The Centre in the Square consists of a three-level, 2000-seat concert hall; a large orchestra pit (modelled after that in Bayreuth, Germany, with a 100-person-orchestra capacity) and large stage (in 1980 second in Canada only to that of the NAC); removable front rows (to extend the stage and/or the pit); a 300- to 400-seat studio theatre (for rehearsals and chamber music concerts); and 17,206 square feet of floor space for the permanent and temporary collections of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. The large stage and orchestra pit reflect the long-term goal of Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra music director Raffi Armenian to stage Wagner's Ring cycle in Kitchener.
The main hall of the Centre is considered by many to be the finest acoustical space of its kind in Canada. It features moveable stage towers, curved walls, and a sophisticated system of canopies. The TS has recorded at the Centre on several occasions, beginning in 1986.
The Centre in the Square is owned by the City of Kitchener; the $10.6 million cost was covered by a Wintario lottery grant, the city itself, government grants, and public donations. The arts centre originally was approved in a form not unlike its final design as early as 1964; however, various city projects delayed advanced planning until 1978. The annual operating budget, $400,000 in 1980, was close to $1 million in the early 1990s.
The Centre became the permanent venue for all major concert series of the Kitchener-Waterloo SO in 1980. However, it is managed independently and regularly houses performances by other local groups (Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir, the annual Mennonite Mass Choir), in addition to performances by Canadian and international artists such as André Gagnon, Hagood Hardy, Liona Boyd, Julian Bream, Burton Cummings, Gordon Lightfoot, the Family Brown, and the Good Brothers, Larry Gatlin, Tammy Wynette, Victor Borge, Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach), Nana Mouskouri, and Heino, Canadian Brass, and Doc Severinsen.
Other musical events at the Centre in the Square have included operas, operettas (many by the Gilbert & Sullivan Society (Kitchener)), musicals (Cats, A Chorus Line, and The Rocky Horror Show), ballets (performances by the touring company of the National Ballet of Canada), and hymn sings. It has also been the location of arts festivals, dance troupes, variety shows, drum corps events, and multicultural celebrations. Non-musical presentations have included pageants (such as the annual Oktoberfest), comedy shows (by Don Harron, George Carlin, and Bill Cosby), magic shows, readings, and plays.
Author Durrell Bowman
'Here's what the centre is all about,' Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 18 Sep 1980
'The 16-year war ends in peace,' ibid
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.