Iconic, historic classical music venue that’s home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra – also used by touring pop groups
One of the grandest concert halls in the nation, let alone Edinburgh, has its roots in the whisky distilling and blending business of nineteenth century Edinburgh-based businessman Andrew Usher. It was his bequest of £100,000 to the city of Edinburgh to build a ‘simple but dignified’ concert hall which allowed its creation. It was eventually opened in March 1914, although sadly Usher passed away in 1898 – two years after his bequest was made.
A recent refurbishment in anticipation of the Hall’s centenary has added a sleek new bar and reception area and a grand spiral staircase to the side of the building, but the front view – a grand but simple reaction against the Victorian Gothic style – and the magnificent interior remain largely unchanged. It’s played a part in many of Edinburgh’s most historical events, with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith holding a war recruitment rally in the year of its construction, fundraising concerts for the Spanish Republicans in the 1930s, the Vienna Philharmonic during the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947 and the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest. It also hosted boxing events during the 1986 Commonwealth Games.
These days the Usher Hall is primarily known as the home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and regularly hosts concerts and recitals by this and other visiting orchestras, its three-tiered space and impeccable acoustics offering a perfect setting for such events. It’s also a key Edinburgh International Festival venue for classical concerts and theatre productions throughout the month of August, and is regularly used by rock concert promoters: artists who have played here include Rufus Wainwright, Bon Iver, Ed Sheeran and Ryan Adams.
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