Chan Centre

V6T News and Views


Son Spoke of Father at Chan Opening in 1997

Tom Chan is one of two sons of the late Chan Shun after whom the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia is named. The other son is Caleb.

In May 2997, at the opening night ceremonies of the Chan Centre, Tom Chan gave a speech from the stage of Chan Shun Concert Hall – the main hall in the centre – to a capacity audience of 1,400.

In the course of this speech, Mr. Chan spoke of his ailing father- who was in the audience. Here is a part of what son said about the father.

“My father always taught us the example of Abraham in the Bible.

Abraham built his altar and .made his thanksgiving to God immediately upon arriving at a new village every time.

He did not wait until he had made his gain before giving it back.

Certainly at the time, nine years ago (1988), some friends advised us to wait until we had made money in Canada before making this major pledge.

We believe that charity is about the worthiness of the cause, and not for the benefit of the donor.

Our commitment to UBC’s ‘World of Opportunity’ campaign was not simply an opportunity to help a great university. It was an opportunity to make a very personal statement of faith about our gratefulness to God to have new opportunities in a ‘new world’, and to continue to be His good stewards.”

Chan Sun, who died not many days or weeks later, was not born a wealthy man. Rather, he was a self-made man who – based in Hong Kong – became leader of a multi-national business group which dealt in real estate and the manufacture of clothing. One of his companies was Crocodile Garments Ltd.

As well as a major donation from the Chan Foundation of Canada, the Chan Centre was built with donations from Telus and the Royal Bank of Canada with the Government of British Columbia matching private donations.


Music Director Describes Chan as ‘Dream Come True’

Jesse Read is Director of the UBC School of Music.

In 2002, on the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Chan Centre, Professor Read was invited to write a testimonial on behalf of the Chan. Here is what Prof Read wrote specifically about the cultural influence of the Chan Center locally, nationally and internationally.

The Chan Centre’s position on the UBC campus has stimulated a growth of associations and relationships with the community never before possible.

Our series of free and modestly-priced concerts attracts thousands of appreciative music fans, students from the campus, staff and faculty, school groups, visitor to the campus, and loyal community music supporters. Our ticketed performances are well-attended, and give yet another profile and dimension to the offerings at UBC.

Thee Chan Centre and the School of Music have developed a visible symbiotic and dynamic image in the community. “Out there” is a place to go to hear wonderful, exciting, amazingly high-level performances, see opera, be bathed in and surrounded by the sounds and spectacle of choirs, bands, and jazz.

UBC School of Music events in the Chan are becoming known as unique and special events. The audience knows that they will be uplifted by the collective spirit of gifted and well-trained young performers who somehow touch the audience in a special and magic way.

In addition, the Chan Centre has helped foster the growth and development: of special initiatives which connect the UBC experience with secondary music students.

The Summer Music Institute brings young music students from the local area and as far away as Europe and Asia to work on campus and perform in the Chan Centre. And in the spring, Vancouver has become a destination for travelling secondary orchestras, bands and choirs.

It should also be noted that a constant panorama of performances at the Chan Centre from outside groups of international stature, the series of concerts with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the CBC

Orchestra, festival, special events and recitals all bring to the campus and community a nourishment and substance which cannot be measured. We are now looking back on the very short history of a unique, important and exciting cooperative venture, only dreamed of a few short years ago.


Pianist Silverman Attests to ‘Incredible Impact’ of Chan

Robert Silverman is an internationally-known recording artist and a former director of the UBC School of Music. We asked Dr Silverman, who retired from teaching this year and who is now furthering his career as a pianist, to reflect both on the significance of the Chan and experience of performing there. Here are his comments.

