Massey Hall is internationally famous as Canada's most important venue for concerts and lectures, attracting many of the world's leading celebrities; it has also hosted weddings, movies, boxing matches, beauty contests, religious and political rallies, typing contests and chess tournaments. Massey Hall remains a vital part of Toronto's cultural and entertainment scene.
Hart Massey purchased land at Shuter and Victoria Streets and hired architect Sidney R. Badgley to design a memorial to his son Charles Albert Massey as a gift to the citizens of Toronto. The intention was the auditorium would aid in the development of the arts and would be "spacious, substantial and comfortable, where public meetings, conventions, musical and other entertainments, etc., could be given."
September 21, 1893
The cornerstone was laid, the day after the late Charles Albert’s birthday, by Hart’s six-year-old grandson Vincent.
June 14, 1894
A five-concert festival inaugurates the then 3,500-seat "Massey Music Hall." The first concert on June 14 features Handel's Messiah performed by a 500-member chorus with the 70-member Grand Festival Orchestra conducted by Frederick Torrington.
January 15, 1895
The newly formed (Toronto) Mendelssohn Choir performs its first concert, conducted by its founder Augustus Vogt.
The fire escapes on the Victoria Street side of the hall are replaced after a fire destroys half of lower downtown Toronto.
During the annual Methodists' Festival of the Lilies, 10-year-old prodigy Ernest MacMillan plays the Massey Hall organ, his first performance in a Massey Hall career that would stretch over the next six decades.
Enrico Caruso, highly acclaimed Italian operatic singer, comes to Toronto for the first time and performs at Massey Hall. He is recognized as one of the first global celebrities of his time.
Sylvia & Christabel Pankhurst, English suffragettes, follow in the shoes of their mother Emmeline by commanding the stage of Massey Hall to compel Canadian women to fight for their right to vote & equal pay. Canadian prairie novelist, Nellie McClung, leads the charge for Canadian women in 1915 speaking out for women’s rights during the peak of World War I.
Photo Courtesy of Cyril Jessop, Library and Archives Canada, Acc. no. 1966-094, PA-030212
The Albert Building, adjacent to the Hall and owned by the Massey estate, is connected to the main structure to provide needed space for dressing rooms and offices.
April 12, 1919
Shortly before winning the world heavyweight championship, Jack Dempsey referees preliminary bouts onstage and spars in an exhibition match.
Boxing and wrestling out-rent all other forms of entertainment by 3 to 1.
One year before his death, Enrico Caruso returns and sets a new Massey Hall box office record of $70,000. He goes outside onto the fire escape to sing an aria to the crowd that couldn't get in.
April 23, 1923
The 58-member New Symphony Orchestra, later renamed the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, debuts under the baton of Luigi von Kunitz. Ticket prices range from 25¢ to 75¢; players receive $3.95 each.
October 27, 1931
Ernest MacMillan conducts his first concert as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a post he would hold until 1956.
The Hall undergoes major renovations; seating is reduced from 3,500 to 2,675; a new lounge is created behind the first gallery; the ground floor entrance area is enlarged; the aging, flammable wooden stairs are replaced with stone and steel; a new colour scheme and Art Deco touches give the Hall a new look.
January 19, 1934
George Gershwin appears as soloist in his "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Concerto in F."
Igor Stravinsky first conducts in Massey Hall (returns to conduct and record in 1960s).
Flooding destroys all of Massey Hall's records, photographs and playbills.
Within weeks of each other, pianists Oscar Peterson and the 13-year-old Glenn Gould make their Massey Hall debuts.
Concerns over fire safety lead to the installation of concrete under the stage and ground floor seating.
Legendary jazz concert; jazz immortals Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach play together for the only time in their lives. Collectively referred to as The Quintet for ‘The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever’ Jazz At Massey Hall
A large chunk of plaster falls from the ceiling while the Hall is empty; the entire ceiling is replastered and reinforced with a strong wire mesh to hold it in place.
Bob Dylan receives cheers from an overflowing house until he outrages musical purists during the concert's second half when he and his Canadian backup group (later known as The Band) go electric.
Gordon Lightfoot begins a long series of annual concerts that will lead to the most solo appearances at the Hall of any performer.
January 17, 1971
As part of his Journeys Though the Past acoustic solo tour, Neil Young performs at Massey Hall, recorded for an intended live album. The recording is eventually released as part of his 2007 Archives Series and debuts at #1 on the Canadian album charts.
June 20, 1973
On recommendation of the Toronto Historical Board, the City of Toronto names Massey Hall on its first-ever list of "heritage" sites.
December 9, 1973
Luciano Pavarotti makes his Toronto debut before a packed house, despite a top ticket price of $50, a new record for the Hall.
