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Royal Albert Hall to celebrate 150th anniversary with new commissions and shows

The Royal Albert Hall in London, as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary (Matt Crossick/PA)
The Royal Albert Hall in London, as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary (Matt Crossick/PA)

The Royal Albert Hall will mark its 150th anniversary with new commissions and headline shows featuring contributions from figures including singers Nile Rodgers and KT Tunstall, choreographer Matthew Bourne and composer Nitin Sawhney.

The venue will hold a birthday concert on March 29 to celebrate 150 years to the day since its opening, featuring music from David Arnold, the composer of scores for Sherlock and five Bond films, resulting from a year-long collaboration with hundreds of local schoolchildren, community members and the Chelsea Pensioners.

The result is the 10-movement multi-media work A Circle of Sound, which will “evoke the spirit and history of the Hall” and will be performed by a full orchestra joined by singers from the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and guest stars from the worlds of stage and screen.

Royal Albert Hall 150th anniversary
The Royal Albert Hall in London (Matt Crossick/PA)

The hall, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and named in memory of her husband Prince Albert, has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and has forgone £27 million in income, and refunded more than £7.5 million of ticket sales.

Its recent closure was only the venue’s second since the Blitz.

There will also be headline shows across the anniversary season from stars including Patti Smith, Jon Hopkins, Gregory Porter, Tinie, Brian Wilson, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel and Alfie Boe.

Chic singer Rodgers will compose a new pop anthem for the anniversary, using a full orchestra and singers from across the community, while Scottish singer-songwriter Tunstall will lead a new mentorship programme for young female artists.

CHIC and Nile Rodgers BRITS party – London
Nile Rodgers will compose a special pop anthem (Lauren Hurley/PA)

Bourne will bring his New Adventures company to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time to create a new staging of The Car Man, his acclaimed take on the Bizet opera Carmen, and Sawhney will curate Journeys – 150 Years of Immigration, a week-long festival celebrating the lives and contributions of immigrants over the last 150 years, including a show featuring a new piece by the musician.

Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino will create a new piece for the Hall’s Henry Willis Organ to be premiered at a special concert celebrating the instrument, which was the biggest in the world when it was played at the opening ceremony in 1871.

A special orchestral commission celebrating the anniversary will be performed as part of the BBC Proms season, alongside other programming related to the history of the Hall, while the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the associate orchestra, will present a series of celebratory concerts.

Royal Albert Hall chief executive Craig Hassall said: “Despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has closed our treasured building to the public for the first time since the Second World War, we are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th anniversary.

“Since its opening, this extraordinary venue has borne witness to, and played a central part in, seismic cultural and social change. The interests, manners and social mores of the people may have changed, but this beautiful building and what it represents remains the same a century and a half later: a meeting place, a reflection of contemporary Britain, and a home for exhilarating live performance and events of international significance.

“I want to thank the whole creative industry, our dedicated staff and all of the artists involved for their support in announcing this programme today.”

The celebrations will continue until 2022.

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