Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall is an arts venue situated in the Knightsbridge area of the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941.

The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UK'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 Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the heavy traffic along Kensington Gore.

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, although the postal address is Kensington Gore. The site was part of the former Kensington Gore estate which was historically part of Knightsbridge.


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'. On May 1 1871, Arthur Sullivan's cantata, "On Shore and Sea" played at the hall. [ [ From the G&S discography site] ]

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 circus shows. 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.The hall, a Grade I listed building, [ [ - UK Charity Information ] ] is oval in shape, measuring 83 m (272 feet) by 72 m (238 ft) 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 ft) high.

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 Royal Albert Hall Organ is the second largest pipe organ in the UK (Liverpool Cathedral has the largest one).


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 Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and built by Lucas Brothers. [ [ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography] ] 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'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 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 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".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 [ retrieved 14 March 2007] . 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 [ [ Royal Albert Hall South Porch] ] .

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).

Now the hall is used primarily as a live events venue — it has featured bands such as The Beatles, The Who and Led Zeppelin. Graduation ceremonies for students for Imperial College are also held in the hall. In addition to these events, it is possible to take guided tours of the interior of the hall

Famous concerts

The Hall has also been used for concerts by a wide range of popular artists:"Listed in chronological order with name of artist and date of concert"

* The Proms - founded by Sir Henry Wood - now the world's largest festival of Western classical music - have been held in the hall every summer since 1941 (after the original venue, The Queen's Hall in Langham Place was destroyed by a bomb). The Last Night of the Proms is broadcast in several countries.
* Hiawatha seasons (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor) 1928 - 1940 conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent
* Lebanese diva Fairuz performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1962.
*15 September 1963 The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed on the same bill for the only time.
* 9 and 10 May 1965 Bob Dylan's first two performances.
* 1966, Bob Dylan returns and performs controversial "electric" 2nd set.
* 6 April 1968: 13th Eurovision Song Contest. Katie Boyle introduced entries from 17 countries. Spain won with "La la la" performed by Massiel. She finished one vote ahead of the UK entry, "Congratulations" by Cliff Richard.
* 30 October, 1968, Tiny Tim performs.
* 26 November 1968: Cream farewell show.
* 24 September 1969 - Deep Purple recorded & performed a Concerto for Group and Orchestra: Concerto for Group and Orchestra (restaged 25/26 September 1999)
* 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 colour by the BBC on Clark's 37th birthday, 15 November 1969.
* 1969 – 1988 - Miss World beauty pageants
* 1969 - Pink Floyd performed at the Albert Hall and received a life-time ban for setting two cannons off during their show.
* Jimi Hendrix performed on 18 and 24 February 1969 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience featuring Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell
* Janis Joplin performed on 21 April 1969 with her Kozmic Blues Band.
* Led Zeppelin performed on 9 January 1970, footage of which was filmed for a planned documentary. Though no documentary was ever made due to the poor quality of the film, the material was re-mastered over thirty years later and virtually the entire show was released on the "Led Zeppelin DVD"
*Joni Mitchell and James Taylor performed a concert on October 28, 1970 for Radio BBC containing a number of solo songs and duets with the two. This was around the time when Mitchell and Taylor are said to have been romantically linked. Bootleg copies of the concert still circulate today.
* Lata Mangeshkar, the greatest of Indian singers, performed her first concert abroad in 1974.
* Renowned Indian singer Talat Mahmood performed in 1979. The second Indian to have been given the opportunity.
* September 1976 - 6th Festival of Evangelical Choirs under the auspices of the London Emmanuel Choir. Triennial festival of Christian music, with massed choirs of 1000 voices plus 5000 in the congregation. Released on Pilgrim record label.
* 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 "", 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 Royal Albert Hall in 1979.
* Siouxsie & the Banshees recorded double live album and video Nocturne at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 30 September and 1 October 1983, This was the first Banshees album on their own Wonderland label, Released in November 1983.
* The Animals performed there on October 17-18, 1983.
* The Everly Brothers had two famous reunion concerts, ten years after they broke up, on September 22-23, 1983. The concerts were filmed and released on CD and DVD.
* Asia Music Awards 1989
* Genesis performed a concert from their We Can't Dance Tour here in November 16 1992.
* Luther Vandross performed for a PBS special on September 13, 1994 showcasing all of his hit songs as well as songs from his Songs [] album which was released later that month on September 27, 1994. The performance was later released as on DVD as Luther Vandross - An Evening Of Songs which was released on September 03, 1997.
* "Les Miserables - The Dream Cast in Concert" in 1995.
* Sarah Brightman: With special guests, Andrea Bocelli and Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1997
* Music for Montserrat on 15 September 1997 - Phil Collins, Carl Perkins, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and more.
* Andrew Lloyd Webber: The Royal Albert Hall Celebration - A tribute to Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber for his 50th birthday in 1998.
*Ocean Colour Scene headlined on Monday 17th February 1997 , with Paul Weller and Oasis as support.
* The Corrs at 1998's St. Patrick's Day
* Ladysmith Black Mambazo on 22 April 1999, recorded live
* Chris de Burgh on December, 2000.
* The Who recorded a DVD and double live album Live at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust in a concert featuring their greatest hits.
* Julian Lloyd Webber gives his 50th Birthday Concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in aid of the Prince's Trust on June 1 2001.
* On 10 October 2001, Robbie Williams performed and recorded special concert with songs from the Swing When You're Winning album, as a tribute to Frank Sinatra
* Australian Pink Floyd Show is the first and only Pink Floyd tribute band to play at The Royal Albert Hall on November 26th 2001
*The string quartet bond debuted their first album Born on 20 September 2001
*Morrissey played two consecutive nights at the Royal Albert Hall, in September 2002. All of the tickets were sold within three hours.
* 29 November 2002: The Concert for George (Harrison).
* Pakistani rock band Junoon performed live at Royal Albert Hall, 18 June 2003.
* 1 April 2005: Siti Nurhaliza held a successful solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The "Asia's Celine Dion" was the first Asian pop singer to have a solo performance there.
* 2, 3, 5 and 6 May 2005: Cream reunion concert.
* The Cure Played a 3 hour concert, 1 April 2006.
* David Gilmour 29-31st May 2006. These shows were filmed for the release of the DVD "Remember That Night".
* Meat Loaf used the Royal Albert Hall to launch the of the "Bat out of Hell" series of albums, with a sold out concert, the only UK date of the year, on 16 October 2006.
* Noel Gallagher 26 & 27th March 2007, played two sold out shows in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust.
* Pakistani music sensation Atif Aslam performed at Royal Albert Hall, 14 April 2007.Largest number of audience attended since 1997's concert Music for Montserrat.
* Darren Hayes 3 October 2007, the finale of the UK leg of the Time Machine Tour, stage design by Willie Williams (lighting designer)
* Muse played a show on April 12th, 2008 for the Teenage Cancer Trust event. Matthew Bellamy utilized the Organ for Megalomania, which was played for the first time in six years, and the first time ever it had been played on a pipe organ in concert.
* Eric Burdon & War reunited on April 21, 2008 and gave one concert at the Albert Hall. Burdon said in an interview that the concert will release on DVD, but some fans which attended the show said there were no cameras. However, the show was bootlegged and released on an internet site to download.
* Jean Michel Jarre played a highly successful show based on his album Oxygene on April 30th, 2008.
* Katie Melua 4 May 2008
* Boris Purushottama Grebenshikov 19 May 2008, accompanied by an international ensemble of renowned musicians performed a [ concert] dedicated to the memory of musician, poet and peace advocate Sri Chinmoy
* Pete Doherty played a solo show on 12th July 2008. The show ended following a riotous stage invasion by the crowd located in the arena and front stalls seating.
*The world famous circus,Cirque du Soleil,has staged many of its shows that are touring Europe in the Royal Albert Hall.

