Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts
Pīpīwharauroa: Kui-kui whitiwhiti ora
1991-1992 The Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions proposed to demolish their former Convent (built 1882) and Chapel (built 1908), which adjoined the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 140 Barbadoes St. The ensuing community uproar led to the Christchurch City Council seeking the imposition of a heritage order to prevent their demolition. Negotiations followed resulting in the Council taking out a 60-year lease of the properties.
To find a use for the buildings the concept of a centre for music was born and turned into reality by the first Trust Board consisting of Mollie McGrade Clark, Margaret Austin, Sir Miles Warren, Cr David Cox, John Brandts-Giesen, and Christine Low.
Restoration of the buildings was funded by; the NZ Lotteries Grants Board, the Trust Bank Community Trust, the Christchurch City Council, and a number of private benefactors.
1994-2010 The Music Centre of Christchurch was opened in April of 1994 and expanded into the adjoining Portery and Hostel in 2002. The Chapel, renamed the Maurice Till Concert Hall in 2009, was the ‘jewel’ in the facility. A wide variety of performances, rehearsals, master classes and competitions took place here.
Original permanent tenants included; Canterbury Opera, the Christchurch City Choir, Christchurch Civic Music Council, Christchurch School of Music (CSM) and the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts (NASDA).
For eighteen years the centre was a thriving hub for many of the city’s musical community activities.
2011-14 As a result of the 22 February 2011 earthquakes the majority of the the Music Centre buildings were rendered unsafe, the lease was terminated, and all rights in the land reverted to its owners, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Mission. The Music Centre of Christchurch ceased to have a physical presence.
Using insurance payments and with valued assistance from the Earthquake Appeal, the Lotteries Community Facility Fund, the Christchurch City Council, the Government, the Rata Foundation together with the support of many others in the community, the Trust Board decided to proceed with a new music centre and engaged Alun Wilkie of Wilkie+Bruce Architects to draw up concept plans for a replacement building.
2014-2016 In an announcement by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable John Key, on June 12, 2014, the Music Centre was offered land located in the performing arts precinct identified in the central city rebuild.
In May of 2015 Leighs Construction was engaged to build a new music centre and the Trustees renamed the music centre ‘The Piano’ reflecting the curves, and architectural design details incorportated into the design inspired by a grand piano. These subtle references, with elements reconfigured, are there to be seen by a keen eye.
The facilities are expressed as two principal forms. The Concert Hall and associated front of house Atrium space is clad in curved copper elements with a facade of tall columns and a fine louvre screen reflecting the significance of this new Civic Music and Arts facility. The loosely rectangular form of the concert hall mimics the classical “shoebox” ratios of the great European concert halls.
In May 2016 the trustees invited Matapopore Charitable Trust to help them with an appropriate Maori name for The Piano. The pīpīwharauroa or the shining cuckoo is a bird of significance for Ngāi Tūāhuriri. Pīpīwharauroa are seen as a signal of spring and new beginnings. They are conveyors of messages, singers and entertainers.
The Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts was officially opened in September 2016.