Monday, May 09, 2005

A concert hall gem

"They're our audiences of the future ..."

Paula Best, Publications and Archives Manager of the Wigmore Hall in London was explaining the rows of child buggies 'parked' in the long foyer of the hall, a fixture on Wigmore Street since 1901 when it was built by the German piano firm Bechstein next to its showrooms.

The buggies reflected a regular workshop event in the hall, 'Chamber Tots', which gives children aged between 2-5 a chance to hear live chamber music and experiment with instruments themselves.

The workshops have been running since 1998, and in more recent years the scheme has been expanded to provide 'outreach' versions in 32 child nurseries across London. A further extension of the idea is a programme of training more staff to support teachers with training days and in leading their own music activities.

The Wigmore Hall itself is a gem of its kind, designed in Renaissance style with alabaster and marble. Though the Bechstein business lost ownership after WW I — the property was bought by Debenhams — it reopened as a concert hall in 1917 and has since hosted some of the greatest music makers of the 20th century, as it has equally into this 21st.

The Director of the hall from 1966-2004 was William Lyne (above), and the current Artistic Director/Executive Director is Paul Kildea.

Among the intriguing architectural details is the Arts and Crafts cupola over the stage. It symbolises humanity's quest for the elusive perfect music, the centrepiece figure being the Soul of Music gazing up at a ball of eternal fire which is the Genius of Harmony.

The hall was extensively renovated last year, and there's also a substantial archive of concert programmes, photographs and publicity material chronicling the activities at the hall since its opening.

These are under the care of Paula Best, a Dubliner who has worked at the Wigmore for many years.

Any visit to London should include at least a visit to the hall, and, better, a concert.

Full details are here.

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