crowd at a concert honouring Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop Andrew Sheptytsky, OSBM.

December 13, 1959

PH 34/03P
ARCAT Photograph Collection  

Archbishop McNeil was invited to an event celebrating the opening of a house on Beverly Street by Sir Arthur Pearson to train men blinded in the first world war:

"Archbishop Neil McNeil, Toronto.

Dear Sir, -

I beg to enclose herewith a platform ticket for the Public Testimonial to be held at Massey Hall on Tuesday, January seventh, at 8 P.M. in honor of the Canadian Soldiers blinded in the war and Sir Arthur Pearson, Bart.

The Hon. W.J. Hanna, K.C., will preside and, besides Sir Arthur Pearson, there will be a number of interesting speakers.

On behalf of the institute, I am pleased to extend to you an invitation to be present and to occupy a seat upon the platform.

Yours faithfully,

L.M. Wood, President."

January 2, 1919

FW GC01.68
First World War Collection

In 1916 Toronto pastors were asked to announce a meeting at Massey Hall of the Associated Kin of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, which was an association of relatives of First World War soldiers working to "promote and care for the best interests of the men who [were] fighting for King and Country."

"Dear Sir:-

On Tuesday next, the 5th of December, at eight o'clock in the evening, at Massey Hall, there will be a meeting of the ASSOCIATED KIN OF THE CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES. I am taking the liberty of enclosing you the Objects and Obligations of that Association with the request that you will be so good as to announce this meeting from your pulpit on next Sunday and say what you properly can with respect to the movement.

If you have kin at the front, I would be honored if you would kindly take a seat upon the platform on that evening.

Yours most respectfully,

William Renwick Riddell" 


FW WE01.31
First World War Collection

The Catholic Youth Organization held a rally in 1938:

"His Excellency
The Most Reverend James C. McGuigan, D.D.
Archbishop of Toronto
invites you to be present at the
Catholic Youth Organization Rally
in Massey Hall
Wednesday Evening, January 19th, 1938
at 8.15 p.m.
Reserved seats will be held until 8.10 p.m."

MG TA01.115
Cardinal McGuigan Fonds

The National Chorus of Toronto performed annually from 1903 to 1928:

"The National Chorus
Announces its Thirteenth Annual Concert at
Massey Hall, on Tuesday evening, January 18th
With Mr. Morgan Kingston as the assisting soloist,
and the net proceeds to be devoted to Red Cross purposes.

Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and the
Princess Patricia have announced their intention of being present.

Tickets may now be procured at Tyrrell's Book Store, 780 Yonge Street, near Bloor Street."


MN AH05.03
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

Admiral Earl Beatty of the British Navy visited Toronto in 1921:

"Dear Archbishop McNeil;-

On Monday, next, November 28th, at 2 P.M., Admiral Earl Beatty, O.M., etc., will be the guest of the Navy League of Canada at Massey Hall.

As Head of the Roman Catholic Church, we are enclosing a ticket, which will admit you, by way of the stage door, to the platform. Will you kindly be seated by 1.45, as the Admiral will enter at 2 o'clock.

Admiral Earl Beatty O.M., etc., will be in the City from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., therefore, he will only be with us for half an hour, but the League feels happy in being thus honoured. Please reply by telephone, Saturday morning, if possible.

In view of the fact that platform space is very limited, it will be necessary for you to present this ticket.

Faithfully yours, Cecil S.Williams Lieut Colonel. Manager."

November 25, 1921

MN AH10.134
Archbishop McNeil Fonds

Archbishop Pocock was on the board of directors of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which performed at Massey Hall until Roy Thomson Hall opened in 1982. He kept a copy of their 1964-1965 brochure. That year concert goers would hear the Canadian premiere of Britten's War Requiem, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, amongst other great classical works. The back of the brochure shows pricing for season tickets. Fifty dollars would get you fifteen concerts in one of the best seats in the house:

1964-1965 Toronto Symphony Orchestra Season Ticket price chart.

PO OOR22.02b
Archbishop Pocock Fonds 

Massey Hall holds a special place in my heart because it was the venue of the first rock concert my sister took me to when I was in grade 10. I've seen many of my favourite artists there since then, and I'm looking forward to seeing more after the renovations are finished. It will be exciting to see the changes! In the meantime, I'll watch the Live at Massey Hall series online.

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