Berklee Performance Center to Celebrate Its 100th Anniversary

By 
Virginia McMahon
November 18, 2015
Press release
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December marks the 100th anniversary of the Berklee Performance Center, which first opened to the public as the Fenway Theatre on December 20, 1915. The venue was designed by famed architect Thomas Lamb as a lavish movie palace and also outfitted for Vaudeville in case movies—a relatively new form of entertainment at the time—did not catch on with the public. According to a 1916 article in Motion Picture World, the Fenway Theatre had “a general air of quiet refinement” that was “carried throughout the entire amphitheater.”

The Fenway Theatre remained a movie house into the 1960s. It was also used to stage plays and host concerts, including Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, and T. Rex. At one point, it was the rehearsal space for Aerosmith. In 1972, it was sold to Berklee College of Music, along with the adjoining Sherry Biltmore Hotel. After four years of extensive renovation, the venue reopened in 1976 as a state-of-the-art concert hall, rechristened the Berklee Performance Center.   

Today, the venue hosts more than 200 events per year and is at the core of Boston's entertainment and cultural community, with concerts by talented Berklee students, faculty, and visiting artists, as well as a wide variety of productions presented by outside promoters, arts presenters, and community organizations. Chick Corea, Mavis Staples, Celine Dion, Leonard Cohen, John Mayer, and Sonny Rollins, are just a few of the many notable acts that have performed at the venue. The venue also serves as a valuable educational asset: students serve as stage crew, ushers, marketing assistants, and box office clerks, gaining experience in music business, concert production, and venue management.

The Berklee Performance Center is celebrating the centennial with two exciting performances: 

Singers Showcase: 100 Years of Popular Music
Thursday, December 3, 8:00 p.m.

Singers Showcase, Berklee’s premier vocal event, features the outstanding talents of student singers chosen during a rigorous audition process. This year’s showcase will celebrate the anniversary by taking a look at the past 100 years in popular music. The repertoire, chosen by the performers and faculty production/coordination group, “The Yo Team,” will feature old favorites from artists such as Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, songs from newer acts such as Rihanna and Adele, and everything in between. 

100 Years of Musical Theater
Wednesday, December 16, 7:30 p.m.

100 Years of Musical Theater is a revue featuring 23 cast members from the Berklee Musical Theater Ensemble, directed by Rene Pfister, assistant professor of voice, and the 18-piece Musical Theater Orchestra, directed by Peter Cokkinias, professor of music education. In homage to the silent movies that used to play at the Fenway Theatre, the show will begin with a film and live action sequence of Charlie Chaplin. Celebrations of Broadway favorites spanning every decade from the 1910s to the 2010s will take the audience on a vibrant journey through musical theater’s history. Selections will include “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “La Vie Boheme,” and a special full-cast tap dance performance of “42nd Street.”

Tickets for each show are $8 in advance / $12 day of show, and can be purchased at Berklee.edu/bpc or at the box office. The Berklee Performance Center is located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. For additional information call 617-747-2261.

Virginia McMahon is a marketing and promotions supervisor in the Concert Operations Department. Media inquiries: vmcmahon@berklee.edu.