Events Galore at Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall, a concert hall located on the northern edge of South Kensington, was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and since then, it has held the Proms concerts annually each summer. The hall has a seating capacity of up to 5,272 seats and it has been host to many performance genres from the world’s leading artists. It is one of the most treasured and distinctive buildings in the world and it hosts more than 390 shows in the main auditorium each year, that include ballet, opera, film screenings with live orchestra, classical, rock and pop concerts, award ceremonies, school and community events, sports, charity performances and banquets. The non-auditorium spaces also host a further 400 events. Hosting some of the most notable events in British culture, it was established in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband consort Prince Albert, who had died six years earlier. It is the practical part of a memorial to Prince Albert whereas the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens is the decorative part and is now separated from the Hall by Kensington Gore.

Renovations: Having been built in the late 1800s, the Royal Albert Hall had to undergo renovations several times but from 1996 until 2004, a major programme of renovation and development supported by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund was set in motion so that it could be made ready for events and performances that would take place here on the 21st century. Thirty discreet projects were designed and undertaken without disrupting events. The projects included new improved seating, better technical facilities, better ventilation to the auditorium, more bars and restaurants and more modern backstage areas. The Circle seating were rebuilt in four weeks so that the audience could get more leg room, better access and improved sight lines.

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A new south porch – door 12 was built to accommodate a first floor restaurant, new ground floor box office and underground lading bay. An underground vehicle access and loading bay was built after demolishing the south steps leading down to Prince Consort Road. The steps were then reconstructed around a new south porch. A major rebuilding at the great organ took place between 2002 and 2004 and it is now the second largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,997 pipes in 147 stops. Liverpool Cathedral has the largest in the Grand Organ with 10,268 pipes.

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Design: Royal Albert Hall is a Grade I listed building that is designed as an ellipse with major and minor axes of 83 m and 72 m. The dome roofing the hall is 41 m high and made from glass and wrought iron. Originally, it was designed to accommodate 8,000 people and it has at times accommodated up to 9,000 although modern safety restrictions permit a maximum of 5,544 including standing in the gallery. A great mosaic frieze, depicting “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences” stands outside of the building, in reference to the Hall’s dedication.

Events:  The first concert at the Hall was Arthur Sullivan’s cantata, On Shore and Sea, performed on 1 May 1871. Ever since then many events have taken place here and many of them have been promoted by the Hall. Since the early 1970s, a range of events have been organised by promoter Raymond Gubbay, including opera, ballet and classical music. Some events include classical and rock concerts, conferences, banquets, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, educational talks, motor shows, ballet, opera, film screenings and circus shows. Many sporting events have also been held here, including boxing, squash, table tennis, basketball, wrestling including the first Sumo wrestling tournament in London as well as UFC 38, tennis and a marathon also. The other notable events include the Eurovision Song Contest; a Pink Floyd concert in 1969; a show by Janet Jackson in 2011 in which she brought her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour here; a\and a show performed by Kylie Minogue in December 2015 to promote Kylie Christmas, followed by two more shows and many others.

Many benefit concerts have also taken place here including the 1997 Music for Montserrat concert featuring Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney; the 2012 Sunflower Jam charity concert with Queen guitarist Brian May alongside bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, drummer Ian Paice of Deep Purple, and vocalists Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper.

The 25th anniversary performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera was broadcast live on 2 October 2011 to cinemas across the world and filmed for DVD. Classic FM celebrated the 20th anniversary of their launch with a concert at the Hall on 24 September 2012 with live performances of works by Handel, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Parry, Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky and Karl Jenkins, who conducted in person.

The Hall hosted the 100th anniversary performance of the Royal Variety Performance on 19 November 2012 in the presence of the Queen and Prince Philip, with boy band One Direction among the performers. The Hall hosted the annual National Television Awards between 1996 and 2008, all of which were hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald. The 70th British Academy Film Awards (Baftas) were also hosted by the Hall in 2017, instead of being hosted at Royal Opera House where the event used to be held since 2008.

The longest running regular performance at the Hall is the Royal Choral Society, with its first performance on 8 May 1872. From 1878, it established the Good Friday performance of Handel’s Mesiah.

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