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Exterior of the Royal Albert Hall.

The Royal Albert Hall is an arts venue situated in the Knightsbridgemarker area of the City of Westminstermarker, Londonmarker, Englandmarker, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941.

The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UKmarker's most treasured and distinctive buildings, recognisable the world over. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from every kind of performance genre have appeared on its stage. Each year it hosts more than 350 performances including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, tennis, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and lavish banquets.

The Hall was originally supposed to have been called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria to Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when laying the foundation stone as a dedication to her deceased husband and consort Prince Albert. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort - the decorative part is the Albert Memorialmarker directly to the north in Kensington Gardensmarker, now separated from the Hall by the heavy traffic along Kensington Goremarker.

As the best known building within the cultural complex known as Albertopolismarker, the Hall is commonly and erroneously thought to lie within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelseamarker. The Hall is actually within the area of the City of Westminstermarker, although the postal address is Kensington Gore. The site was part of the former Kensington Gore estate which was historically part of Knightsbridgemarker. However it is in the Westminster borough.


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

In 1851 the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Parkmarker, London, for which the so-called Crystal Palacemarker 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 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 Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and built by Lucas Brothers. The designers 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'Hivermarker 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 Limited 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 Manchestermarker, 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".
Acoustic diffusing discs in the roof of the Royal Albert Hall
The official opening ceremony of the Royal Albert Hall was on 29 March 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. Thirty "discrete projects" were undertaken by BDP without disrupting events . Although the exterior of the building is largely unchanged, the south steps leading down to Prince Consort Road were demolished to allow reconstruction of the original underground vehicle access to take modern vehicles. The steps were then reconstructed around a new south porch on the same scale and in the same style as the three pre-existing porches: these works were undertaken by Taylor Woodrow Construction.

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; The organ is now again the second largest pipe organ in the British Isles with 9,999 pipes (Liverpool Cathedral has 10,268).


The Triumph of Arts and Sciences
The hall, a Grade I listed building, is an ellipse in plan, with major and minor axes of 83 m (272 feet) and 72 m (238 ft). The great glass and wrought-iron dome roofing the hall is 41 m (135 ft) high. It was originally designed with a capacity for 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).

Around the outside of the hall is a great mosaic frieze, depicting "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences", in reference to the Hall's dedication. Proceeding anti-clockwise from the north side the sixteen subjects of the frieze are:(1) Various Countries of the World bringing in their Offerings to the Exhibition of 1851; (2) Music; (3) Sculpture; (4) Painting; (5) Princes, Art Patrons and Artists; (6) Workers in Stone; (7) Workers in Wood and Brick; (8) Architecture; (9) The Infancy of the Arts and Sciences; (10) Agriculture; (11) Horticulture and Land Surveying; (12) Astronomy and Navigation; (13) A Group of Philosophers, Sages and Students; (14) Engineering; (15) The Mechanical Powers; and (16) Pottery and Glassmaking.

Above the frieze is an inscription in one-foot high terracotta letters. This combines historical fact and Biblical quotations: "This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment of the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. 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 opening ceremony on 29 March 1871
Since its opening by Queen Victoria on 29 March 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". The first concert at the Hall was Arthur Sullivan's cantata, On Shore and Sea, which was performed on 1 May 1871.

As well as hosting the Proms every summer since they were bombed out of the Queen's Hallmarker in 1941, the Hall has been used for over 150,000 events, including classical and rock concerts, conferences, ballroom dancing, poetry recitals, education, motor shows, marathons, ballet, opera and even circus shows. It has hosted sporting events, including boxing, wrestling (including the first Sumo wrestling tournament to be held in London) and tennis. It also hosts the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, held the day before Remembrance Sunday.

A famous and widely bootlegged concert by Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hallmarker in Manchestermarker on 17 May 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 26 and 27 May and 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'.

The Proms

Proms in the Albert Hall

The Proms is a popular eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts and other events held annually at the Albert Hall since moving from the Queens Hallmarker in 1941. The event was founded in 1895, and now each season consists of over 70 concerts in the Albert Hall, in addition to a series of events at other venues across the United Kingdommarker on the last night. In 2009 the total number of concerts will reach 100 for the first time. In the context of classical music festivals, Jiří Bělohlávek has described The Proms as "the world's largest and most democratic musical festival".

