Londoners get their first glimpse of the new $1.5m performance stage this Saturday


The Metropolitan United Church in London city center has transformed the facade of its sanctuary since this spring, removing the old choir boxes and communion table and replacing them with a massive stage designed to accommodate some of London’s top performers.

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

Metropolitan United Church Music Director 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.

“Before this renovation, there were choir stalls at the front of the church and we performed in front of those and did our best to fit in.”

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

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

“We joked about renting it out to play tennis when we don’t have services and concerts,” Metropolitan United Church music director Greg Redner said.

“We are a very thriving inner city united church,” Redner said. “Really, it was just a way to make the space appealing to people…to make the building maybe used more than Sunday mornings.”

With a seating capacity of 1,000, it is now London’s top orchestral concert hall, Chung said.

Renovations to the Metropolitan United Church in central London began in April and transformed the facade 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 21 October at 7.30pm, the London Symphonia kicks off its 2022/23 season, appearing on the new stage for the first time. The concert features the orchestra’s Juno-winning harpist Angela Schwarzkopf and legendary London cellist Cameron Crozman performing Kelly-Marie Murphy En el Escuro, es Todo Unoalongside the energizing Felix Mendelssohn italian symphony.

Then, on Sunday, October 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 was first created in 1901.

Chung grew up in Stratford and started playing the violin at the age of seven. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC)

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