Koerner Hall amplifies architect’s vision

It’s one thing to create art, but what if you saw and heard your art come to life?

Architect Marianne McKenna experiences it regularly. She is the architect who built the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall, fast becoming known for its unparalleled acoustics.

McKenna attends many performances at the 1,135-seat Koerner Hall. She says that every experience is different, but the feeling of seeing her creation come to life is always the same.

“It’s amazing. It’s amazing! It’s totally great,” she gushes. “Every time I go, there’s something else. There’s Flamenco, or it’s (opera soprano) Frederica Von Stade or Farewell Tour or it’s András Schiff playing on the piano.

No expense was spared for the new hall, which opened last September. According to McKenna, when it came sound quality, there was no compromise, and it’s reflected in every performance.

“Musicians are inspired in this hall because they sound great, so they like it, and they do better, because they are so comfortable,” McKenna said.

Every bit of Koerner Hall’s construction was done with acoustics in mind, from the “shoebox” shape to the “flipper walls” for the drapes, to the veil that comes up behind the stage. McKenna also experimented with strings to amplify the sound quality even more.

A big thing for the performers, though, according to McKenna, is being able to hear each other clearly.

“(In) a lot of halls, they might sound good in the hall, but the musicians can’t hear each other,” she said, adding that the result is reflected in every performance.

McKenna equates the musician’s confidence to if one is getting ready to go out. “It’s like when you think you look good and you head out, you think ‘I’m going to have a good time tonight,’” she said. “I think the audience feels that, and I think the anticipation is palpable.”

McKenna says that there is also a feeling within the hall that is rarely found anywhere else: the feeling of togetherness, and lack of formality. It is because of this that she likes to go to shows at Koerner Hall.

“I love going also because it’s created a sense of community within the hall, so every time there’s 1’000 people in there, the 1’000 people kind of relate to each other,” she said.