Proms is short for promenade concerts, a term which arose from the original practice of audience members promenading, or strolling, in some areas of the concert hall during the concert. Proms concertgoers, particularly those who stand, are sometimes described as "Promenaders", but are most commonly referred to as "Prommers".
Royal Albert Hall from Prince Consort Road

Cream's Farewell Concert

Cream played two final concerts at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968, which were broadcast by the BBC in January, 1969. Director Tony Palmer incorporated pieces of six performances with narration by BBC announcer Patrick Allen. The film also incorporates interviews with the band members themselves showcasing their playing abilities. A recording of the concerts was released as Farewell Concert. A recording of the reunion concert in 2005 was released as Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005.

Concerto for Group and Orchestra

Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold recorded & performed a Concerto for Group and Orchestra composed by Jon Lord on 24 September 1969. The concerto was released on vinyl in December 1969, and as The Best of Both Worlds when shown on TV in the UK on April 4 1970. The concert was restaged 25/26 September 1999.

Eurovision Song Contest 1968

The 13th Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Hall on 6 April 1968. Spain won with "La la la", beating the UK entry, "Congratulations" by Cliff Richard, by one vote, with later allegations that the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had rigged the voting. It was the first time that the Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast in colour.

Concert for George

The Concert for George was held on 29 November 2002, the first anniversary of George Harrison's death. The Albert Hall had been the only British venue to stage a solo concert by Harrison. The event was organized by Harrison's widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, and arranged under the musical direction of Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne.

Other concerts

  • 15 September 1963 was the only time that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed on the same bill.
  • On 18 and 24 February 1969, The Jimi Hendrix Experience made their final European appearance in their original line-up, consisting of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell.
  • On 26 October 1969, Petula Clark performed in a concert celebrating her 30th anniversary in show business. The concert was filmed and aired as the first program ever broadcast in color by the BBC on Clark's 37th birthday, 15 November 1969.
  • 1969 – 1988 - Miss World beauty pageants
  • 1969 - Pink Floyd performed at the Royal Albert Hall and received a lifetime ban for setting two cannons off during their show.
  • Led Zeppelin performed on 9 January 1970, footage of which was filmed for a planned documentary. Though no documentary was ever made because of the poor quality of the film, the material was re-mastered over thirty years later and the entire show was virtually released on the Led Zeppelin DVD
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 and 15 April 1970. This concert was filmed/taped by TVR/Robert Paterson for the BBC The footage has never been released officially in the United States but was in limited form in Italy. There are several "bootlegged" versions of the concert in circulation. This concert was also mixed up with the Oakland "Home Match" concert of the same year. They also performed a second time in September 1971 as a trio; the recording was released in part as "Live In Europe".
  • Joni Mitchell and James Taylor performed a concert on 28 October 1970 for Radio BBC containing a number of solo songs and duets. This was around the time when Mitchell and Taylor were said to have been romantically linked (conversation after tune-up — Mitchell: "I'm ready when you are, James." Taylor: "I know.") Bootlegged copies of the concert still circulate today.
  • Lata Mangeshkar performed her first concert abroad at the Hall in 1974.
  • Tangerine Dream performed a totally improvised concert in April 1975, with an introduction from John Peel. The concert was recorded by the BBC and then broadcast several times, including on BBC Radio London.
  • ABBA ended their 1977 European tour at the Hall with two sold-out concerts. Tickets for the concerts were available only by mail application and it was later revealed that the box-office received, astonishingly, 3.5 million requests for tickets. Reportedly, the concerts were partially filmed for ABBA: The Movie, but the footage was eventually not included in the final version of the film and to this day remains unreleased.
  • Dusty Springfield performed her last full-scale concert in Britain at the Hall in 1979.
  • Siouxsie & the Banshees recorded a double live album and video nocturne at the Hall on 30 September and 1 October 1983. This was the first album on their own Wonderland label. It was released in November 1983.
  • The Everly Brothers had two famous reunion concerts, ten years after they broke up, on 22 and 23 September 1983. The concerts were filmed and released on CD and DVD.
  • In late 1983, The Animals did two reunion gigs. It was not officially recorded but some songs are still available as bootlegs.
  • Fairouz of Lebanonmarker performed to a sold-out venue in 1986, accompanied/orchestrated by her son, Ziad Rahbani. Ticket prices reached 1000 pounds on the black market, and Frank Sinatra had to reschedule his concert and delay it three weeks after hers to avoid the media buzz that her event had caused. She had also performed at the same venue in 1962 to similar success.

Transport Links

Public transport access
London Buses Royal Albert Hall 9, 10, 52,360, 452
London Underground South Kensingtonmarker

See also


External links

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