Music to Our Ears
It's a physical space with such finely engineered acoustics that it's been likened to a musical instrument. It's versatile and will provide audiences and performers with a transformative listening and performing experience. One of the most advanced rehearsal and performance facilities in the city of St. John's was opened Thursday, March 17, and Memorial University's new Petro-Canada Hall is considered a technological gem, a blend of art and technology that will be the latest resource for the university and the wider provincial music community.
Petro-Canada Hall was constructed with $1.2 million in support provided by Petro-Canada, operator of the Terra Nova offshore oil development and participant in the White Rose and Hibernia projects.
Petro-Canada Hall is a $1.8 million state-of-the-art facility that will be used for teaching, research and performances, in addition to being available for rental to community groups. Officials from Memorial University, Petro-Canada and the provincial government gathered at the university to officially open the new facility which was built as an extension to the M. O. Morgan (Music) Building.
Petro-Canada's support of the project arose from a research and development/education and training expenditure commitment to the White Rose development.
“We were attracted to this project partly because it stepped outside the engineering and science realm that normally draws our support,” said Ron Brenneman, president and chief executive officer of Petro-Canada. “And we liked the community concept for Petro-Canada Hall. It is a true `community hall' that broadens the reach of the university beyond its traditional student and faculty constituency. When a university becomes accessible in that way, it also becomes an integral part of the community. Petro-Canada is proud to be part of the community and we congratulate Memorial University on the opening of this impressive new facility.”
On hand for the official opening of Petro-Canada Hall were (L-R) Gordon Carrick, Tom Hedderson, Peter Terroux, violinist Rebecca Brown who performed at the opening, Ron Brenneman, Dr. Axel Meisen and Dr. Tom Gordon.
Dr. Axel Meisen, president of Memorial, thanked Petro-Canada for its support, noting that the new facility will have a significant influence into the future. “Petro-Canada Hall will be the musical birthplace of great musicians, compositions and performances,” he said. “Its music will be heard, quite literally, around the world due to its new recording and Web casting capabilities. All of this will occur day after day in this wonderful new facility. Memorial's School of Music has always been an important dimension to the provincial music scene and this role will grow thanks to Petro-Canada's generous support.”
Education Minister Tom Hedderson noted the importance of music and music education in Newfoundland and Labrador. “It is recognized throughout Canada that music is an important part of our culture. This musical culture has been developed and fostered by the value that has been placed and continues to be placed on music education in our province's schools,” Minister Hedderson said. “Indeed, government is moving forward with a fine arts and culture strategy within the education system that includes expanding the curriculum for the arts and music. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, especially our younger population, will grow in their understanding and appreciation of our unique culture as defined by our music. Our dynamic communities throughout the province are fertile ground for fostering musical talent, and I expect Petro-Canada Hall will highlight that talent for years to come.”
"By every measure - acoustic, aesthetic and functional - this new facility is a resounding success," said the director of Memorial's School of Music, Dr. Tom Gordon. "Petro-Canada's investment in the future of the province's music has yielded its first major dividend through the hall's spectacular merger of the optimal properties of a performing space with leading edge technology."
The new 195 square metre (2,100 square foot) rehearsal and performance facility adjoins the M.O. Morgan Music Building near the D. F. Cook Recital Hall, on the east side of the building. With a performance area of approximately 56 square metres (600 square feet), an audience capacity of 124 people and a large rehearsal capacity, the new Petro-Canada Hall positions the School of Music to expand its performance and conference capabilities. The new facility also includes a small suite of offices available for temporary use by university and community music organizations.
The Petro-Canada Hall enables the School of Music to increase the range of services it can offer to the music community, both within the St. John's metropolitan area and through the extended reach of electronic communication. Equipped for both recording and Web-casting, the facility links the School of Music to global communities for real-time distance instruction and multi-site rehearsal. Students and professors will be able to connect with colleagues and mentors from anywhere and hear and interact almost as if they were in the same room.
The art, and science, of acoustics guided practically every design decision in Petro-Canada Hall, from the exterior shell of the building, and including landscaping considerations such as sound-buffering trees, to the distinctive three-dimensional geometry of the interior surfaces. “The acoustical design of the interior is intended to provide optimum conditions for performance and rehearsal,” said Peter Terroux, the acoustical engineer and consultant who designed the Petro-Canada Hall. “The small size of Petro-Canada Hall results in acoustical intimacy, enhancing the shared experience of musician and listener. The shaping of the lower walls is designed to promote excellent diffusion, blending and envelopment. The clouds, or suspended reflectors, provide early reflections essential for good communication between musicians, and the natural wood surfaces add to the warmth of the hall.”
Memorial University wished to have the addition to the existing School of Music exemplify the best in environmental design. Representatives of the university's School of Music and Department of Facilities Management provided input to the architect, Dominic Lippa of AMEC Americas Ltd., so as to optimize the design features of the extension. Mr. Lippa was the original architect of the Music Building, which opened in 1985.
In addition to a myriad of acoustical and other architectural considerations, Mr. Lippa was asked to design the hall to emphasize the community aspects of the facility.
“A related design objective was that the facility should be highly visible so that it might contribute to the process of strengthening the presence of the School of Music in the community and improve public access to school programs and personnel,” Mr. Lippa said.
The architectural firm, AMEC Americas Ltd., and the general contractor, Eastern Contracting Ltd., both completed the project on time and on budget.