UBC is not home to one of the finer-sounding (and beautiful) concert halls in the country. In a few short years, the Chan Centre for the performing Arts has had an incredible impact on this community in many ways: 1. The Chan is the only truly viable serious musical venue of its size in Vancouver, and as a result, many wonderful musical events of all varieties have occurred there, thereby enriching the quality of cultural life on campus. 2. It is not only a first-class public concert venue. From the start, the Chan was also intended as a teaching space for UBC students. I am not able to discuss its impact on the university’s theatre and film programs with any authority, but I can attest that the Chan has proven to be of crucial educational importance for music students. Young musicians must learn how to listen to each other on stage and judge their sound and phrasing accordingly. This can only be achieved in a good-sounding rehearsal and concert space, something UBC did not have until the Chan was constructed. Since then, the School of Music’s large instrumental and choral ensembles have developed and evolved to the point where they are now amongst the finest to be found at any Canadian university. 3. For the three decades that I have lived in Vancouver, I have frequently encountered an inexplicably “town vs. gown” attitude on the part of many of our citizens. I cannot tell you the number of times I used to hear Vancouverites refer to the campus as being “way out there,” as a reason for not attending a concert or opera. The Chan’s existence has done much to break down this non-existent geographical barrier, and integrate the two components of the community. A final, more personal comment: most performers I know become very nervous just before giving a recital. Some halls, though, have the ability to give performers a “high” just by virtue of their walking onto stage, to make them forget their nerves, and to help bring out the best they have to offer. The Chan has this quality in spades. Having given about a dozen recitals there myself, I have become spoiled by the welcoming atmosphere engendered by the instrumental beauty and its clear, rich acoustics. I love performing there.


Architect Aimed for Best Acoustics in West

Michael Heeney is Executive Director of Bing Thom Architect (BTA), the Vancouver firm which designed the Chan Centre. We asked Mr. Heeney to discuss design of the acoustical system in the Chan Shun Concert Hall. Here are his comments.

When we were engaged by UBC to design the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, one of the principal requirements of the design brief, is it was explained to us, was to design a concert hall with the best acoustics on the west coast of North America. To this end, UBC engaged Artec Consultants, of New York, arguably the world’s most prestigious firm of acousticians.

From the inception of the project, Bing Thom recognized that for the project to be successful architecturally the sound in the hall needed to be great. For no matter how extraordinary the architecture is, if the sound is poor, the building will be judged a failure. With this attitude BTA embarked on a highly collaborative relationship with Artic on the design of the facility. In many respects, the relationship with Artic was much the same as a jazz group where various individual musicians take the lead at various times through a piece of music.

Artec has an impressive record of acoustics successes and attribute much of this success to their preference for rectilinear, high rooms frequently referred to as “shoeboxes”. Indeed, the shape of the hall is fundamental to the success of the acoustics. As a result, Artec designed the basic shape of the room. Once this was done, Bing Thom Architects studied this shape in detail, including building an accurate model, and turned it into architecture.

Some of the acoustic requirements were adjustable to allow the room to be “tuned” to better accommodate different forms of music. Two elements in particular were important.

  • The first are the acoustic banners that surround the room. These are gray velour banners that can be extended for retracted depending on the need for sound absorption. Slots were provided in the upper levels to allow these banners to thread behind them. The walls of the room itself are bush hammered concrete.
  • The other adjustable element is the large acoustic canopy over the stage itself. This element, which also has numerous lighting and rigging requirements, weights 37 tons and is computer controlled and powered by a remarkably small electric motor due to an intricate counterweight system.

The concept of an adjustable ceiling over the stage has long been a characteristic of Artec designed halls. The design break through at the Chan, however, was Bing Thom’s decision to treat this element as a chandelier. It is interesting to note that two subsequent Artec halls in Canada – the Winspear in Edmonton and the renovation to Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto have both followed this approach.


Manager Moves Chan Ahead as Both ‘Venue and Presenter’

Sid Katz is Acting Managing Director, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. We asked Mr. Katz to describe the artistic direction in which he proposes to lead the Chan. Here is his reply.

In addition to being the premier performance space for the UBC Schools of Music, Theatre, and Film, the Chan Centre plays an important role in Vancouver, nationally and internationally, as a major contributor to the Arts scene.

In our first five years, besides offering our own ‘Music at the Chan’ series, we have succeeded in developing solid partnerships with a number of key presenters including the Vancouver Recital Society, Early Music Vancouver, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the CBC Radio Orchestra to provide wonderful concert experiences in the beautiful and acoustically excellent Chan Shun Concert Hall.

As we move forward, we want to build on these partnerships and offer unique and innovative programming to a wide and varied audience.

I am really excited about our potential not only as a venue but as a presenter.

Mon Sep 1, 2003