The Highland Arts Theatre is a historic building, first constructed as a Presbyterian Church, now operating an arts and culture centre in Sydney, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was initially constructed as St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

Highland Arts Theatre
"The HAT"
Official logo of the Highland Arts Theatre, designed by Hilary Scott.
Highland Arts Theatre during a regional broadcast of CBC's Mainstreet for East Coast Music Week, 2016.
Highland Arts Theatre is located in Canada
Highland Arts Theatre
Highland Arts Theatre
The HAT on Cape Breton Island
Highland Arts Theatre is located in Nova Scotia
Highland Arts Theatre
Highland Arts Theatre
Highland Arts Theatre (Nova Scotia)
Former namesSt. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1910–1925), St. Andrew's United Church (1925–2013)
Address40 Bentinck Street
LocationSydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Coordinates46°08′20″N 60°11′38″W / 46.138782°N 60.194000°W / 46.138782; -60.194000
Public transitTransit Cape Breton
Routes 1, 5 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
OwnerHighland Quality Productions Incorporated
OperatorHighland Arts Theatre Association
Genre(s)live theatre, music, concerts, dance, film
Seating typeSoft seat, reserved seating
CapacityTheatre: 400~
Concerts: up to 475
ProductionHAT 2020 Winter-Spring Season
Broke groundApril 14, 1910[1]
OpenedJune 25, 1911 (1911-June-25)
RenovatedJune 3, 2014
Construction cost$62,945 CAD (1911)
ArchitectSamuel G. Curry and William F. Sparling of Toronto (Curry & Sparling)[2]
General contractorRhodes Curry Company
Official nameSt. Andrew's United Church
TypeProvincial Heritage Property
Designated29 August 29, 2012[3]
Official nameSt. Andrew's United Church
TypeMunicipal Heritage Property
Designated18 September 2007[4]
Reference no.9326

In June 2014 St. Andrew's reopened as the Highland Arts Theatre, a live play and film theatre and concert venue located in Sydney's waterfront district.

History edit

St Andrews ca. 1914, funeral featuring a horse-drawn hearse.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, construction of which started in 1910 and completed in 1911, was the third church built by the Sydney and Mira Presbyterian congregation, originating from 1852. The congregations outgrew the two previous Sydney churches, and so St. Andrew's was built to contain over 1,000 people for services.[1]

In 1925, St. Andrew's Church joined with Methodist and Congregational churches to form the United Church and St. Andrew's then became St. Andrew's United Church. This was a dramatic change for some members of the congregation and many members were lost, however new were gained.[4] St. Andrew's United Church continued as a church with full-time clergy until 2013 when it was decommissioned after the dwindling congregation decided the heating bills for the 104-year-old sanctuary were too expensive.[5] On Wednesday, July 31, 2013, the congregation of St. Andrew's United Church gathered for the Decommissioning Service as the chimes played a call to worship for one final time.[6]

The Highland Arts Theatre

Architecture edit

The pastor at the time of planning and construction, Rev. Dr. John Pringle, D.D., travelled to Toronto and met with architects Curry and Sparling to develop the plans for the church. The contract for construction of the building on Bentinck St. was awarded to Rhodes and Curry Company at a cost of $41,635 and when fully completed was $62,945. This is a very fine structure, built using red brick from Mira, a local brickyard.[4][7] Architecturally, the end result was a beautiful house of worship, with impressive towers, bells chiming on days of worship and the steadfast permanence of the Gothic Revival style, rare within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.[4]

Some of the Character-defining elements of St. Andrew's / Highland Arts Theatre relate to its Gothic Revival style and include its buttressed belfry towers of differing heights, the arched windows, dentil moulding and cornice on the belfry towers, the three-over-three arched windows in upper belfry of taller tower, the three arched windows in upper belfry of lower tower, the wide entry staircase leading to the three arched entries containing two wooden doors each, a large Palladian derivative window above entry. Other character-defining elements are its construction of locally made brick, all original interior elements including: Casavant Frères pipe organ, railings, columns, trim and barrel vaulted ceiling arcing 44 feet (13 m) above the theatre floor; ten bells, inscribed with Biblical verses in bell tower.[4]

