Pollack Hall undergoing a year-and-a-half of essential improvements

Image of the McGill Symphony Orchestra in a 2022-2023 concert.
The McGill Symphony Orchestra in a 2022-2023 concert. Tam Photography Tam Photography

McGill musicians and their audiences will be more nomadic for the next year and a half. While providing new opportunities for performances, the local tour is based on necessity: McGill’s Pollack Hall is about to undergo much-needed renovations.

Located in Strathcona Music Building, and administered by the Schulich School of Music, Pollack Hall attracts as estimated 15,000 classical, jazz, and contemporary music enthusiasts each year. It offers musicians a much-valued stage and provides audiences with particularly affordable or free performances by outstanding students, staff and guests. However, after 50 years of constant use, the hall is in need of significant work.

“We prepare talented musicians from around the world to enrich the cultural fabric of society. The least we could do is ensure that the literal seat fabric of their main performance space is up to standards,” says Sean Ferguson, Dean of the Schulich School of Music.

“More seriously, we are embarking on this project as stewards of a historically significant cultural venue. Since 2021, when we initially secured funding, we’ve been planning this project that will modernize the hall’s functional aspects, refurbish its aesthetic elements – including seating and lighting – and will also make it more accessible to those with mobility needs. It’s a very comprehensive undertaking that will greatly enhance the experience of both artists and the audience,” says Ferguson.

Not your average reno

McGill is made up of complicated spaces. From labs to libraries, the campuses are full of structural and usage particularities. Performance spaces come with their own challenges, notably when integrated into older buildings and areas where activities must continue during major work.

“Though renovations can be disruptive, we’ve been doing a lot of careful planning to reduce impacts on the community,” says Denis Mondou, Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities Management and Ancillary Services).

“At the same time, we’re focused on delivering a beautiful, functional space for McGill musicians and their audiences,” he says.

In addition to improving existing spaces, the scope of the project includes a new orchestra pit, renovating the washrooms, installing a new freight elevator, and reconfiguring the foyer and main access to the hall.

Silver linings during the work

Image of Pollack will look like after the renovations
Image of Pollack will look like after the renovationsLes architectes fabg Les architectes fabg

Pollack Hall currently seats 600 people and includes backstage areas and an adjacent lounge that is frequently used for receptions. Finding alternative spaces during the work was both a challenge and opportunity for the Schulich School of Music.

“The situation will provide audiences with a chance to enjoy some of our other concert spaces on campus, including Redpath Hall, Tanna Schulich Hall and our new Music Multimedia Room (MMR). The latter is a space that many have yet to discover, since it was officially inaugurated just last fall,” says Ferguson.

In addition to campus venues, McGill musicians will also travel more widely throughout Montreal, offering performances in locations like the Maison symphonique and neighbourhood Maisons de la culture.

As for the duration of the work, if all goes according to the carefully laid plan, the renovated Pollack Hall should reopen in January of 2026.

To learn more about the project, read this Schulich School of Music article. For information about upcoming performances open to the public, visit this events page.

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