WSO frustrated by province’s lack of support for repairs to shell

Members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Rudi Pawlychyn / Global News / File

A lack of provincial funding for updates to the Centennial Concert Hall has the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) playing a frustrated tune.

WSO executive director Trudy Schroeder told 680 CJOB Tuesday morning that the concert hall is in dire need of repairs to its shell – an integral piece of equipment to make the symphony sound its best.

“The shell is a piece of equipment that’s built into the concert hall. It’s sort of like a seashell that surrounds the orchestra when it’s on that big stage,” Schroeder said.

“When you have a shell in a place like our concert hall, it’s what makes it an appropriate space for a symphony orchestra – an orchestra that is working on acoustical properties of the instruments to function in the hall.

“The piece itself is fine, but the mechanical mechanism that brings it up and down has apparently worn away over the years. It’s been in the building for 50 years, and I guess it hasn’t been looked at or maintained in terms of safety in that period, and then it becomes in need for some repairs.”

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Schroeder said the WSO understands there are budgetary concerns involved, but that she’s dismayed the province – the concert hall’s landlord – isn’t stepping up.

“It’s your building, you’re the landlord, you have to fix it,” she said. “If it’s a good landlord, they actually take care of things.”

Schroeder described the province’s response as, essentially, “too bad”, and said the concert hall and the WSO are important to the hundreds of thousands of Manitobans who visit the facility each year.

“I can see why some people would say, ‘why would the government even be involved with a concert hall?'” she said.

“I, for example, have never been to a Blue Bombers game, but I realize it is a community amenity, and I understand there’s a role for the government to play in the facility.

“For the people who like that, it’s a part of what makes Winnipeg a great place to be… but for many others, having a concert hall for a symphony to play is also an important community amenity, and they’re also taxpayers.

“When the province says, ‘sorry, we’re not going to do that’, it just seems wrong.”

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The province has previously told media they are hoping to repair the shell along with other repairs and that will require co-ordination. In the meantime, the province has spent about $5 million to upgrade and replace the hall’s fire alarm systems and another $180,000 on an acoustical shell for the interim.

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