Highland Arts Theatre Casavant Frères Organ

Casavant Frères Pipe Organ edit

The 2,045 pipe, three-manual pipe organ made by the famous Casavant Frères in Quebec is the largest such instrument on Cape Breton Island.[8] Its facade, casing, pipes, swell and chorus boxes completely fill the apse of the theatre. The organ was purchased for the new church, then under construction, in 1911 for $5,595 as Casavant Brothers, Ltd., Opus 452.[9][10] The original specification was for three manuals, 4 divisions, 29 stops, 27 registers, 29 ranks, 1843 pipes. A Stoplist for the 1911 instrument copied from the factory specifications for Casavant Op. 452 1911 3/29, courtesy of the Casavant Frères Archives, St. Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada is available by following this link: Original Stoplist

The organ was rebuilt in 1946 by Casavant Frères Ltée. as Op. 1841, with 3 new Choir stops, a traditional style console with roll top, three manuals, 4 divisions, 33 stops, 30 registers, 32 ranks, 2045 pipes. Manual compass is 61 notes, pedal compass is 32 notes. Equipped with electro-pneumatic (EP) chests, drawknobs in vertical rows on angled jambs, balanced swell shoes/pedals, standard AGO placement, adjustable combination pistons, AGO Standard (concave radiating) pedalboard, reversible full organ/tutti toe stud, combination action thumb pistons, combination action toe studs, coupler reversible thumb pistons, coupler reversible toe studs. Added in 1962 were a Clarion 4' to the Swell and a hooded Harmonic Trumpet, 68 pipes, with new pipework supplied by Casavant via Ledoux & MacDonald Organ Service Co., Halifax. Wind is supplied by a 3 hp electric blower located in the basement directly below the organ.

The following link leads to a Stoplist for the 1946 instrument, copied from the factory specifications for Casavant Frères Ltée., Opus 1841, 1946. Stoplist The 18-ton organ underwent $15,000 in repairs to its bellows in 2008.[11]

Chime (Bells) edit

This is the arrangement of a McShane Eight Bell Chime as it would appear in the Bell Chamber of a tower. This is very similar to layout of the Ten Bell Highland Arts Theatre Chime.

The chime, consisting of ten bells located in the south bell tower, is still in use today. The bells were cast in bronze (bell metal) for St. Andrew's Church by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, US and are dated 1911. The bells are arranged as a traditional chime of 10 bells and are played using the original unmodified McShane "pump handle" chimestand with deep key-fall on all notes. Nine of the bells are hung fixed in position in the main chime frame in the belfry, the tenth, the heaviest bell, is mounted in a rotary iron yoke on iron stands above the main chime frame. This bell, the tenor bell, is equipped with both a spring clapper and a tolling hammer so can be played either by swing chiming or by using the chimestand located in the ringing room immediately below the Bell Chamber in the bell tower.

All the bells have the foundry's name cast onto their waist. The nine smaller bells are also decorated with inscriptions, quotes from Psalms from the King James Version of the Bible, cast onto their waist, while the largest bell's inscription reads "St. Andrews Church, Sydney NS". This largest bell weighs about 2,050 lb (930 kg) and its pitch is E in the middle octave. The chime is attuned to concert pitch, to the eight notes of the octave or diatonic scale with two bells added, one bell a semitone, a flat seventh, and one bell, the treble bell, above the octave. This smallest bell, at about 200 lb (91 kg), rings an F.[12]

In December 2015 a video posted on Facebook of Sydney native Glenda Watt playing the Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard on High" on the chime was viewed more than 1.6 million times within the first nine days of it being uploaded to the social networking site.[13][14][15][16]

Follow this link to a page of videos of the chime being played: The Chimes ~ Christmas Music

Heritage designations edit

The Highland Arts Theatre is a historic building, first constructed as St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in 1910/1911.

Municipal Heritage Property: On September 18, 2007, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality formally recognized St. Andrew's United Church as a Municipally Registered Property under the Nova Scotia Heritage Property Act, Chapter 199 of the revised Statutes, 1989, amended 1991, c. 10; 1998, c. 18, s. 561; 2010, c. 54[4][9] The Cape Breton Regional Municipality designated St. Andrew's Church and the property it sits on, recognizing St. Andrew's for its early and continuing presence in the community as well as the striking architecture. It is one of the few brick buildings in the area, and is impressive for its size and beauty.[4]

Provincial Heritage Property: On August 29, 2012, the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Heritage Property Act entered St. Andrew's United Church into the Provincial Registry of Heritage Property resulting in provincial heritage protection for the theatre.[3]

Concerts edit

Soundcheck for East Coast Music Week: Folk Stage, featuring Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers on Friday, April 15, 2016.

