Usher Hall to mark centenary with pre-war concert

The Usher Hall. Picture: Toby Williams

The Usher Hall. Picture: Toby Williams

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IT HAS hosted some of the biggest names in music such as The Rolling Stones, Adele, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Cash.

But the Usher Hall is about to turn back the clock to 1914, with music from its opening concerts scheduled to be performed as a celebration of its centenary next year.

Global superstars such as Ella Fitzgerald played at the Usher Hall. Picture: BBC

Global superstars such as Ella Fitzgerald played at the Usher Hall. Picture: BBC

The programme – which dates back to when George V was on the throne and before the start of First World War – has been created to honour “100 glorious years of music and entertainment” at the ­Capital landmark.

For one night only, the audience will be transported back a century to when the venue was officially launched by philanthropist Andrew Usher’s wife.

Karl Chapman, chairman at the Usher Hall, said the historic venue had since hosted hundreds of thousands of concerts.

He said the “concert of memories” will kick off a year-long series of events to mark the birthday of one of the city’s most-loved buildings.

Organisers came up with the idea after stumbling across details of the first three concerts. He said: “When we looked through the record books we realised we had the original concerts and thought why not recreate it.

“It is still very relevant as it feature the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Edinburgh Royal Choral Union who are older than the Usher Hall.

“We also have a city organist, who plays the same organ that was used in the original concerts, and we thought let’s go for a nice Edwardian theme.

“It is such a diverse venue now – for music, comedy, ­classical music and even university graduations.

“I think the people of Edinburgh are really fond of it.”

The evening will be directed by RSNO principal guest conductor Thomas Søndergård, and conductor Michael Bawtree, who have both featured regularly at the venue, and include the popular city ­organist, John Kitchen.

Much-loved classics from the time including music from Wagner, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn, MacCunn, Bach, Parry and Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony will be performed, for one night only.

Thomas said: “Since coming to Scotland my experiences of the Usher Hall have been full of excitement, joy and thrilling music-making.

“It is a wonderful venue with a venerable history and I am honoured to play a part in its centenary celebrations.”

The hall was originally built with a separate entrance for the rich at a time when the Temperance movement was in full swing – so no alcohol was served.

But Richard Lewis, convener of culture and sport said it was worth raising a glass to toast the iconic structure.

He said: “The venue was a marvellous gift from Andrew Usher for the people of Edinburgh and for 100 years it has been a great source of enjoyment and many thousands have entered its doors.”

Tickets are on sale for the concert on March 6 and are available from www.usherhall.co.uk or 0131 228 1155.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com