Saturday, February 24, 2024

Hamilton church looks to transform into new performance venue

First Published:

Hamilton’s New Vision United Church is taking on an ambitious plan to transform its historic space into a state-of-the-art performance venue.

The 156-year-old Church is hoping to add different harmonies to its usual hymns with the new endeavor.

For local musician Bernadette Connors, the main auditorium inside New Haven United Church is a dream venue.

The soaring ceiling, arches in the architecture, and wrap-around mezzanine create a surreal sonic experience.

“For any performer, the sound that is created while you perform means a lot. So to be able to enjoy the sound of my voice echoing through the space is priceless,” she said.

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Connors is one of several artists lending her voice to advocacy for the church’s multi-million dollar project to transform the space into a music hall that can host more than 1,000 people.

“They’re not only creating something for artists like myself to aspire to perform in, but they’re creating a bigger opportunity for more community engagement.”

For church leaders like Helen Bradley, trading pews for performances is more than a passion project. With church attendance dwindling across the city, it’s a lifeline.

“Here we have this beautiful gem of a building, which is a heritage site. and happens to have a 1,000-seat auditorium. We don’t have 1,000 members in our congregation, we have more like 55 or so,” explains Bradley. “We need to make prudent use of our resources.”

The project has been in the works for nearly a decade and hasn’t yet garnered the political will necessary to get it done, but a new partnership with the non-profit group Music Hall Alliance is helping to make the ambitious plan more viable.

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Turning the space into a performance venue that can host more than 1,000 people is not a cheap or easy task. The floors will need to be fortified, the railings on the second balcony raised and new equipment purchased.

To do so, the church and the Music Hall Alliance are asking the city for help with the funding, to the tune of $900,000.

On Wednesday, Ward 2 Councillor Cameron Kroetsch hoped to hit all the right notes at city hall, putting forward a motion to approve a grant for the church, but it ultimately fell flat.

“This is an investment in two kinds of things: it’s an investment in the community arts space and it’s also an investment in what council has been working towards for a while, a multi-purpose community hub,” said Kroetsch.

City council instead opted to undergo a staff report with a complete financial review and to verify the need for the space, but industry insiders say the venue would fill a big gap in Hamilton’s music landscape.

“Shows that are maybe underserved in the city which is as we know the middle ground between the 500 seaters and the large seaters,” explains Mike Bruce, owner of Grant Avenue Studios.

Until the project strikes a chord with the city, people can help bring the vision to life by donating through the church’s website.

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