The Royal Albert Hall set to celebrate its 150 birthday

29 March 2021

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, The Royal Albert hall has been described as a the “Holy Grail” for musicians and over time has featured many famous Heavy Metal gigs such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and Black Sabbath.

Originally intended to be called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, the name was changed to The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by Queen Victoria upon laying the Hall’s foundation stone in 1867, in memory of her husband, Prince Albert, who had died six years earlier.

The design was based on a Roman amphitheatre and it now hold close to 6,000 with the stacked balconies meaning that the audience are close to the stage.

Led Zeppelin

Robert Plant told The Guardian: “Growing up, I only saw the hall in its glory from the outside; it was never a place one imagined would transport the music of untamed youth on to its golden boards. Creeping up on it as a member of Led Zeppelin was nerve-racking: this was the place of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten.

“We were only months into our daring and ridiculous journey – barely having released our first record – when we were due to play. What on Earth would we do? I was overwhelmed by the place’s dignified presence and all it represented. It was a ridiculous triumph for a 20-year-old, cocking a snook to time and tradition as the music on both sides of the Atlantic boarded the revolution train, slowly but surely breaking down preconceptions.

“In 1970 we returned, in between the releases of Led Zeppelin II and III. The dressing rooms were directly beneath the stage; sitting there this time, my anticipation was heightened by the horror of losing my voice. I’d barely been able to speak all afternoon, let alone sing. I was a shuddering wreck.

“Something was shot into my arm, and I changed colour. I slipped down the wall in a stream of sweat, stood up, and went straight on to the stage. We opened with We’re Gonna Groove, and thankfully we did – it was incredible. For two hours we took the building to another place, there was an implosion of energy and joy: a full throttle and complete communion.”

MetalTalk at the Royal Albert Hall

Anniversary celebrations

Today, Chief executive Craig Hassall announced a series of events which will run into 2022 saying: “Despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, which has closed our treasured building to the public for the first time since the Second World War, we are determined to host a full celebration of our 150th anniversary.

“Since its opening, this extraordinary venue has borne witness to, and played a central part in, seismic cultural and social change. The interests, manners and social mores of the people may have changed, but this beautiful building and what it represents remains the same a century-and-a-half later: a meeting place, a reflection of contemporary Britain, and a home for exhilarating live performance and events of international significance.

“I want to thank the whole creative industry, our dedicated staff and all of the artists involved for their support in announcing this programme today.”

Her Majesty The Queen, Patron of the Royal Albert Hall, has paid tribute to her great-great-grandfather, writing: “Albert was a man of extraordinary vision and ingenuity, and, together with Queen Victoria, he shared his passion for the global arts, education and culture with the nation.

“I have been Patron of the Royal Albert Hall since 1953, and my family and I have enjoyed many events including the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, the Centenary of the Women’s Institute, and even my 92nd Birthday celebration.

“As it embarks on its next 150 years, I hope that the Royal Albert Hall will continue to thrive, and that many more people will have the opportunity to make their own memories of this wonderful building.”

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