While still serving as a church, St. Andrew's was considered to be perhaps the finest concert venue in the city of Sydney. Before its rebirth as an arts centre, the building had a distinguished background as a performance space. Classical musicians regularly held recitals and concerts there over the years because of the building's outstanding acoustical properties and its Casavant Freres organ.[17] In the mid 1950s St. Andrew's was a regular stop for one of the incarnations of the Halifax Symphony Orchestra whose performances at St. Andrew's were broadcast regionally and even nationally by CBC Radio. Thomas Mayer was the conductor. He would often invite local performers to join them, at the time there were several operatic sopranos and mezzo-sopranos from Cape Breton who gained a national following because of these broadcasts. More recently, due to its seating capacity of over 1,000, and excellent acoustics it was sought after by organizations such as Celtic Colours, The Barra MacNeils,[18] and the Cape Breton Chorale.[8]

Since reopening as the Highland Arts Theatre many concerts have been presented.

The following are some of the artists that have performed at The HAT :

Live theatre edit

HEART OF STEEL a new musical by Wesley J. Colford, a production of the Highland Arts Theatre.

Highland Arts Theatre, or "The HAT" as it is affectionately called, is the name of the newly renovated St. Andrew's Church. When the church was decommissioned in 2013, local musician and businessman Kevin Colford stepped up to instigate a transformation of the beloved historical building into a state of the art centre for arts and culture. The venue officially re-opened on Tuesday, June 3, 2014[19] with an original musical comedy, "The Wakowski Brothers - A Cape Breton Vaudeville".

Sound and lighting were all upgraded, with new mixing consoles, sound reinforcement systems, lighting grid, lighting control console, dimmers, and intelligent lighting installed. The pews were replaced with 475 stadium-style theatre seats, converting the space to a "soft seater". A large re-enforced stage was constructed and a flexible stage curtaining system, projection screen, and video projectors were installed. The three large Dressing / Green Rooms were upgraded, a Grand Piano was brought in and the fully functioning Pipe Organ was serviced. Renovations have thus far been for function only — the natural aesthetic and acoustics remain intact.

While the venue is available for rent the theatre has begun to host many of Cape Breton's finest in the fields of music, dance, and entertainment. The management's intention is to create a reliable theatrical presence downtown, producing quality productions with a special emphasis on Cape Breton songs and stories. The Highland Arts Theatre is now actively used for concerts, lectures, weddings, and of course performances of any kind.

A Fall and a Winter/Spring season of plays are offered each year as well as a Summer Repertory theatre season.

Past productions edit

The following is a list of theatrical plays and musicals performed since reopening as The HAT :




2017 Winter-Spring Season:

2017 Summer Repertory Season:

The 2017 Fall Season:

  • Three Men In A Boat, Based on the novel by Jerome K. Jerome, Adapted by Mark Brownell, Directed by Sue Miner, Sept 27 - Oct 1
  • Theatre Brouhaha's Punch Up, by Kat Sandler, Directed by Kristen Gregor, Oct 25 - 29
  • She Loves Me, Book by Joe Masteroff, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick & Music by Jerry Bock, Directed by Wesley J. Colford, Music Directed by Barb Stetter, Nov 22 - 26
  • A Christmas Carol 2017, Written by Charles Dickens, Adapted & Directed by Wesley J. Colford, Music Directed by Barb Stetter, Choreography by Cynthia Vokey, December 13 –17

The 2018 Winter-Spring Season:

  • Of Mice, Morrow & Jasp, Created and Performed by Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis, Direction & Dramaturgy by Byron Laviolette, January 16 to 20
  • The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams, Directed by Mark Delaney, February 6 to 10
  • Disco Nights, A new musical by Wesley J. Colford, Choreography by Cynthia Vokey, March 13 to 18, 20, 21
  • The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood, Directed by Birdie Gregor, Choreography by Thomas L. Colford, April 17 to 22
  • The Happy Prince, Book, Music, & Lyrics by Leslie Arden, Based on the story by Oscar Wilde, Directed by Ron Jenkins, May 15 to 20
  • Tribute to the Rotary Show, a new new star-studded revue, June 5 to 10

HAT 2018 Summer Season:

