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LIZSTS | 10 Small Classical Music Venues in Toronto You Should Know About

By Michael Vincent on February 9, 2017

Toronto has a lot of classical music hot spots. But sometimes I worry that many of them are scandalously undervalued by the majority of culture lovers across the city.

Major players like Koerner Hall, Roy Thomson Hall, The Sony Centre for the Arts, and The Four Seasons Centre are always going to be the central focus of classical music events, but here is a list of the 10 venues we suggest you make a point of spending some time in this season.

Trinity St. Paul’s

Trinity-St. Paul's — Jeanne Lamon Hall (Photo: Gary Beechey)
Trinity-St. Paul’s — Jeanne Lamon Hall (Photo: Gary Beechey)

Trinity St. Paul’s is a vibrant community hub located on the Bloor St Culture Corridor. It has been serving the local and extended neighborhood for more than 125 years. St Paul’s is home to the recently renovated Jeanne Lamon Hall, which has been the epicenter of Toronto’s early music scene for over 30 years. The renovations have made a huge impact on the acoustics of the space, which is both intimate and inviting — two words that have become the hallmarks for those who perform there.

Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum (Photo courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum)
Aga Khan Museum (Photo courtesy of the venue)

North York’s The Aga Khan Museum is a bit off the beaten path, but it fast becoming an important part of Toronto music community. What makes it unique is that they specialize in Islamic Iranian and Muslim culture, and all the music that does along with it. The building itself is a work of art, and worth the visit alone.

Gallery 345

Payadora Tango Ensemble CD launch at Gallery 345 (Photo: Courtesy Gallery 345/Yelp)
Payadora Tango Ensemble CD launch at Gallery 345 (Photo: Courtesy Gallery 345/Yelp)

Gallery 345 (345 Sorauren Avenue) is perhaps one of Toronto’s coolest small venues for concerts. Established in 2005 by music aficionado Edward Epstein, it is described as a “superb listening room of over 2,000 square feet with 15-foot wood ceilings, plaster and brick walls.” It has a particularly nice Baldwin concert grand that has become a favourite for visiting pianists.

Glenn Gould Studio

Glenn Gould Studio (Photo courtesy CBC)
Glenn Gould Studio (Photo courtesy CBC)

Named after Toronto’s most famous classical music export, the Glenn Gould Studio is best known for its acoustics. It is located in the CBC building and hosts a wide range of events including live radio shows. While you’re there, be sure to check out the exhibit of Glenn Gould photographs in the lobby.

918 Bathurst

Haus Musik at 918 Bathurst, with performers from Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (l to r) Felix Deak, Julia Wedman, Cristina Zacharias, Tricia Ahern, and Lucas Harris. (Photo: Joshua Chong)
Haus Musik at 918 Bathurst, with performers from Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (l to r) Felix Deak, Julia Wedman, Cristina Zacharias, Tricia Ahern, and Lucas Harris. (Photo: Joshua Chong)

The former home of Toronto’s Buddhist Temple, 918 Bathurst is a non-forprofit centre that offers a unique and relaxed atmosphere. It is Home to Tafelmusik’s Haus Musik series which recasts baroque music in the context of a nightclub where you can sip a pint of beer and wander around the space while immersing completely in the music. Besides music, they host many theatrical productions and have their own art gallery as well.

Heliconian Hall

The Toy Piano Composers at Heliconian Hall on Saturday (Tim Crouch iPhone photo).

Located in trendy Yorkville, Heliconian Hall is a small narrow chapel that has established itself by opening its doors to some of the most exciting chamber and vocal music being made in the city. Run by The Heliconian Club, it becomes an important meeting place for Toronto Summer Music Festival every year.

Harbourfront Centre Theatre

Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Photo: Sarah Hall Studio)
Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Photo: Sarah Hall Studio)

One of the best locations in Toronto for smaller events has to be Harbourfront Centre Theatre. The venue is a bit of a split level chameleon of sorts, and seems to excel at virtually any type of performance you throw at it. The Art of Time Ensemble calls this space their home, and Tapestry Opera and Against the Grain Theatre are frequent guests. While you’re there, be sure to take a walk along the lake.

Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

Andrew Haji, tenor
COC Vocal Series: Andrew Haji, tenor with Jennifer Szeto, piano; Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (Photo: Lara Hintelmann)

One of the most overlooks venues is the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre located in the Four Seasons Centre. It holds weekly free noon-hour concerts featuring worldclass chamber ensembles and singers. It’s run on a first come first seated deal, be sure to come a bit early to ensure yourself a good seat.

The Drake

Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah (Photo: Soundstreams)

Besides being a hotel, The Drake Underground (1150 Queen St W, Toronto) is also a great venue for contemporary music shows. Soundstreams has been making good use of the venue for their Electric Messiah series, which redefines Handel’s holiday classic every year. They make a great Manhattan too, so come thirsty.

The Music Gallery

Toy Piano Composers Concert, The Music Gallery, September 20, 2014. (Photo: Michael Vincent)

Originally founded in 1976 by Peter Anson and Al Mattes of the free-improvising group, CCMC, the Music Gallery (located at the Church of St. George the Martyr,) is all about providing a safe place for artists to take risks. For this reason, it has become one of the most cutting-edge music venues in the city. One particular event that gets people talking every year is their X Avant Music Festival which should not be missed.

For more LISZTS, click HERE.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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