Reason #40 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

Winspear Centre

By Emil Tiedemann

Dr. Francis G. Winspear was born in Birmingham, England in 1903, but by the time he was eight years old he had moved with his family to a hamlet just outside of Calgary. He eventually made his way north to Edmonton, where he studied accounting at the University of Alberta in the 1920s. By the ‘40s, Winspear had the top accounting firm in his adopted hometown. 

His success benefited many local organizations and charitable foundations, and Winspear also made significant contributions to the University’s Faculty of Business. He even helped to found the Edmonton Symphony Society in 1952 and then the Edmonton Opera in 1963. In fact, his $6 million gift to the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation was this country’s largest single private donation ever made to a performing arts facility. 
Inside the Winspear Centre in downtown Edmonton.

That money spearheaded the construction of the Francis G. Winspear Centre for Music - or simply the Winspear - which opened on September 12, 1997, just eight months after the prolific philanthropist passed away. It’s unfortunate that Winspear did not get the chance to see the finality of his namesake concert hall, built on downtown land leased to the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation from the City for just $1 a year for the next nine decades! 

The Winspear - which can hold up to nearly 2,000 people - is truly a piece of art in itself, anchored by the renowned Davis Concert Organ, the largest concert hall organ in the country. Known for its adjustable acoustics that perfect the live music experience, the Winspear was named the Performing Arts Centre of the Year in March of 1999 by the Canadian Session and Touring Industry. 
Outside of the stunning Winspear Centre, just off of Churchill Square.

But, it’s most important and impressive features are the musicians and performers themselves, bringing music from all genres and from right here in our own backyard to around the world for all Edmontonians to appreciate. 

That’s just what Francis Winspear had intended: “As a form of communication, music can transcend the boundaries of culture, differences in educational and economic backgrounds and barriers between nations. As such, music can help build harmony between people of all ages, races, cultures, and beliefs in our growing city. 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.” #winspear


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