Spotlight set to shine on FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre

November 12, 2015
The stage is set three of them for a milestone celebration.

The finishing touches are taking place at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, as the doors to the new downtown venue, which features Partridge Hall, the Cairns Recital Hall, Robertson Theatre and a yet unnamed film theatre, will open to the community for a grand opening celebration this weekend. Highlighted by a performance by Serena Ryder Saturday night, and an open house Sunday, centre executive director Steve Solski said there is a buzz leading up to the weekend.

"There's a lot of excitement and I think we're experiencing something truly special," said Solski. "It's really the culmination of work by so many different people, and we're excited to have the community come in and celebrate."

While the Nov. 14-15 activities are deemed as the opening celebration, it won't be the first performances in the new $60-million facility. The Fortunate Ones kicked off the Hot Ticket program with a sold-out performance last Saturday, the same night Chorus Niagara opened its season to a sold-out audience at the venue. There were also several events that have taken place over the last few weeks.

"To have two sold-out shows, plus a reception in the third space, it allowed us to really celebrate the energy, but also look at efficiency when it comes to operations," said Solski. "I think things started out well with our opening events we were able to get a feel for moving people and how the venue operates with the crowds inside."

There are still some odds and ends that need to be completed prior to the weekend festivities, said Solski. Chief among the priorities is the final preparations for the performance venues.

"The shell is here and it's beautiful, but we have a number of finishing touches to make," he said. "We still have to complete some of the technology side lighting and sound."

The weekend celebration starts with a media preview Thursday, along with a performance from Niagara's own Daniel Romano & the Trilliums at 8 p.m. The Welland musician's show will open with a set by Constantines' Steven Lambke. Tickets are general admission and available at the box office, or online at

Then, Saturday night the opening celebration takes place. There will be a variety of live and interactive performances, along with an intimate set by award-winning Canadian musician Serena Ryder. Ryder will perform following the official opening ceremonies and Solski said the event, which is open to the general public for $125 a ticket, will be a great one.

"Fans of Serena Ryder will never see her in this type of venue," he said. "The intimacy and the acoustics will really make it something to see."

A community open house, open free to the public, will follow Sunday from 2-7 p.m., and Solski said it will be a chance for the Niagara community to see the entire centre in action thanks to some local performers. The different venues will feature Chorus Niagara's Niagara Sings! Program, guided tours, door prizes, as well as a community art fair. Niagara Sings! connects six Niagara-based choirs and more than 300 voices that will perform throughout every room of the facility. Chorus Niagara will be joined by Womenchant, Queenston Ladies Choir, Choralis Camerata, Robert Wood Singers, and Sing Niagara. The Community Art Fair will showcase partnering organizations such as: The Foster Festival, The Gallery Players, Niagara Symphony, Chorus Niagara, Essential Collective Theatre and many more.

"Envisioned as a first-of-its-kind performance arts hub the completed facility is impressive especially when it is animated by the people, players and programs slated for our official opening weekend," said Solski.

Niagara This Week
By Scott Rosts