Close a Downtown Venue? Shame on you McGill!

Here is the letter I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of McGill. I don’t see the point of being silent on this matter.

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

I’m writing about the outrageous notion that Redpath Hall should be turned into a reading room. What are the organists at McGill to do then? And what of the music student population that needs that space? If you can’t provide them with at least one instrument, and a few halls for concerts, don’t expect them to stay. The other downtown churches already provide more time for organ students than they are comfortable with. I truly doubt there will be more time allotted.

This will be nothing short of a catastrophe for the music department.

Montreal is the greatest organ capital in Canada, where the most innovative and industrious Canadian Organ Makers have toiled for hundreds of years. To see this even considered is nothing less than a slap in the face to musicians and churches across Canada. How can they possibly find their calling if McGill closes one of the most important venues open to them?
In addition to this, one can barely find a night that Pollack Hall is not booked for a concert or rehearsal. Redpath Hall is critical as an additional venue that the Music Faculty simply can’t replace. You can say whatever you wish, it won’t change that bookings for recitals, so critical for music students, won’t be possible. It was already problematic in the 90s and nothing has changed since that time.
A more appropriate response would be to have a building manager whose task it is to make sure Redpath is in constant use by rental groups, and that concerts are well attended. This is not that hard. At Christ Church Cathedral (when I ran their free music program) they often got 100 people per concert without breaking a sweat. Redpath is one of the best venues for small ensembles in Montreal, but is neglected because of strategies that don’t work. You could just as easily find someone to take care of that *and* keep the organ accessible to the students and faculty.
Someone at McGill just isn’t thinking clearly enough. If you can’t move the organ, then just use the space better.

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