The Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations will properly begin on 29 May, as audiences return to the venue for socially-distanced events.
A typically eclectic programme for the first week includes family concerts led by the in-house Albert's Band, the Royal Choral Society singing Handel’s Messiah – an annual tradition since 1876 – and events spotlighting country music and ballet.
Subject to the next stage of the government’s roadmap going ahead as planned, the Hall will then re-open to the public with full capacity from 6 July. Aside from staging three 1,000-capacity events in December, the venue has been closed to audiences since 17 March 2020.
Craig Hassall, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall, said: “This has been the toughest period in the Hall’s 150-year history – and not how we ever imagined marking this remarkable milestone. But we are so excited about getting back to doing what we do best, and can’t wait to welcome audiences to the Hall to help us celebrate this anniversary in style.”
The venue will re-open on Saturday 29 May with a family concert, Albert’s Band: Back with a Bang, followed by the Messiah with the Royal Choral Society (Sun 30 May), A Country Night in Nashville (Tue 1 Jun), and the British Ballet Charity Gala (Thu 3 Jun), hosted by Darcey Bussell. Under government guidelines, 1,000 tickets will be available for each of the concerts, 20 per cent of the Hall’s usual capacity.
Full capacity events are then scheduled to resume on Tuesday 6 July with James Blunt, followed by Carmina Burana (Wed 7 July), Fauré’s Requiem from Scratch (Sun 11 Jul) and a Films in Concert presentation of Superman (Fri 16 Jul), prior to the Hall’s much-anticipated birthday show on Monday 19 July, David Arnold's 'A Circle of Sound', with the acclaimed composer presenting a new commission featuring young musicians and world-famous writers.
Other events in July include headline shows from Miloš (Sat 17 Jul) and Bryn Terfel (Fri 23 Jul), as part of the Love Classical festival, The Best of the West End (Wed 21 Jul), and the Strongman Classic (Sat 24 Jul) event – an anniversary-themed showcase for the world’s strongest men.
The world’s most famous music festival, the BBC Proms, kicks off on 30 July, running until 11 September, with further programme and booking details being announced on 27 May. We hope to welcome live audiences back to the Proms, in line with government guidance, after two weeks of behind closed doors concerts in 2020.
Handel’s Messiah has a special significance, having been performed at the Hall every year since 1876, a tradition interrupted only by the Blitz and the pandemic. On Good Friday 2020, the Royal Choral Society recorded a distanced version of the Hallelujah Chorus instead – which was streamed online and viewed by 400,000 people – but this year the event will return, featuring 119 members of the choir socially-distanced on stage, accompanied by Richard Pearce on the Hall’s famous organ.
Richard Cooke, the music director of the Royal Choral Society, said: “It was so disappointing to have to cancel our 144th annual Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall in 2020, and we thought we’d lost this year’s as well – having missed the usual Easter date – so we are indebted to our friends at the Hall for allowing this year’s performance to go ahead, albeit a little later than usual. We have all missed live performance, and there is no better work than Handel’s Messiah for raising the roof.”
The in-person events will be complemented by streamed performances, building on the success of the Hall’s Royal Albert Home shows in 2020, which reached an audience of over 1.5 million.
The Silent Spaces project will premiere a new episode on 4 May 2021, filmed at the Hall, as musician Soumik Datta and a diverse community of instrumentalists, dancers and artists continue to reclaim iconic cultural spaces that have been out of action during the pandemic.
Later in the month, the Hall will stream a programme of performances from around the building as part of the Global Stages festival, a collaboration with Sydney Opera House, Shanghai Concert Hall, Royal Theatre Carré in Amsterdam, and the LA Philharmonic. Artists will be announced soon.