We can today reveal the first look inside Aberdeen’s Music Hall after its £9 million transformation.
Our images show some of the spectacular changes to the Union Street venue ahead of it re-opening tomorrow, when thousands of people will see the revamped Granite City institution for themselves.
Jane Spiers, chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts who has spearheaded the renovation, hopes they will stop in their tracks and say “wow”.
“I think the city is ready for the Music Hall to re-open,” she said.
“There’s an excitement building and we are very much looking forward to welcoming people back through the doors.
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“It has been an absolute privilege to deliver the project for the city…and it does look amazing.”
She added people will find a Music Hall for the next generation, with new performance spaces, new places to eat and drink, and new learning and community opportunities.
“What they will find is a completely inspirational space for artists and for audiences, really from the moment you walk in the door there are wow factors,” she said.
“In general, it’s much more uplifting. It’s brighter and it’s lighter. We’ve revealed windows where we can, we’ve removed solid walls and replaced them with glass.”
Ms Spiers said the transformation will be obvious even before you enter the building with the vestibule housing a massive video wall – a digital art space showing commissioned works.
The first will be a swirling collage of memories and images from the history of the Music Hall.
“It will be the first thing you see,” she said.
“In fact even from the street when you pass you will never miss the Music Hall again, because when you look in you will see this fantastic screen that displays artwork… so that’s a wow factor.”
One of the big reveals will be the “beautiful” restoration and transformation of the Music Hall’s auditorium.
Ms Spiers said the work had “unpeeled” some of layers of the concert hall in the almost 200-year-old, rolling back some of the work of a 1980s refurbishment, all while keeping its perfect acoustic.
“I know people are sensitive about how it looked, but the truth of the matter was that the 1980s refurb was not a restoration. The Music Hall never looked like that. It didn’t have wallpaper and stencils and it wasn’t pink and green.
“We have peeled all of that away and tried to make the walls a backdrop for the beautiful Strachan murals.
“It’s off-white and pale greys and we have restored all the cornicing. There’s feature lighting on the murals.”
The hall has been completely re-floored, the stage upgraded, the organ painted, with new more comfortable concert hall seating and new feature lighting.
By creating a new basement level to house facilities such as toilets, the project has created new spaces for performance.
Ms Spiers said the additions include the Big Sky Studio, which will host events such as Six O’ Clock Sessions for music fans, or writers in conversation at lunchtime.
The Tutti Studio will offer classes and participation for groups of all ages.
Ms Spiers added: “We have never had a learning space in the Music Hall before, so we will be able to welcome children, young people and communities to do work.”
Also, the Music Hall’s round room has now been transformed to Rondo, a restaurant offering pre-concert dining, while the Coda Cafe/Bar will have light bites and drinks on offer all day.
Other upgrades include access for all, with a new ramp and state-of-the-art stairlift. There will also be more exhibition spaces making the Music Hall more than just a venue for performing arts.
Ms Spiers said the changes will make the Music Hall a compelling space for artists to visit, too, helping bring big name and prestigious artists to the city while attracting more diverse audiences and a younger generation coming through.
But above all, she wants the Music Hall to be a place which people feel is for them and where they want to be.
“What we have created is somewhere people want to be and hang around, not just in an evening but all day, whether you are coming with a friend for a glass of wine or coffee in Coda, or going to a show and you turn up early to meet friends,” she said.
“I want people to see and feel there are so may things they can do in the Music Hall now. It’s much more than just buying a ticket for a gig.”
The line up
A top cast of artists, musicians and performers are already lining up to take the Music Hall stage.
Classical music is well represented, with performances by Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra all ahead.
And an eclectic selection of singers and bands will join them at the venue, KT Tunstall, Average White Band, Peter Andre, Embrace, Heather Small, Eddie Reader and Sir Bryn Terfel among them.
There will be dates by comedians Jason Manford, Nish Kumar and Jimmy Carr.
The Granite city’s own crime author Stuart McBride will be interviewed by Susan Calman, while Judy Murray, The Hairy Bikers and the stars of Strictly will also feature.
North-east community take centre stage
The day will see various groups of all ages and from all walks of life who have been taking part in APA’s Stepping Out project come together to celebrate and entertain with music, performances and fun throughout the day.
They will be joined by Travis frontman Fran Healy, who will lead the Music Hall community choir in a special performance of Sing.
The programme for the day at the Music Hall is:
- 9.30am (doors open) Nevis Ensemble. Pop up performances on Union Street and in the building.
- 9.45am–10.15 am Music Hall Community Choir and Fran Healy Big Sing
- 9.30am-noon: Queen Victoria
- 10.15am-12.15pm Victorian photographer
- 10.15am-12.15pm: Caricature artist
- 10.15am-10.45am: Eat the Music Hall! Have a slice of the world’s biggest Music Hall cake.
- 10.30am-12.30pm: Glitter face painting
- 10.30am-noon: Music Hall storytelling
- 10.45am-11.15am: Music Hall Babies
- 11-11.30am: All or Nothing Aerial Dance
- 11.30am-noon: Drake Music and Orchard Brae School in a special performance.
- 11.45am–noon: An Dara Sealladh, a new work by Associate Artist Mary Ann Kennedy.
- Noon-12.30pm: Spinning Songs, an intergenerational project bringing together nursery and primary children from Gilcomstoun School and older citizens from Rosewell House and Fergus House Care Homes to create songs for Stepping In.
- Noon-12.30pm: The Music Hall Transformation – Find out what’s been happening on site at the Music Hall over the last two years through videos and photographs.
- Noon-2pm: Coda Sessions – Young musicians from Aberdeen Performing Arts’ Project Band and Aberdeen City Music School.
- 12.15pm-2.45pm: All or Nothing Aerial Dance
- 1pm-1.30pm: Music Hall Community Choir
- 1pm-1.30pm: Aberdeen Performing Arts Youth Theatre
- 1.30pm-2pm: Mini Maestros
- 2pm-2.30pm: The Music Hall Transformation – Find out what’s been happening on site at the Music Hall over the last two years through videos and photographs.
- 2pm-2.45pm: Big Noise Torry Christmas Concert
- 2pm-3.30pm: Caricature artist
- 2pm-3.30pm: Glitter face painting
- 2pm-3.30pm: Music Hall storytelling
- 2pm-2.30pm: Mega Maestros
- 2.45pm-2.15pm: soundcollective – Young people from Torry, Northfield and Woodside come together with members of the Tinderbox Collective to perform their original compositions.
- 3pm-3.30pm City Moves
- 3.30pm-4pm: The Big Sing Finale