Construction underway for $24M concert hall at University of Manitoba

Around this time next year, students in the faculty of music at the University of Manitoba should have a new stage where they can hone their craft.

Construction got underway on the $24-million Desautels Concert Hall a few weeks ago at the U of M’s Fort Garry campus. The aim is to have it completed and open by fall 2023, the university said in a Thursday news release.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Edward Jurkowski, dean of the U of M faculty of music.

Fundraising kicked off about 12 years ago, Jurkowski said, with a $10-million donation from Marcel Desautels — a U of M alumnus, philanthropist and businessman, who was also a lifelong singer and once considered a career in opera

On top of other contributions, Michael F. B. Nesbitt and Gail Asper donated $2.5 million each in recent years.

The hall is the culmination of several years of other construction and renovation projects to Taché Hall. (Cibinel Architecture)

The building, designed by Cibinel Architecture, is also the final piece of a series of renovations to Taché Hall in recent years.

The concert hall will have state-of-the-art acoustics and 409 seats for the audience, the U of M says. 

The stage will be large enough to accommodate a full choir and orchestra simultaneously, said Jurkowski, but a section of it can also be removed to leave just the orchestra pit, with space for 48 musicians.

Winnipeg-based firm Cibinel Architecture designed the concert hall. (Cibinel Architecture)

It will be used for traditional orchestral, choir, opera and theatre performances, as well as showcasing musical performances with theatre, dance or visual art elements, he said.

Jurkowski thinks the space may also help attract more students to the U of M music faculty.

“To have a facility which has remarkable acoustics is vital for the training of musicians, to not just play in some dingy little small closet,” Jurkowski told Information Radio host Marcy Markusa.

University of Manitoba dean Dr. Jurkowski (Submitted by University of Manitoba)

The space will be the only concert hall venue in the south of Winnipeg. That, too, holds importance more broadly for the community, he said.

“To have a real bona fide concert hall in the south part of the city is something very new, and very exciting to think what that could mean for Winnipeg.”

What the opening production or performance will be come next fall is up in the air. Jurkowski is confident whatever that first show is, it will feature innovative programming from U of M students and faculty.

The U of M is still fundraising for the build, including through a “your seat awaits” campaign. Anyone from the community who donates $1,000 or more will have a chance to name a seat in the hall.

The plan is to host traditional orchestral, choir and operate performances as well as shows that blend theatre, dance or visual art elements. (Cibinel Architecture)

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