Aberdeen Music Hall reopened to the public with a series of community events on Saturday 8 December.

Arial Performer

From 2016 to 2018 the Music Hall building was closed for transformation and renovation for a new generation.

The original ‘County Assembly Rooms’ building which the Music Hall occupies was built in 1820 when people of the city and surrounding area felt that Aberdeen needed a meeting place for events that was more respectable than a tavern or pub. The design competition was won by local architect Archibald Simpson who had built some of Aberdeen’s most recognisable buildings. In 1859, the Music Hall was added at the back of the County Assembly Rooms to seat 2500 people (without modern access and fire regulations!). The extension was designed by James Matthews, an apprentice of Archibald Simpson on the first building, and was opened by HRH Prince Albert in September 1859.

The main auditorium (below) is now refreshed and brightened, looking modern and fresh, comfortable and accessible for a new generation.

Music Hall stage

 

Stepping In screen and Meet Me in the Music Hall

The first thing you see as you enter the transformed building is the Stepping In screen. Through the Stepping In screen, Aberdeen Performing Arts will work with local, national and international artists to commission and create a programme of digital art to welcome and inspire.  Meet Me at the Music Hall is the first commission for the screen. We worked with ISO Design to create a dynamic looping animation using the rich archives of Aberdeen’s Music Hall which we’ve spent the last two years collecting and organising.

Stepping In Screen

 

The Walls have Ears

The other digital commission I worked with Aberdeen Performing Arts on are the touchscreen terminals in the foyer which invite you to explore some of the performances and personal stories that make up the building’s rich heritage. Based on the well-known saying ‘the walls have ears’ and celebrating the notion that the fabric of the building has absorbed the events of 200 years of history, the content of the touch screens will also available to experience via mobile web. Digital media company Surface Impression worked with our archive and themes to create ways to explore the photos, audio and video stories of past events and experiences.

 

Accessibility

For the first time in its history, the 200-year-old building has three lifts, allowing access from the basement to the balcony for people with restricted mobility. The front steps lift is particularly impressive in the way it allows access while maintaining the visual elements of the listed building.

For me, the opening day was a really strong reflection of the spirit of the Music Hall, including events for and by all sections of the community. A highlight for me was the Nevis Ensemble ‘street orchestra’. Over the past two years, I have also worked with music/theatre education consultant Alison Reeves to create education packs for primary and secondary schools and I have written scripts for tours of the building for a range of audiences. I hope these resources too will help engage a range of audiences with the stories and performances of the Music Hall; past, present and future.