I have learnt a very curious fact about the huge and famous Royal Albert Hall , which I toured yesterday with an excellent and informative guide: about one quarter of its seats are privately owned. The people who own them have them on a 999 year lease starting from 1867, and they are entitled to use their seats at 75% of the performances at the RAH, whatever the performance. As the venue is a 'hall for hire', these could include classical concerts, opera, pop or rock, tennis, sumo wrestling, ice skating, fashion shows, dances, racing car promotions, or Cirque du Soleil (which has used the RAH for about the last nine years, as the only indoor event space in the world that doesn't have to be specially constructed - or reconstructed - for the circus. They have a new show called 'Totem' opening on 6th January).
|Henry Cole, builder of the Royal Albert Hall|
A fine looking Victorian gentleman
, £750,000.) Some owners are corporate concerns. No owner is obliged to turn up or re-sell their seat (although many do), so if you go to a 'sell out' concert at the RAH and a good proportion of the best seats are empty - this is why. A Special Someone owns 20 seats in a double box - yes, Queen Elizabeth holds these seats (in the Royal Box) because her great-grandmother Queen Victoria was one of the early subscribers when the seats were put on sale by the clever entrepreneur Henry Cole, as a way to raise money to finish the Hall. It had been a pet project of his friend Albert, the Prince Consort and much-grieved over husband of Victoria. The present Queen has a special entrance to the RAH, and a 'retiring room' with special chairs. When she or her family don't want to use the box - she usually comes along about two or three times a year - members of the Royal Household are permitted to use it (for a donation to charity).
|Touring the corridors of the venerable RAH|
|The Albert Memorial, from the RAH|
(George Gilbert Scott, Architect)
|Hyde Park: Site of the Crystal Palace, as it looked yesterday morning|
|The fabulous Crystal Palace, long since lost.|
|The huge auditorium|
|'The Voice of Jupiter'|
This I will have an opportunity to test soon, since I have tickets to a BIG 'Messiah' - just the place to hear a BIG 'Messiah'. I wonder if Her Majesty will be there?
Triva Question: name Victoria and Albert's nine children.
Answer: Princess Victoria, Edward VII, Princess Alice, Prince Alfred, Princess Helena, Princess Louise, Prince Arthur, Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice.
|The stencilled Victorian frieze, recently renovated, used throughout the RAH|