First look inside new Music Hall
£9 million transformation revealed
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 reopening tomorrow, when thousands of people will see the revamped 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 reopen,” she said. “There’s an excitement building and we are very much looking forward to welcoming people back through the doors.”
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 audiences, 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, 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 the layers of the concert hall in the almost 200-year-old building, 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.”
The hall has been refloored, 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 exhbition 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 not just in an evening but all day, whether you are coming with a friend for a glass of wine 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.”
“You will see this fantastic screen that displays artwork”
Light from two of the brightest stars in Aberdeen’s cultural firmament has been entirely dimmed of late.
The Art Gallery and Music Hall are among the most celebrated institutions in the north-east, indeed in Scotland.
Recent years have found both covered in scaffolding and boards, part-forgotten during major works.
So the casting off of the first of these shrouds and the revelation of a future as bright as the past is a moment for civic celebration.
A first glimpse inside the rejuvenated Music Hall reveals the sort of “wow factor” the city is searching for to stimulate the region’s prospects.
The list of acts queueing up to be among the first to take back to the famous stage tells its own story about the pride the city should feel in it.
Work remains to be done – and cash raised – before both grande dames of the Granite City are sparkling in tandem again.
But these feel very much like the opening notes of a very popular new symphony.
EYE-CTACHING: The Music Hall’s auditorium seen from the stage
Jane Spiers is delighted with the changes