The HPO’s home Concert Hall has been through a few name changes. It was inaugurated as Hamilton Place, then in 1998 it became the Ronald V. Joyce Centre for the Performing Arts at Hamilton Place after a donation from Joyce’s foundation for capital improvements to the building. In 2016, the naming rights were sold and the beloved downtown theatre became FirstOntario Concert Hall. No matter what name you call it, the concert hall, opened in 1973, has become a cultural landmark in our community.
For many years, the HPO did not have a permanent home for performances or rehearsals. In the 1960s the orchestra’s performances were mostly held in the Westdale Secondary School theatre before then-Board President Larry Paikin orchestrated a move to the Palace Theatre for a few years before Hamilton Place officially opened.
In 1963 a small group of individuals formed a committee to determine the feasibility of building a professional auditorium in Hamilton. From there the Hamilton Theatre-Auditorium Foundation was formed and raised over $3 million for the project contributed by more than 15,000 people. Dofasco employees contributed $23,000 to the project, further cementing the company’s support for the arts in Hamilton. The City of Hamilton was also a champion of the theatre, contributing $8 million in funding.
Designed by local architect Trevor Garwood-Jones, the Concert Hall has been a busy place since its opening. The HPO inaugurated the Great Hall of Hamilton Place in September 1973 with a performance that included the premieres of works by Louis Applebaum and Galt MacDermot under the conducting of then-HPO Music Director Boris Brott.
Since its opening, many have noted the exceptional acoustics of the Concert Hall which make it the perfect home for Hamilton’s professional orchestra. Some may remember the great debate in the years before the theatre was completed about whether Canadian-made bricks would be able to meet the same standards of acoustics found in notable theatres built with American bricks. In the end, Canadian bricks were used for the Great Hall and the acoustics are astounding.