1967 Centennial Concert
Centennial Hall in London, Ontario was cursed from the start.
Originally budgeted at $2 million, the concert hall suffered at the hands of municipal bean counters who mercilessly pared its price tag to half the amount. In trying to turn it into a multipurpose facility, the hall's acoustics and site lines were largely butchered. The opening on June 21, 1967 with the London Symphony Orchestra fell well short of selling out.
The public's disappointment in the hall was compounded by the failure of London's favourite son to open the place. Attempts to book Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians for the first night failed due to scheduling problems. The best Lombardo could offer was a date in neighbouring Strathroy a month earlier.
However, on September 20 the band held court at the first sellout crowd of 1,800 at Centennial Hall. One reporter joked that the city's senior citizen population must have cashed in their pensions cheques en mass to attend.
Back stage, Guy paced up and down, fiddled with his cufflinks and wiped his forehead as the MC introduced him.
"Only in London," Guy explained when someone noticed his nervous behaviour.
He didn't have to worry. The audience was delighted with the band's renditions of old favourites like Coquette, The Object of My Affection and Time on My Hands. The Royal Canadians also tried out versions of new tunes like Winchester Cathedral and Born Free.
Unfortunately, the building and its heavy reverb were less appreciative towards the music. Guy's consternation was clearly visible on stage. Afterwards, the hall's architect visited Lombardo back stage and attempted to fish a compliment from him.
"Well the sound is beautiful heading out from the stage," Lombardo began. "But then it hits that back wall and comes right back at you." The architect abruptly ended the conversation.
Heavy drapes later reduced the echo-chamber effect of the hall, though they never heard the sweetest music this side of heaven again. Guy's remaining London concerts were held at other venues.