The Best of the UK's Concert Halls
The UK is blessed with a number of magnificent concert halls, many of them world famous, where some of the most prestigious orchestras have played the beautiful music of the world’s greatest composers of classical music. It is a great honor to play in many of these concert halls, and certainly it is an experience both for the musicians and for the audiences who have the great fortune to attend classical music performances there. The following are some of the best concert halls the UK has to offer.
Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gardens, London – It is probably of little surprise that the Royal Albert Hall is considered one of the best concert halls in the UK. The hall hosts over 350 events every year, many of them featuring classical music, although the hall also hosts a variety of other events from rock concerts to charity events. Not only is it a remarkable venue for musicians and audiences alike to attend but is steeped in history dating back to 1871 when it was first opened by Queen Victoria, and is one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in the world. It seats over 5000 people and The BBC Proms event is held here every year. One of the most significant events to have been held in the Royal Albert Hall during its existence is a concert held in 1912 to honor those who died on the ill-fated Titanic, and featured musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra, Queens Hall Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Opera Orchestra. Famous composer Wagner conducted excerpts from some of his own works here in 1877, and in 1929, at the very young age of 10, Yehudi Menuhin performed here.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham – A fairly modern structure in comparison to many other UK concert halls, the Symphony Hall in Birmingham was opened in 1991. The hall has a reputation for having exceptional acoustics, so much so that it is said that should a pin be dropped onto the stage the sound can be heard from any area within the hall. The hall seats a little over 2000 people and was built in what is called a ‘shoebox’ design. Given its outstanding acoustics is an ideal venue for classical musicians and orchestras to perform in. It is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and classical music concerts are hosted there on a regular basis, with many of the up and coming musicians of today performing as well as some who are already world renowned.
The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Quays – The Sage Gateshead is home to the only full-time chamber orchestra the Royal Northern Sinfonia and as well as hosting classical concerts the venue is dedicated to fostering the appreciation for music in all its forms, and offers a number of workshops and classes to teach various forms of music for everyone from children to seniors. The variety of concerts performed in The Sage provides something for everyone, even the youngest fans of classical music. The venue is one of the UK’s newest concert halls having opened as recently as 2004 but has quickly established itself as being one of the best venues not only in the UK but worldwide.
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester – With seating for up to 2400 people this is another of the UK’s newer concert halls and hosts more than 250 concerts per year, from rock to classical and everything in between. Three resident orchestras call the Bridgewater Hall home - the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata. The Hall hosts a classical season called the International Concert Season in addition to organizing other musicians to play there. The building is constructed mainly of concrete and glass and it is said that during its construction in 1996 an IRA bomb went off in the Manchester city center and workers within the walls of the building did not hear anything. The building floats on 300 isolation bearings that not only protect it from earthquakes but also contribute to the auditorium’s great acoustics. St John’s Smith Square, London – Steeped in history, first as a parish church, the buildings have been the target of several disasters, both man-made and natural. In 1742 a major fire resulted in the need for major restoration. In 1815 the towers of the church subsided after being struck by lightning. The church was targeted as an ideal location for a bombing by the Suffragettes in the early part of the twentieth century, but it wasn’t until the last night of the Blitz that the worst destruction befell the historical building when an incendiary bomb completely gutted the church. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Lady Parker of Waddington the plans to remove the rubble and turn the land into a parking lot were aborted and restoration began. When completed in 1969 it became one of the UK’s finest concert halls. Since then many great performances have been hosted at the concert hall including the Menuhin School Concert. It is one of the UK’s finest landmarks.
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham – Completed in 1982 the Hall was built on the site of the old Empire Palace of Varieties which closed when road widening was scheduled. The concert hall has a mirror-like glass façade that houses a state-of-the-art auditorium capable of seating 2500 people in air-conditioned comfort. When the building is lit up at night passersby can see the audience seated inside. World-class orchestras are regularly hosted at the Hall but the musical talent is not limited to classical, with many world famous rock artists and other musicians also playing there, as well as dance acts and solo artists. At this time there Royal Concert Hall does not have its own orchestra but it is hoped that one will be in residence in the not too distant future. Of its notable features is a 38-tonne acoustical canopy that can be raised, lowered and/or tilted to suit the acoustic needs of the musical performance occurring below it.