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Francis Winspear

In 1988, arts lover, philanthropist and retired businessman Dr. Francis G. Winspear donated $6 million towards the building of Edmonton's first concert hall designed specifically for the performance of classical music. Construction on the 1,800-seat hall began in March 1995 and Winspear's gift - matched by the provincial government - was the largest single private donation ever made to a performing arts facility in Canada.

Said Winspear: "My dream is to have a place where the people of our region can make the most beautiful music they are capable of - and share it with each other."

The hall, officially named The Francis Winspear Centre for Music, would become the performing home for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Richard Eaton Singers (Edmonton's premier symphonic chorus) and Pro Coro Canada (one of three professional choirs in Canada), as well as housing the offices of the ESO and the Edmonton Opera. In 2002, the largest concert organ in Canada was installed in the hall, with the inaugural performance taking place in September of that year.

Since its opening in September 1997, the hall has been considered one of the prime acoustic spaces in North America, and several classical performances recorded there have won awards for the ESO.

Winspear died in January 1997 before seeing the hall opened; his widow Harriet would be sitting in a box seat during the September opening-night gala.

 Featured Audio

News and Current Events #53
In a story from the July 3, 1996 broadcast of the evening edition of Alberta Today, the hall is half-built, on schedule and on budget.

In addition to the Winspear story, the other stories of the day include:

  • Edmonton's plan to close Alberta Hospital, as well as the suspension of services at other hospitals.

  • The Alberta Government will help Aboriginals prevent contracting AIDS.

  • News and weather.

  • Business Report.

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