The signature project of the Queen’s great-great-grandfather Prince Albert, the Royal Albert Hall needs no introduction as London’s most iconic concert and performance venue. It has naturally had a tough old 2020: but it’s just about to reopen for a rousing Christmas season, and it’ll soldier on into 2021, where it celebrates a very special birthday – 150 years since it first opened in 1871 (ten years after the death of the man who conceived it).
The season can essentially be divided into two categories. There’s the usual fun and games, including concerts from Patti Smith, Brian Wilson and Jon Hopkins.
And then there’s a slew of special hundred and fiftieth birthday concerts. The season will kick off with a new ‘chromatic fanfare’ from the Band of the Royal Marines at the Mountbatten Festival of Music (Mar 5 and 6) which will be available to watch virtually at what's hopefully the tail end of the epidemic. It’ll then proceed to the official hundred-and-fiftieth birthday concert with David Arnold’s ‘Circle of Sound’, a grand undertaking from the ‘James Bond’ and ‘Sherlock’ composer, who has spent two years working with Chelsea Pensioners, community members and local schoolchildren to craft a celebration of their ‘village hall’ that will be performed by full orchestra plus kids.
Other notable shows include a Grand Organ Celebration on May 20 – that is to say, a celebration of the Hall’s 9,999-pipe organ, featuring a special commission from ‘Rogue One’ man Michael Giacchino – and a specially-reworked version of Matthew Bourne’s sexy Bizet adaptation ‘The Car Man’ (Jun 17-27). And of course there’s the good old BBC Proms (Jul 16-Sep 10), which will feature a special celebratory commission on the First Night.
The celebrations will wrap up with another special concert from Nitin Sawhney with ‘Journeys – 150 Years of Immigration’, a new work in which the master musician and composer celebrates the waves of immigration to the UK over the RAH’s lifetime.
The big birthday will be marked in other ways, including ‘A Celebration in 150 Unforgettable Moments’, which is a new book with a foreword by the Queen, and a specially minted £5 coin.
Most of the shows are on sale today from here, with more to be announced.