Concert hall adding new dimension to music scene
Conservatory Director speak about the opening of the Bella Concert Hall
The Bella Concert Hall is set to open its doors in 2015 and strives to not only work as an independent entity, but also to be the home of the Conservatory — freeing up space in the Lincoln Park campus.
Named after Mary Belle Taylor, the matriarch of the Taylor family, the hall is where music and arts will collide at Mount Royal University’s very own doorstep. The hall received its name from Taylor’s nickname, Bella, as she was fondly remembered. It is Fitted with 774 seats, it will be Calgary’s largest concert venue, attracting a multitude of performance artists in different communities across the city and Canada.
Paul Dornian, the Director of the Conservatory sat down to chat about why the Bella Concert Hall is important for Mount Royal, as well as for all Calgarians.
The Reflector: How are things going with the Bella Concert Hall?
Paul Dornian: They are going great. They are keeping to their construction schedule, the roof has been going on in the last week [Jan. 27 to Jan. 31], which is not like your roof or my roof. I had my first full tour of the place last Friday and it was very exciting — I think it is just going to be an absolute stunner of a facility.
TR: Are they ahead or behind schedule?
PD: They are a little bit ahead of schedule at the moment. There is not that many things that would be serious delays at this point because they have so much of the structural work done. It is a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] building and green buildings you have to meet all of these environmental standards. All of the carpets, furniture, painting and everything give off these gasses and they have to do these purges a number of times to get the air up to the standards. They are telling us we can start getting our theater technicians in there to train in the Bella probably in April. And then, we were thinking of doing the second half, moving everyone probably in June in 2015.
TR: Did the budget cuts or anything else of the sort affect the project or cause any delays?
PD: No it didn’t because the budget for the province is for the post-secondary and its operating budget and this is capital budget and so it comes from totally different sources. Now it didn’t affect the building project but it affects everyone in Mount Royal.
You can’t whack post-secondary education the way they did last year and not affect everybody. It has been a challenge this year. When you think about public events and all the cuts they had to do for custodial and so on, and you know trying to make sure things like the washrooms get cleaned before you have the general public come in. They [the general public] may be sympathetic to the cuts, but they still don’t want to come to events where the space isn’t nice.
TR: You are government funded as well as privately funded; can you speak about any challenges that you may have had fundraising?
PD: Well it is always a challenge. We do have a draw from Mount Royal, which is the part I said was coming down dramatically each year, and that is what we want to get away from. We operate on tuition revenue; we get a number of government grants, not from post-secondary but from things like Heritage Canada we have a lot of fundraising.
So all those effective things come into play with the revenues. In our business plan we had assumed that we would have to generate the money to pay the operating expenses for the building — that would be the worst-case scenario. The province has been very good about giving lights on money to all the buildings that are part of the public sector. So we have had some encouraging words about that, but we are not there yet.
TR: What are you hoping the Bella Concert Hall does for Mount Royal and the city of Calgary?
PD: Well what it does for Mount Royal is it gives us another venue where everybody can come together. If you think about it, we don’t have anything bigger than the Ross Glen Hall, which used to be the Leacock Theatre. I see the Budget Town Hall is being booked into the Leacock Theater in a couple of weeks because the Ross Glen is not available. It is crazy to have a big community and not have places for us to come together.
I think with the Bella in general, there is just not going to be another venue of that size in Calgary and there is a real need for it.
TR: Where would you like to see music, the arts, in Calgary in the next 10 or 15 years?
PD: It’s grassroots — it is starting to grow. There is great variety there. What I would love to see with the arts is stability and by that I just mean, not every organization is going to succeed, doesn’t matter if you go to New York, you go to London, you go to Paris, some organizations do better, some do worse, but there needs to be more stability to the whole climate.
I have worked my whole professional life in Calgary in the arts community. I’d love to see an environment where it wasn’t such a struggle for everybody every year. Somewhere you could just have the assumption that we know all our basic issues are taken care of and spend our best energies just being creative and just doing really neat things for the community.