I’ll make this short, because it sure is sweet.
On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to attend the Grand Opening of the new Bella Concert Hall at Mount Royal University. Seating 773 concert-goers, the Bella is the centrepiece of the new Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, which will also house the Mount Royal Conservatory. I’ve seen a lot of live performances in my life, from unplugged folk performances to Rush (that pretty much covers softest to loudest), every category of music imaginable, indoors and out, in a range of venues from small spaces to NFL stadiums, including a lot of halls that were purpose-built for live music.
I have never, ever experienced acoustics as incredible as what I heard at the Bella, last night.
I want to try and give you an idea of how the place sounds — and how the music sounds in that place — and I hope my words are not about to cheapen the whole experience and dump it into the bin of jumped-up pop culture, because after all we were listening to very High Cultural musical performance last night. But let me try this. You could hear the softest, highest notes on a solo violin as clearly as if Timothy Chooi was playing for you in your living room. But if you closed your eyes as he played, or as Kevin Chen — a 10 year old virtuoso pianist who has already composed 80 of his own pieces — played the piano, you could trick yourself into believing you were sitting in a movie theatre with all that technology pumping out the audio all around you, listening to a film soundtrack as the music filled every space in your head — it sounds that big. And yet, as precise as an angel dancing on the head of a pin.
The Bella Concert Hall’s opening festival runs from September 19 to October 3. I’m going to suggest that if you love music of any kind, you should consider checking it out. Because it’s all going to sound magnificent.
It’s a superb addition to Calgary.
(Full disclosure here: I am in no way related to Don and Ruth Taylor and family, the people after whom the building is named — or to their bank account, from which they withdrew $21,000,000 to make the largest private donation in Mount Royal University’s history. Other private donors collectively contributed close to $5,000,000; the City of Calgary put in $10,000,000 and change; and the Alberta and federal governments contributed $20,000,000 each.)
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