- 15 November, 2013
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Last week we wrote about London’s many concert venues, big and small, established and new. Now for the second and final part of the survey:
8. Kings Place may not be as familiar as a venue but it contains the first public concert hall (opened in September 2008) to be built in Central London since the Barbican Concert Hall opened in 1982. The arts complex, near King’s Cross station, is big on ‘curated’ programming, and has rapidly established itself as one of the city’s leading cultural venues.
9. If you are in London during the Proms then naturally you might want to join the audience in that circular totem of grandeur, the Royal Albert Hall, for a remarkable sequence of international events in the summer, and indeed throughout the year.
10. Opera is in the duopoly of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden – with its small Linbury Street theatre offering an exciting slant on things – and English National Opera (ENO), housed at the Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane. ENO sing in English and productions tend to be racier than Covent Garden’s. The Bloomsbury Theatre sometimes offers little known productions on its small stage.
11. Ballet fans will not be disappointed. Sadler’s Wells offers the premier attractions – it also has a venue at the 999-seat Peacock Theatre in the West End – but a visit to Markova House, the home of English National Ballet, can offer exciting opportunities to watch ENB in rehearsal. At Christmas, and at other times too, ballet often migrates to the established concert halls.
12. One of London’s great qualities is the sheer range of its performing arts venues. You can try the exquisite ‘salon’ feel of the intimate 1901 Arts Club near Waterloo Bridge, with an excellent roster of chamber players.
13. Or you can venture further afield to the Blackheath Halls in south-east London where young performers are often to be found.
14. The popular haunt of Highgate offers Lauderdale House, built in 1582, whose elegant interior is perfect for small ensembles.
16. By contrast, and it’s a big contrast, the Fairfield Hall in Croydon offers heavyweight symphonic concerts.
17. Talking just now of chapels, of course Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral are prime venues, as is St Paul’s Cathedral. But many London churches offer midday organ recitals or evening concerts – not least St Paul’s, Covent Garden, St Martin-in-the-Fields, and St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.
18. The major concert venue of St John’s Smith Square, near the Houses of Parliament, offers a wide programme of concerts.
But wait; I’ve no space left to recommend;
19. The Handel House Museum in Brook Street – the great man lived and died here and the Museum organises regular concerts.
20. The BBC’s Maida Vale Studios where you can see one of the BBC orchestras give a performance for future broadcast on radio (you’ll be amazed by all the cabling and by the building which opened in 1909 as – you’ll never guess – a Roller Skating club).
Be assured of one thing though: London, for a number of reasons, including its vast size, its temperate climate and its wealth of professional orchestras and chamber ensembles, is not a city that sleeps during the summer season. Some great musical cities turn to Vivaldi-by-candlelight and periwigged Mozart for the musical tourist in the summer months, but not London (though of course there are churches where you can have candlelight and wig all year long). There is a plethora of concert-giving in the city. So you’ll seldom, if ever, have occasion to ask yourself that Gershwinesque question: What to do? What to do? What to do?