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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

A peek inside Tafelmusik's home reveals hopeful signs of progress behind the scaffolding

By John Terauds on August 8, 2013

The interior of Trinity-St Paul's Church in mid-renovation, on Aug. 8, 2013. (John Terauds photos.)
Looking from the balcony down to the new stage at Trinity-St Paul’s Church in mid-renovation, on Aug. 8, 2013. (John Terauds photos.)

Tafelmusik managing director Tricia Baldwin took a small group of curious Toronto music writers through the orchestra’s longtime home at Trinity-St Paul’s Church on Thursday afternoon to reveal a building in the midst of a much-needed and wished-for transformation.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Scheduled to reopen for concerts on Sept. 29, the nave of Trinity-St Paul’s is currently a mess of scaffolding and carpentry. But a closer look reveals signs of progress.

The old chancel, organ console and choir pews are gone, replaced by a permanent stage that begins at the organ case and ends in a graceful ark in front of a new orchestra-level seating area.

Wooden panels designed by acoustician Bob Essert — the brains behind the fine sound at the Four Seasons Centre and Koerner Hall — are being built in situ by skilled tradespeople.

tsp-worker

There isn’t a strand of carpeting in sight, as workers have taken the surface down to the old pine subfloor. The finished combination concert and worship space will get new hardwood flooring before its doors reopen.

The wooden wall panels, backed with spruce and faced with maple, along with a flat surface at the back of the stage and the hardwood floors will enhance the acoustics from deepest bass to sparkly treble frequencies, says Baldwin.

That was the main goal for an expensive, multi-stage overhaul of the late-19th century building: to have the orchestra play and the audience listen in a fine acoustical environment.

A bonus will be fully numbered and assigned seats for every audience member — on new structures at the orchestra level, and on excellent, dense individual cushions to mitigate the stark reminders in the backside from the Old Methodist worship pews on the balcony level.

Because of the thick new cushions and a higher stage, people sitting in the balcony will enjoy better sightlines.

Another bonus is a fresh lick of paint inside the church, replacing the old green-and-brown hues (Baldwin quips that it’s been known in house for years as “repression green”) with an historically appropriate and very fresh looking mix of light blues, beiges, dark brown and creamy white.

tsp-ceiling

The paint job wasn’t supposed to be part of this first phase of renovations, but the fundraising went so well last season, that Tafelmusik decided to take advantage of the empty space to bring in the scaffolding necessary to reach the top of every archway and cornice.

Baldwin reveals that it will have cost about $220,000 for the paint job alone — something everyone hopes will be good for 40 years, given the challenges and cost of getting it done.

As for turning what looks like a construction site at its most chaotic into an performance-ready space, Baldwin is optimistic. “The crew have been remarkably solution-focused,” she says of the inevitable situations where work has run into the snags.

That, and a little bit of overtime, should do the trick, she says. The work is also being scheduled in such a way that the interior of the performance space will be finished first.

tsp-entrance

You can read more about Tafelmusik’s renovation plans for Trinity-St Paul’s Centre here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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