  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Encore, a Tony-Award winning musical comedy straight from Broadway! 8:00 pm every Tuesday, July 10, 17, 24, 31 & Aug. 7, 14, 21
  • Disco Nights - Encore, a pulsating, gyrating, full-on comedy of the highest order. 8:00 pm every Wednesday, July 11, 18, 25 & Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22
  • Kitchen Party - Encore, this musical collage celebrates the unique history of Canadas East Coast, contrasted with new voices sharing tales of the contemporary East Coast lifestyle, 8:00 pm every Thursday, July 12, 19, 26 & Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23
  • Heart of Steel- 2018 Encore, for 50 years, the Sydney Steel Plant produced the finest steel in the world. But when War breaks out and the men are gone overseas, what will happen when women take change of the workplace for the first time? 8:00 pm every Friday, July 13, 20, 27 & Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24

HAT 2018 Fall Season:

  • Mary's Wedding, by Stephen Massicotte. Directed by Ron Jenkins. On the night before her wedding, Mary dreams of a thunderstorm, during which she unexpectedly meets Charlie sheltering in a barn beside his horse. But the year is 1914, and the world is collapsing into a brutal war. Sept 20 to 23 at 8:00 pm
  • West Moon, by Al Pittman. Directed by Sarah Blanchard. Once a year, on All Souls Night, the occupants of a small Newfoundland graveyard are given the gift of speech and the ability to once again gossip with their ghostly neighbours. The fisherman, the shop keep, and the busy-body all have their usual complaints but rumours of resettlement lurk in the shadows and the haunting are about to become the haunted... Oct 24 to 28 at 8:00 pm
  • She Loves Me - Encore, Book by Joe Masteroff, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick & Music by Jerry Bock, Directed by Wesley J. Colford, Music Directed by Barb Stetter, Nov 21 - 25 at 8:00 pm
  • A Christmas Carol 2018 Written by Charles Dickens. Adapted & Directed by Wesley J. Colford. Music Directed by Barb Stetter. Choreography by Cynthia Vokey. December 12 – 16 at 8:00 pm

HAT 2019 Winter-Spring Season:

  • Good Animals, by Scott Sharplin Directed by Michael McPhee, featuring: Mark Delaney, Amy Fedora, Andy Gouthro, & Hilary Scott. January 8–13
  • The Glace Bay Miners' Museum, by Wendy Lill Adapted from the novel by Sheldon Currie Directed by Ron Jenkins. February 19 - 24
  • See Jane Run, a new musical by L. M. Thompson, Book & Lyrics by Lindsay Thompson Music by Suzanne Doane Directed by Alison Crosby Choreography by Thomas L. Colford. March 12–17
  • Bunny, by Hannah Moscovitch Directed by Richie Wilcox. A professor of Victorian Literature is confronted by the ghosts of her own sexuality in this dangerous and disorienting play about repressive social convention, personal inhibition and desire unleashed. It’s a romance. It’s sexy. Not always at the same time. April 9–14
  • The Drowsy Chaperone, Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar Music & Lyrics by Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison Directed by Wesley J. Colford. May 14 - 19
  • The 5 Year Hat-A-Versary Spectacular!

HAT 2019 Summer Season:

HAT 2019 Fall Season:

  • Silence, by Trina Davies, Directed by Ron Jenkins, September 17 to 22 at 8:00 pm
  • Little Shop of Horrors, Book & Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Music by Alan Menkin, Directed by Ron Jenkins, Music Directed by Barbara Stetter, Choreography by Cynthia Vokey, October 29 to November 3 at 8:00 PM
  • The Best Brothers, by Daniel MacIvor, November 19 to 24 at 8:00 pm
  • A Christmas Carol 2019, by Charles Dickens, Adapted & Directed by Wesley J. Colford, Music Directed by Barb Stetter, Choreography by Cynthia Vokey, December 10–15 at 8:00 pm

Current production edit

HAT 2020 Winter-Spring Season:

Upcoming productions edit

Film edit

Film at the Highland Arts Theatre debuted in December 2014 with three afternoon matinees and three evening showings of six black-and-white movies from the 1930s through to the 1950s. This was followed up on November 11, 2015, with a Free Screening of New Short Films from Atlantic Canada, courtesy of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative. Films shown were:

