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 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
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 (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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.