Those that follow the “London Shoes” website and/or Twitter feed, will have probably assumed (like me), that the previous week’s blog about “London’s Xmas Lights”, was the ideal fitting finale to bring 2018’s blog activity to a natural conclusion.
However, (and totally unplanned) I just happened to attend an event last week, that not only took in one of London’s most iconic and globally recognised historic buildings – but also had me experiencing a one-off occurrence that involved my love of music – and as such, I feel that this particular experience warranted being the ‘new’ final “London Shoes” blog of 2018.
So – the topic to end 2018’s blog activity, is entitled the “Royal Albert Hall” & Jazz in its “Elgar Room”.
So – focusing firstly on the “Royal Albert Hall” itself, my trek up there last week uncovered the following facts about the history of the place, some of which, I never knew about.
Way back in in the early 1860’s Queen Victoria’s husband and Consort-Prince Albert, was keen for your average Londoner to have a permanent venue that the general public could visit, specifically to enjoy and appreciate the ‘arts’ and ‘sciences’ – and so he commissioned the construction of a huge venue, to be designed in the style of Rome’s Coliseum, which was to be called “The Central Hall of Arts & Sciences”.
Sadly though, poor old Prince Albert ‘popped-his-clogs’ in 1861, and so did not live to see the venue’s completion and its opening in 1871, when Queen Victoria changed the venue’s name to the “Royal Albert Hall” in honour of her beloved late husband.
When it first opened to the public, the Albert Hall could seat 8000 people.
Today the RAH’s has a seating capacity of 5,400, and the venue hosts up to 350 performances per year, which include the famous ‘Proms’, an event that has been held there annually since 1941.
Apart from its unique building design, its most notable internal fixtures are its organ, which is the largest pipe organ in the UK, comprising of some 9,000 pipes – and also its fibre-glass ‘sound dampening’ discs (a bit like a load of upside down mushrooms) that were erected and suspended from the Hall’s ceiling back in 1969, to improve and enhance the venue’s acoustics.
Another interesting little known fact about the Albert Hall is that during WW2, it was deliberately left off the German’s ‘bombing target’ list – as it was more important to them to utilise it as an aerial landmark, when navigating their way through the skies when dropping their bombs on London.
So – having briefly touched upon the history of the Albert Hall, I will now move on to my ‘unique’ experience there last week.
Those that follow the ‘London Shoes’ blogs, may recall a piece I did a couple of months back, where I visited the magnificent ‘St. Martins-in-the-Field’ church, that overlooks Trafalgar Square – for the specific purpose of attending a jazz gig being performed in the main nave of the church, by a band that included my good friend ‘Gentleman’ George Double, my drum teacher from way back in the late 1990’s, when I was manager of Barclays Mare St-Hackney – and, a then young George, was a customer.
Anyway – whilst browsing the ‘net’ I became aware that ‘Gentleman’ George and his band were playing the Albert Hall’s “Elgar Room” a couple of days before the Christmas.
The ‘Elgar Room’ is a performance venue inside the Royal Albert Hall, that hosts hundreds of events each year, the most popular being its ‘Late Night Jazz’ concerts.
So – I contacted the Albert Hall to see if I could get a ticket for George’s bands gig – but was disappointingly told that the concert had sold out ages ago – so, in other words ‘no chance mate – jog on’!!
However, I pinged a text over to George to wish him the compliments of the season, and happened to mention how disappointed I was that I couldn’t get a ticket for the RAH gig.
George, being the gentleman that he is, gave the matter some thought, and came up with a solution by notifying the Albert Hall’s authorities that I was a member of the band’s ‘crew’ (a drum technician – e.g. a ‘roadie’ as it was known as, back in my day) – which meant that I was ‘on the list’ to enter the Albert Hall via the ‘stage door’, and issued with a ‘pass’ that enabled me to see some areas of the Hall not always accessible to the public.
This arrangement also meant that I could also view the band’s performance from a vantage point right next to the stage (close to the drum kit of course)….a blinding result for a music lover like me!!
The band’s music for the evening was a jazz enthused set entitled “A Swingin’ Xmas” which comprised of their excellent jazz interpretations of well-known popular Christmas songs – It was a really entertaining set that was well received and thoroughly enjoyed by the all the punters packed into the ‘Elgar Room’.
So – for me, this totally unexpected one-off, really enjoyable experience ended up being one of the highlights of my Xmas – and one that I feel was ideally placed to close my ‘London Shoes’ blogs for 2018.
Hope the accompanying photos bring the story to life a little bit for you.
Hope all you “Shoes” followers had an enjoyable Christmas & I wish you a Happy New Year – see ya in 2019