Royal Albert Hall

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Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences is an arts venue dedicated to Queen Victoria's husband and consort, Prince Albert. It is situated in in the South Kensington area of London, England.

The hall was originally to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria when laying the foundation stone. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort - the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the heavy traffic along Kensington Gore. The hall also accommodates the largest pipe organ in the UK, and is the home of The Proms.

As the best known building within the cultural complex known as Albertopolis, the hall is commonly and erroneously thought to lie within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The hall is actually within the area of the City of Westminster. The site was part of the former Kensington Gore estate which was historically part of Knightsbridge.

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Image:RAH Opening 1871 ILN.jpg
The opening ceremony on 29 March 1871.

Since its opening by Queen Victoria on March 29, 1871 the Royal Albert Hall has played host to a multitude of different events and legendary figures and has been affectionately titled 'The Nation's Village Hall'. As well as hosting the Proms every summer since they were bombed out of the Queen's Hall in 1941, the Hall has been used for classical and rock concerts, conferences, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, education, ballet, opera and even a circus (Cirque du Soleil). It has hosted many sporting events, including boxing, wrestling (including the first Sumo wrestling tournament ever to be held outside Japan) and tennis. It also hosts the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, held the day before Remembrance Sunday.

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The Triumph of Arts and Sciences

The hall, a Grade I listed building [1], is oval in shape, measuring 83 m (272 feet) by 72 m (238 feet) around the outside, and has a capacity of 8,000 people and has accommodated as many as 9,000 (although modern safety restrictions mean that the maximum permitted capacity is now 5,544 including standing in the Gallery). The great glass and wrought-iron dome roofing the hall is 41 m (135 feet) high. Around the outside of the hall is a great terra cotta frieze, depicting "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences", in reference to the hall's dedication. One-foot high letters above the frieze have the Biblical quotations: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is - in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. ... The wise and their works are in the hand of God. ... Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace." The Hall is opposite the Royal College of Music.

[edit] History

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The first ever performance at the Royal Albert Hall, 29 March 1871.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, London, for which the so-called Crystal Palace was built. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to propose that a permanent series of facilities be built in the area for the enlightenment of the public. Progress on the scheme was slow and in 1861 Prince Albert died, without having seen his ideas come to fruition. However, a memorial was proposed for Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite. The proposal was approved and the site was purchased with some of the profits from the Exhibition. Once the remaining funds had been raised, in April 1867 Queen Victoria signed the Royal Charter of the The Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences which was to operate the Hall and on 20 May, laid the foundation stone.

The Hall was designed by Captain Francis Fowke and Colonel H.Y. Darracott Scott of the Royal Engineers. They were heavily influenced by ancient amphitheatres, but had also been exposed to the ideas of Gottfried Semper while he was working at the South Kensington Museum. The recently-opened Cirque d'Hiver in Paris was seen in the contemporary press as the design to outdo. The Hall was constructed mainly of Fareham Red brick, with terra cotta block decoration made by Gibbs and Canning Ltd. of Tamworth. The dome (designed by Rowland Mason Ordish) on top was made of steel and glazed. There was a trial assembly made of the steel framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported down to London via horse and cart. When the time came for the supporting structure to be removed from the dome after re-assembly in situ, only volunteers remained on site in case the structure dropped. It did drop - but only by five-eighths of an inch! The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870 and the Queen visited a few days beforehand to inspect. She was reported as saying "It looks like the British Constitution".

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Postcard of the Royal Albert Hall (circa 1903) with an inset of the Albert Memorial

The official opening ceremony of the Royal Albert Hall was on March 29 1871. After a welcoming speech by Edward, the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria was too overcome to speak, so the Prince had to announce that "The Queen declares this Hall is now open". A concert followed, when the Hall's acoustic problems became immediately apparent. These were not properly tackled until 1969 when a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs (commonly referred to as "mushrooms" or "flying saucers") were installed in the roof to cut down the notorious echo. It used to be said that the hall was the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice.

Initially lit by gas (when thousands of gas jets were lit by a special system within 10 seconds), full electric lighting was installed in 1897. During an earlier trial when a partial installation was made, one disgruntled patron wrote to The Times newspaper declaring it to be " a very ghastly and unpleasant innovation".

In 1936, the hall was the scene of a giant rally celebrating the British Empire, the occasion being the centenary of Joseph Chamberlain's birth.

The Hall has more recently undergone a rolling programme (1996 - 2004) of renovation and development to enable it to meet the demands of the next century of events and performances. The works included a major rebuilding of the great organ, originally built by "Father" Henry Willis, subsequently rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison and most recently rebuilt by Mander Organs; also the construction of a new south porch in the same style as the preexisting porches. The rebuilding of the organ now again makes it the largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,999 pipes.

Now the hall is used as a live music venue--it has featured bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. Graduation ceremonies for students of London's prestigious Imperial College are also held in the hall.

[edit] Famous concerts

The BBC Promenade Concerts - now the world's largest festival of Western classical music - have been held in the hall every summer since 1941. The Last Night of the Proms is broadcast in several countries.

The hall has also used been used for concerts by a wide range of popular artistes:

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Poster for Petula Clark's 1969 Albert Hall concert
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Albert Hall looking north and west
A famous and widely bootlegged concert by Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on May 17, 1966 was mistakenly labeled the "Royal Albert Hall Concert." In 1998 Columbia Records released an official recording, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, that maintains the erroneous title, but does include details of the actual concert location. Dylan actually did close his European tour on May 26th and 27th of that year; these were his last concerts before Dylan got into a motorcycle accident and became a recluse for a brief period of time.

Another concert that was mislabeled as being at the Royal Albert Hall was by Creedence Clearwater Revival. An album by CCR titled The Royal Albert Hall Concert was released in 1980. When it was discovered that the show on the album actually took place at the Oakland Coliseum, Fantasy Records retitled the album The Concert.

[edit] Depictions in popular culture

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Coordinates: 51°30′03.40″N, 00°10′38.77″Wcs:Royal Albert Hall de:Royal Albert Hall fr:Royal Albert Hall it:Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences he:אלברט הול nl:Royal Albert Hall ja:ロイヤル・アルバート・ホール no:Royal Albert Hall pl:Royal Albert Hall pt:Royal Albert Hall ru:Альберт-Холл fi:Royal Albert Hall sv:Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

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