Usher Hall manager Karl Chapman discusses the venue's 100th Birthday Concert
- Carol Main
- 21 February 2014
Mogwai, Rufus Wainwright and the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra will help mark the occasion
Whether or not the queen’s custom of sending congratulatory messages to those reaching their 100th birthdays extends to concert halls as well as people remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely that Edinburgh’s Usher Hall will be short of birthday greetings in celebrating its centenary. Opened in March 1914, with the bulk of the funds required coming from whisky distiller Andrew Usher, the purpose of the hall then remains at the core of its activity today.
Owned and operated by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Usher Hall is, says general manager Karl Chapman, ‘doing exactly what it says on the tin. What Andrew Usher wanted was for the citizens of Edinburgh to be able to hear great music in a great space. We went back to historical documents for our business plan and that is still what we are here to do.’
Some factors have changed over the years, including the hall introducing the sale of alcohol just over 30 years ago, which was part of the move to improve the customer experience. Visiting the hall today, with its ease of access, slick box office, spacious cafe bar and hospitality suite housed in a striking glass extension, is a quite different matter from even 20 years ago, when plaster fell from the venue’s ceiling after a Tony Bennett concert.
For the centenary celebrations, the 100th birthday concert features the hall’s fine Norman and Beard organ in a choral and orchestral concert and is flanked by dates with Rufus Wainwright, Gilded Comedy Gala, Mogwai and the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra. ‘What we are trying to do,’ says Chapman, ‘is to create a venue with a diverse programme that people will come back to again and again. We believe that life’s too short for boring music.’
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 6 Mar.