  • The Canoe, Alex Balkam, 8 mins, experimental
  • Some Things Won't Sleep, Leah Johnston, 11 mins, drama
  • ALIA, Raghed Charabaty, 5 mins, drama
  • A Horse Throat, Jenna Marks & David Barlow-Krelina, 2 mins, animation
  • Cabinet of Wonders, Jim MacSwain, 10 mins, animation
  • What You Did Before You Were Born, Ariella Pahlke, 22 mins, documentary

Top Hat Pictures, a subsidiary of Highland Arts Theatre, officially launched in January 2016, concentrating on newly released Canadian and internationally acclaimed films not available at other venues. Screenings using The HAT's Barco 30,000 lumen, 2K three-chip DLP digital cinema projector occurred on Mondays at 7 pm., monthly. The premiere showing was Trumbo (2015) on Monday, January 25, 2016.

The following is a list of films previously shown at The HAT :

Upcoming screenings edit

Movie Musical Sing-along Series[21]

Other films

Box office edit

The Highland Arts Theatre's Box Office is located at the side door of the Theatre at 40 Bentinck Street.

Gallery edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b McFayden, E. D. (1948). Past, present, future : Saint Andrew's congregation, United Church of Canada, Sydney, Nova Scotia : A Symposium (booklet). Sydney, Nova Scotia: Lewis R. Macdonald Printing. pp. 10–15.
  2. ^ "Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada: SPARLING, William Frederick (1884-1940)". Robert G. Hill, Architect, FRAIC, Author & Editor. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Heritage Property Act (29 August 2012). Notice of Registration of Property As a Provincial Heritage Property (Report). Nova Scotia Registry of Deeds: Nova Scotia Communities, Culture and Heritage, Office of the Minister. 101588508. You are hereby notified that: 1. The building and lands located at 40 Bentinck Street, Sydney, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Province of Nova Scotia, commonly referred to as St. Andrew's United Church, being and intended to be that the property more fully described in the Schedule "A" attached hereto, has been registered in the Provincial Registry of Heritage Property by the Minister under the Heritage Property Act on August 29th, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "The Canadian Register of Historic Places: St. Andrew's United Church". Parks Canada Agency. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  5. ^ "Sydney's St. Andrews Church reborn as theatre, 104-year-old sanctuary now 650-seat Highland Arts Theatre". CBC News. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "St. Andrew's United Church Chimes". G-Fit Fitness Studio. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  7. ^ Murray, Rev. John (1921). The History of The Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton (book). Truro, Nova Scotia: News Publishing Co. Ltd. p. 167. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "St. Andrew's United Church Sydney". Parks Canada Agency. Archived from the original on 2016-06-24. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Cape Breton Post, St. Andrews United Church named a municipal heritage property". Cape Breton Post. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "OHS Database, Casavant Brothers, Ltd., Opus 452, 1911". The Organ Historical Society. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  11. ^ "Cape Breton Post, No proposals brought forward on future of landmark church". Cape Breton Post. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  12. ^ "TowerBells: SYDNEY : CANADA - NS". TowerBells Website. Retrieved April 22, 2016.
  13. ^ "Cape Breton Post: Video of Sydney woman playing former church's chimes goes viral". Cape Breton Post. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  14. ^ "Videos of Coxheath's Glenda Watt making music with the bells go viral". Chronicle Herald. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  15. ^ "Sydney woman playing chimes goes viral on Facebook". CBC News. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  16. ^ "Viral Video: Christmas carol finds worldwide audience". CTV Atlantic. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  17. ^ "Cape Breton Post, Curtain ready to rise on new Sydney performance space". Cape Breton Post. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  18. ^ "Cathedral marks a new journey for Barra MacNeils". The Inverness Oran. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  19. ^ "Cape Breton Post, Highland Arts Theatre". Cape Breton Post. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  20. ^ "Cape Breton Post, Historical figures offer advice in "Herstory" at Highland Arts Theatre". Cape Breton Post. Retrieved May 14, 2016.
  21. ^ Patterson, Elizabeth. "Cape Bretoners showing interest in singalongs". Cape Breton Post. No. 3 January 2020. SaltWire Network. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  22. ^ Chisholm, Ken. "Humour, heart on HAT stage". Cape Breton Post. No. 4 January 2020. SaltWire network. Retrieved 4 January 2020.,
  23. ^ "I Am Skylar". National Film Board (NFB). National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 4 January 2020.

External links edit