Production renewal takes sight and sound at the NAC to a whole new level

Summer fireworks in Southam Hall with the renewal of the NAC's performance venues © Roy Grogan

For 14 weeks this past summer the performance spaces at the NAC appeared to be dark and quiet.  After all, there were no performances to grace our stages.

But appearances can be deceiving.  Beginning in 2016, a lot has been going on behind-the-scenes.  Thanks to a $114.9 million investment from the Government of Canada as part of the NAC’s Production Renewal Project, three performance spaces have been receiving much-needed upgrades.  The most noteworthy upgrade took place this past summer with the installation of a new Orchestra Shell in Southam Hall.

“The new Orchestra Shell will not only dramatically improve the sound in Southam Hall, it will further refresh the appearance,” says Randy Desrochers, Project Manager, NAC Production Renewal Project.  “Positioning the NAC Orchestra closer to the audience allows the music to carry even better and there will be more clarity to the sound.  The Shell also helps artists hear each other more clearly on stage.”

While Southam Hall is NAC’s signature venue, its acoustics have always been problematic.  That’s because the hall was designed for opera, not for an orchestra.  Renewal began in 2016 with a renovation that included new flooring and seating which improved the acoustics.

In addition to the new Orchestra Shell, there is also a new sound system.  “This will enhance great experiences for all sorts of shows including the NAC Orchestra’s Pops concerts,” says Randy.

The Production Renewal Project also included upgrading theatrical and technical infrastructure such as theatre lighting and audio-visual equipment; improving sound isolation to improve the sound and light transfer between the performance spaces and the foyers; as well as electrical and mechanical work. 

“As we look forward to our 50th anniversary season, we are making upgrades that will bring the NAC’s performance venues and their infrastructure to international standards for artistic expectations, safety, universal accessibility and patron satisfaction,” Randy says.

Performance venues will be ready to start the 2018–2019 season in September and Production Renewal will continue until the end of 2018 without interrupting the season.

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