February 21, 1974
Maria Callas and Giuseppe Di Stefano sing arias and duets as part of their farewell world tour.
The Hall is booked for an entire week for the making of a film about Bob Dylan that is never released.
June 11 - 13, 1976
Canadian rock trio Rush record their first live album "All The World’s A Stage" at Massey Hall. This incredible double live album would go on to sell over 1,000,000 copies.
June 4, 1982
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra plays its last concert before moving to Roy Thomson Hall.
September 2, 1989
The musical Cats runs for over 7 months, a Massey Hall record.
September 27, 1990
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, brings his message of "compassion for all sentient beings."
Intimate Grandeur One Hundred Years at Massey Hall by William Kilbourn is published by Stoddart. The 160-page hardcover book chronicles the building of the Hall and illustrates the venues first 100 years.
June 12, 1994
Massey Hall is celebrated with a Street Festival in celebration of its centennial.
June 14, 1994
The Centennial Celebration Concert features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Mendelssohn Choir; and conductors Mario Bernardi, Victor Feldbrill, Elmer Iseler, Maureen Forrester; Lois Marshall; Blue Rodeo; and Dave Broadfoot.
Centuries (licensed bar and lounge) located in the Massey Hall Lower Level opens.
September 12, 1997
British cult singer Morrissey is mistaken for an audience member during a raucous concert, and hauled off stage by a security guard, abruptly ending the concert.
October 25, 2001
Directions in Music featuring Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, and Michael Brecker in concert, celebrating Miles Davis and John Coltrane was recorded live at Massey Hall. The commercial release in June 2002 went on to earn a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group that same year.
May 28, 2008
Canadian musician Matthew Good performs and records with his band. A double live album Live at Massey Hall is released in October (digital) and November (physical).
May 10 & 11, 2011
Neil Young returns for 2 solo concerts, captured on film by director Jonathan Demme, as the final installment in Neil Young’s concert film trilogy, Neil Young Life joins 2006’s Neil Young Heart of Gold and 2008’s Neil Young Trunk Show.
May 25-28, 2011
Gordon Lightfoot performs his 150th solo concert at Massey Hall as part of a 4 night stand.
December 21, 2011
Justin Bieber performs a surprise concert at Massey Hall, a Christmas TV taping titled Home for the Holidays. The concert, which sold out in less than 30 minutes, aired on MuchMusic and CTV throughout the 2011 holiday season.
January 23, 2012
As part of its plan to build a condominium on Yonge St, Toronto’s MOD Developments Inc. announces 4,804 square foot portion of land fronting on Victoria St. to be donated to Massey Hall.
April 24, 2012
Warner Music Canada releases Gordon Lightfoot–All Live. A compilation of live recordings taken from performances between 1998 and 2001 at Massey Hall.
October 30, 2012
Burton Cummings releases Massey Hall on Universal Music Canada. A live album recorded during two Massey Hall concerts in 2010 and 2011 during Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival.
March 22, 2013
The Federal Government of Canada announces a commitment of $8 million in the 2013 Economic Action Plan to help begin the process of revitalizing Massey Hall.
May 2, 2013
The Provincial Government of Ontario announces commitment of $8 million to help begin the process of a Massey Hall Revitalization.
June 18-19, 2013
Luminato Festival celebrates Joni Mitchell and her 70th birthday with Joni A Portrait in Song—A Birthday Happening featuring numerous musical guests including Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Rufus Wainwright, Esperanza Spalding, and Glen Hansard. Both evenings marked Joni Mitchell’s first public performances in over a decade.
July 11, 2014
450 square meters of land along the south wall of Massey Hall is transferred by Toronto-based MOD Developments Inc. and Tricon Capital Group Inc. to the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall.
November 26, 2014
Gordon Lightfoot is the first recipient of the Massey Hall Honours Award. Presented on stage in front of a sold out crowd by Massey Hall President & CEO Charles Cutts and The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
February 23, 2015
Celebrations to kick-off Phase 1 of the Massey Hall Revitalization took place on stage at Massey Hall with distinguished guests and speakers including representatives from all orders of Government, Rock legend Geddy Lee, and songwriter Alejandra Ribera.
February 18, 2016
Blue Rodeo are the recipients of the Massey Hall Honours Award presented to the members on stage at Massey Hall by Massey Hall President and CEO Deane Cameron, in front of a capacity crowd on the first evening of a two-night run of concerts in support of their Live at Massey Hall album.
April 26 & 27, 2016
Comedian Russell Peters performs two sold out stand-up shows at Massey Hall, filmed for a live comedy special for Netflix titled Almost Famous.