The George Kent Performance Hall
The Home of the Chorus of Westerly
Located at 119 High Street in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island, Kent Hall has been home to the Chorus of Westerly for more than 45 years, and owned and operated by the Chorus since 1991.
Praised for its exceptional acoustics, Kent Hall is considered one of the finest small concert halls in New England for choral music, orchestral/symphonic music, chamber music, light jazz, and opera.
Kent Hall is an excellent site for your concert, hosted dinner, wedding, wedding reception, or other special event.
History of The George Kent Performance Hall
In addition to the hundreds of concerts offered by the Chorus of Westerly since their first performance in the space in 1968, Kent Hall has been praised by many of the guest artists who have come to perform in the space over the years. These artists have included Rudolf Serkin, Pete Seeger, Yo-Yo Ma, Charles B. Fisk, Ed Tarr along with prestigious choral ensembles such as The King's Singers, Chanticleer, The Tallis Scholars, The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, The Vienna Boyschoir, and many others.The Chorus of Westerly's regular season events, concerts, rehearsals, and classes are all held within the George Kent Performance Hall throughout the year.
On the National Register of Historic Place, Kent Hall, 119 High Street, began its life in Westerly as a church. Specifically, Kent Hall was the town of Westerly's first Roman Catholic church - Immaculate Conception - and construction on the facility began in 1886. The first services in the church were held in basement on Christmas Day in 1886 in the vestry and continued in this spot for several years. It was not until October 19, 1890, in the midst of a terrible October storm, that the church was completed and officially dedicated by Bishop Matthew Harkins.
In 1933, the Immaculate Conception Church's then pastor began to put plans into motion for an eventual move of the parish to a more modern facility as Kent Hall (then church) was really never intended to last more than 40-50 years and the numbers attending mass had increased quite a bit. The church purchase property on the corner of Narragansett Avenue and High Street, but due to looming depression and then WWII, it would be 35 years before the church was to exit 119 High Street.
However, by the fall of 1968, the Immaculate Conception Church finally completed construction on their new facility just one block away and moved out of 119 High Street. Around this same time, Chorus leadership had program a concert in the space and discovered its exceptional acoustics -- especially for choral music. George and Lynn Kent, Anne Utter, and many other Chorus leaders realized that the church itself was a possible long term performance home for the Chorus if a way to save the building (now 80 years old and falling apart) from the wrecking ball.
The Immaculate Conception parish sold the building to Westerly Automatic Oil Heating for $80,000 (along with three other houses). Eventually, Chorus leadership raised significant funds and purchased from the oil company the 119 High Street property. Rather than the Chorus own the building outright, they formed a new 501(c)(3) organization -- the Westerly Center for the Arts -- to own, run, and operate the building. Thus 119 High Street (now Kent Hall) became known as The Center for the Arts. The Center owned and operated the space from the early 1970s through the late 1980s and presented many exciting and wide-ranging programs. The Chorus remained the primary tenant of the Center throughout this time.
In the late 1980s, the Center for the Arts organization fell on hard times. By 1989, it was clear the Center would likely not survive as an organization and could no longer own and operate the property at 119 High Street. In 1991, the Chorus of Westerly purchased the facility again. This time, however, the Chorus decided not to create another management organization for the facility and kept/owned it outright.
Upon acquiring the facility, however, much immediate work needed to be done. Over the next 15+ years, the Chorus raised nearly $3.5 million for various phases of renovation and repair -- work that still continues to this day. The largest effort was, in 2004-2005, the addition of a new office wing and backstage stair access, a nearly $2 million project. At that time, thanks to a gift from a major Chorus supporter, the facility (which had been going under the name Chorus of Westerly Performance Hall) was rededicated the George Kent Performance Hall.
The lastest phase of restoration focused on three key areas: the "envelope of the building" (the slate roof, the gutter system, the siding, and the structure of the bell tower), the HVAC (installing and repairing systems so that the main hall is properly cooled and heated, and a long-overdue rehearsal room and lower level renovation. To help with this phase of efforts, the Chorus of Westerly was a named recipient of the 2014 Rhode Island Cultural Facilities Economic Bond. The Bond, a $30 million grant program for cultural and historic facilities, has a specific award total of $1,054,200 for the Chorus of Westerly to continue its work on Kent Hall. Work in this phase began in 2016 and was completed in 2020.
Rent The George Kent Performance Hall
Kent Hall an excellent site for your concert, hosted dinner, wedding, wedding reception, or other special event. We provide a flexible option of renting that allows us to create a rental agreement unique to each user's needs and requests. Some limitations do exist, though we will work with you to explore all options to make your event work.
Our space can be set in many different ways and used for many different style events. We love creativity and we will help you plan how to use the space. We also offer unique flexibility in terms of scheduling. The typical schedule blocks do not always apply here.
We do not have in-house caterers or other designated supply companies, so, for certain events, you have a choice of whom you wish to have come in to host the event.
Kent Hall is a very special and very unique space. It is not like any typical hall, wedding, or special event rental you will see in the area. The space itself will help make your event that much more special.
Kent Hall Rental FAQ
What does it cost?
We set our final rental rates based upon the nature of the event and the requirements of the event (as well as expected attendees and audience). Rates to use the entire space for a full day wedding or similar rental start around $2,500.00. Rates for partial day events also exist but depend on the event. Please call the office at 401.596.8663 for more details.
How many people can space hold?
For a concert performance - 438For a sit-down dinner or event with rectangular (8' length) or round tables (8 or 10 top), depending on the amount of space needed for catering, musicians, displays, or other items, the hall can seat between 150 and 185 comfortably. You can seat a few more than that if needed, but we would encourage you to have to discuss a few creative options.
For performance needs we have:
438 audience/event chairs that can be moved, 40 music stands, 55 Wenger performance chairs, 25 music stand lights, a small in-house lighting and PA system, a Steinway 6' grand piano, a three manual Allen organ (electric), and use of front area box office stand.There is one full set of restrooms on the performance hall level.
On the lower level the hall has a full service kitchen with a large conventional oven/stove, a large convection oven, an industrial size fridge for special event use, dumbwaiter to upper level, plus a large multi-purpose rehearsal room, two sets of restrooms, and coat racks.
When I rent, will there be another rental at the same time or on the same day?
No. We only take one rental or event per day. The Chorus of Westerly offices are also located in Kent Hall and may be in operation on a rental day, and the Chorus may conduct activities in the building on that day, but you are the only rental for your time here with us.
What are some of the restrictions and regulations I should be aware of?
There are a variety of restrictions and regulations that all prospective renters will be informed of in advance about using the space. We are happy to assist renters with necessary paperwork. However, key items include:
No event can go past 11 pm for rental (and exceptionally loud music must end by 10 pm)
Liquor can be served on the premises, but the renter is responsible for getting a one-day liquor license from the town/caterer
Extra labor costs could apply if extra tasks are requested in advance,
The renter must carry insurance and protect the Chorus and the hall from liability during the rental time of Kent Hall.
Is Kent Hall accessible for individuals with mobility issues?
Yes! For questions about accessibility, individuals should contact the office at 401.596.8663 or email Jill Hirst at Jill@chorusofwesterly.org.