Sunday Evening Reflection: At the Orpheum

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The Vancouver Orpheum

The Vancouver Orpheum opened its doors on November 8, 1927. Ah, it was a grand building, the largest theatre in Canada at the time, with a construction price tag of $1.25 million.  Three thousand seats awaited an audience eager to see the interior of the much-awaited theatre.

Buildings have biographies and encounter transitions that reflect our ever-changing societies. Would it surprise you to know that the Vancouver Orpheum was launched as a vaudeville house? The vaudeville that became popular in North America from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, was similar to the music halls of Victorian Britain.

When the voices and acts of vaudeville’s singers, dancers, comedians and magicians fell silent in the late 1930’s, the Orpheum became a movie house, under the Famous Players name.

The crisis occurred in 1973.

In 1973, Famous Players made a financial decision that would change the course of our beloved Orpheum’s history. The Orpheum was scheduled for a major upgrade to a multiplex.  The magnificent interior was to be gutted.  The public protest was heard across Vancouver and beyond.  Even Jack Benny made an emotional appearance.

The Orpheum was saved.

The City of Vancouver bought the Orpheum and closed the theatre on November 23, 1975 to complete a full restoration. April 2, 1977 the Orpheum was reopened and is now the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Two years later, in 1979, the Orpheum was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

During December, our family attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  After the crowds dispersed, I stayed behind to capture a few photos to celebrate the history of this noble building and all those who came together to save its legacy for generations to come.

Come, join me on a short walk through a building that has graced Vancouver for nearly 100 years.

 

Music by Cercles Nouvelles “Palace Garden Roses” Epidemic Sound

45 thoughts on “Sunday Evening Reflection: At the Orpheum

  1. I was very relieved to read that the Vancouver Orpheum was saved and restored. And what a magnificent building it is. (So many of the old vaudeville houses in the States have fallen into ruin.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a magnificent building and continues to bring people together. We like to sit in the top tier because the sound comes clearer than if we would sit in the preferred seats. The Hallelujah Chorus resounded throughout. I am trying to remember the name of the person who went from small town to small town to take photos of buildings that he believed would be destroyed. I will continue to look for the name – quite extraordinary. In the meantime, this is one of my favourite John Ruskin quotes: “When we build, let us think that we build forever.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Clanmother,
    thanks a lot for introducing us to the Orpheum. Fortunately it was saved. It was more successful than Orpheus was 😉
    With big hugs from
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, dear Orpheus had to look back only steps away from reaching his desired goal. What I like most about mythology, is that it allows us to reflect upon our responses. In Orpheus, I consider how we doubt ourselves and need to look back, just in case. We know logically what to do, but our emotional responses are unpredictable. Fear? Jealousy? Greed? Sadness? Perhaps its because the spirit is willing but the flesh is week. Thank you so very much for stopping by and for your comments – love our conversations.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, that’s one way to understand this myth. Another would be that you can’t escape the power of history what is looking back as well. Or the male can’t escape the pull of the female (like the symbol of the Sirens in the Odyssee). To be victim of this pull is the end of your own will as a man.
        I like that all the old myths have lots of layers how you can understand them. The sum of all this possible interpretations is the essence of this myth.
        With a big hug from
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is excellent clarification Klausbernd! I agree that Mythologies have deeply embedded layers. I was thinking of Lot’s wife who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. I love our conversations – they add so much to my understanding of what has been, what is and all the possibilities of what may come. Every time another “Thor or Troy” movie become a box-office hit, there is a confirmation that we can not escape the power of mythology. Thank you so much for you comments. Hugs and love going out to my dear friends, the Fab Four of Cley.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Clanmother,
        ‘back’ is always seen in a negativ way in our societies. Achievement is important and that means facing the future.
        Lots of love and hugs
        The Fab Four of Cley
        🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I do too! And I am so glad that city planners are looking at integrating the old with the new in a way that gives honour to the past and preserves a legacy.

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    • Perhaps they do!!! There is an interesting feeling that comes over me when I walk the halls, alone. Is it possible that there are many dimensions that we simple don’t understand? Even scientists are considering the possibility. Exciting stuff! “The world as we know it has three dimensions of space—length, width and depth—and one dimension of time. But there’s the mind-bending possibility that many more dimensions exist out there. According to string theory, one of the leading physics model of the last half century, the universe operates with 10 dimensions.”https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/our-continued-existence-means-other-dimensions-are-probably-super-tiny-180970487/

