Londoners get first peek at new $1.5M performance stage this Saturday | CBC News

The Metropolitan United Church in downtown London has been transforming the front of its sanctuary since this spring, removing old choir boxes and communion table and replacing them with a massive stage designed to host some of London’s finest performers.

London Symphonia partnered with the Wellington Street church on the $1.5-million project. The church raised $1 million, while the orchestra raised the other $500,000, mostly through government arts grants.

Metropolitan United Church’s director of music, Greg Redner, and London Symphonia artistic producer Andrew Chung sit on the new stage. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

“We are totally thrilled,” said artistic producer and violinist Andrew Chung.

“Prior to this renovation, there were choir stalls at the front of the church and we would perform in front of those and try our best to fit ourselves in.”

The orchestra has 30 core members, but some performances include 60 musicians, said Chung.

The current Metropolitan United Church was built after the original building burned down in 1897. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

“We’ve joked about renting it out to play tennis on when we’re not having services and concerts,” said Metropolitan United Church’s director of music, Greg Redner.

“We’re a very thriving downtown united church,” said Redner. “Really, this was just a way to make the space attractive for people…to make the building perhaps be used more than just Sunday mornings.”

With seating capacity of 1,000, it’s now the best orchestral performance hall in London, said Chung

Renovations at the Metropolitan United Church in downtown London began in April and have transformed the front of the sanctuary. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

In addition to the new stage, the renovation includes new state-of-the-art lighting and an updated sound system.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m., London Symphonia kicks off its 2022/23 season, appearing for the first time on the new stage. The concert features the orchestra’s own Juno-winning harpist Angela Schwarzkopf, and London legend cellist Cameron Crozman performing Kelly-Marie Murphy’s En el Escuro, es Todo Uno, alongside Felix Mendelssohn’s energizing Italian Symphony.

Then on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 4 p.m., as part of the church’s 200th-anniversary celebrations, the church choir will present Hezekiah, an oratorio written by the church’s first music director, John Truman Walcott. The piece first premiered in 1901.

Chung grew up in Stratford and started playing the violin when he was seven years old. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)


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