A famous and widely bootlegged concert by Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 17 May 1966 was mistakenly labeled the "Royal Albert Hall Concert." In 1998 Columbia Records released an official recording, , 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'.

Depictions in popular culture

* It was prominently featured in the climax of Alfred Hitchcock's 1934 film "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (and the 1956 remake, also directed by Hitchcock). The remake features composer Bernard Herrmann conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Arthur Benjamin's "Storm Clouds" cantata.
* A key scene in "The IPCRESS File" takes place on the outside stairs.
* It is referenced in the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life": "Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall."
* Also referenced in the Beatles' movie "Yellow Submarine" (1968) by Jeremy Hilary Boob regarding the number of holes in the Sea of Holes. He says "Enough to fill the Albert Hall."
* The Hall was featured in a shot in "", during a scene set in London.
* One version of the lewd song "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" places the dictator's missing testicle "in the Albert Hall".
* Paul Jennings' illustrated children's book "The Great Jelly of London" published in 1967 is a fictional account of the hall being used as the world's largest jelly mould.
* It featured in the final scenes of the film "Brassed Off", providing the setting for the brass band competition that is won by the Grimley Colliery Band.
* It is shown several times in the 2006 Woody Allen film "Scoop", with Scarlett Johansson.
* Focused on in a 1984 episode of the UK-based cartoon "DangerMouse", entitled "Tiptoe through the Penfolds".
* Features in the Spice Girls' feature film "Spiceworld".
* It is featured in the 2006 film The Prestige as the stage where Nikola Tesla demonstrates his alternating current at a science fair.
* It is featured on the labels of The Society's Exhibition Range of wines from The Wine Society. These wines were launched in 1999 to celebrate the 125th anniversary for the founding of The Society following the 4th International Exhibition held at the Hall.


See also

* Albert Memorial
* Albertopolis
* List of concert halls
* Sir Malcolm Sargent
* Sir Henry Wood
* Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

External links

* [ Official site with timeline]
* [ Royal Albert Hall] "Survey of London" entry
* [ Albert Hall (Victorian London)]
* [ Royal Engineers Museum] Royal Engineers and the Royal Albert Hall

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