      Liked by 2 people

    • What I found most interesting is that Vancouver had the largest theatre in Canada at the time. I always considered Montreal or Toronto as the centre of theatres based on population. Then I read a little about the background of the architect, B. Marcus Priteca who was born in Glasgow and was trained in Edinburgh. He emigrated to the US in 1909 and settled in Seattle, within a few short hours of Vancouver. He designed 22 theaters for Pantages (vaudeville theatre owner) and another 128 for other theater owners. He was very very busy!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I kept on looking up and taking photos because it reminded me of the ceilings that I find in Britain. So I was not surprised when I found out that the architect was Benjamin March Priteca who was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He earned degrees from the University of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Arts before emigrated to the United States and settling down in Seattle. So many stories are kept in the walls of buildings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! Once these buildings are destroyed, they can never be replaced. The cost would be prohibited, of course, but it is the lack of craftsmanship and skill sets that are required to complete the finishing. These buildings have a life of their own. Once they are created, they continue well beyond the time of their architects. They help us remember and honour the past. As you said so eloquently, “for future generations to enjoy the arts.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It would have been such a tragedy had this gorgeous building been destroyed. The ceilings and chandeliers are just breathtaking. Lucky you to hear Handel’s Messiah with such marvelous acoustics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it interesting how a seat in an upper balcony provides a richer experience than seats that are closer to the stage. You are so right – it all depends upon the acoustics. I often wonder how they clean those chandeliers to maintain the sparkle. I remember going through Chatsworth and asking a volunteer how they dusted the precious china and figurines. She replied “very carefully.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rebecca, a beautiful building presented in an elegant style! It is majestic, awe-inspiring and I gulped when I read it was going to be made into a multiplex. The sacrilege! It is stunningly grandiose, the ceiling a delight and I love the chandeliers (and just hope they stay up!). Thank you so much for sharing this opera house and hope you had a wonderful evening. hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Annika for your heartwarming comments. Over the years, there have been many who have performed to welcoming audiences: Marian Anderson, Arthur Rubinstein, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny. The huge Wurlitzer organ that was used to accompany silent films was restored by volunteers from the American Theatre Organ Society. So many people worked together to preserve this opulent building. Hugs coming back across the pond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s amazing how a building like this has brought so many people together … and I’m glad they saved the Wurlitzer organ. They’re terrific!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a gorgeous building! Thank goodness it was saved. Corporations would ruin everything and anything for their bottom line. As Joni Mitchell sang “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot”
    Thanks for the wonderful tour, Rebecca! {{hugs}}

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Joni Mitchell – she has a marvelous and gentle way of challenging us to do better, live better and communicate better. There have been so many wonderful performances at the Orpheum: Rufus Wainwright, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Tori Amos.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Massey was extraordinary! Do you remember Raymond Massey playing with Leslie Howard in “The Scarlett Pimpernel.” Every building has a story just waiting to be read. Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

        Liked by 1 person

      • YAY!!!
        Raymond Massey is a friend of mine’s uncle… Her Grandfather was Charles Vincent Massey, the first Governor General of Canada born in Canada.
        The family home/mansion from back then is now a KEG restaurant.
        Still, she has memories of being a child growing up in that mansion.
        You bring out the best of my memories!
        BTW… I’ll be going to the Diane Arbus exhibition at the AGO!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is a very very small world! Love this connection. Wish I could join you at the Diane Arbus exhibition. Have a wonderful time!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I will think of you… and take pics!
        LOL! Crazy thing is I’m wondering if there is any street art around there.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This happens worldwide, Rebecca. My hometown of Sydney lost many of the original theatres over time. Fortunately, some remain and look not unlike the Orpheum in Vancouver you’ve videod so well.
    How I would have loved to accompany you to the concert in December. It must have been superb!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish you had been with me too. With the Hallelujah Chorus, it felt like the ceiling would open up to the heavens. I think city planners are more in sync with the need to preserve our history and heritage. Vancouver has limited land area, set between ocean and mountains. As with most cities, our population has increased over the past 30 years and the need for housing and amenities place a strain on our limited land area. What is exciting is the way in which we are growing upwards, learning to live in smaller, more environmentally friendly spaces, with amenities close by so that we can walk to retail outlet. I did a image search for Sydney’s heritage buildings: Queen Victoria Building, Sutton’s House, Hyde Park Barracks. I see that the Queen Victoria Building was designed by George McRae, a Scottish architect who had emigrated to Sydney in 1884. The Vancouver Orpheum was designed by a Scottish architect, Marcus Priteca, who had emigrated to the U.S. and lived in Seattle.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is something quite magical when surrounded by quiet grandeur, feeling relaxed and comfortable within, and knowing that quality entertainment awaits. I can hear the choir singing!
        The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) as it is affectionately called is superb. It was originally created in honour, of course, of the reigning monarch; opening during 1898. It housed a concert hall, coffee shops and tradesfolk. Over the years it has undergone many refurbishments and stands unequalled in its craftsmanship in the greater Sydney scene. It’s a lovely place to sit and sip a coffee whilst watching the world go by!
        One theatre, the State Theatre has survived. Completed and opening during 1929 for the purpose of both film and live performances it is an enormous pleasure to visit. Should you google it, Rebecca, you’ll see the facade is not at all impressive. However, once inside the charm and opulence is all enveloping. Your video, in parts, could have been created here; it is a wonderful example of craftsmanship of that earlier period.
        I believe there is, however, room for both the historic and the modern. In comparison, I adore the Sydney Opera House, though, hopefully the historic (that which is left) will remain. Diversity being the name of the game.
        And, speaking of high rise; this too is happening as our major city’s populations explode. Each time we travel to Sydney (about a two hour drive south) we are struck by the ever increasing apartments reaching higher and higher to the sky. Another phenomenon of our time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What a fabulous tour of Sydney’s stately buildings. I must visit your fair city. Thank you so much for your eloquent presentation. I so enjoy our conversations. Hugs!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldn’t think of anyone better than Handel to welcome you again. The space looks stunning. Was the sound good? Or did it reverberate?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a great sound. The City of Vancouver had refurbished the entire building. We like to see in the high balconies because the sound is so much better. Who knew!!! So glad you stopped by…thankyou.

      Liked by 1 person

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