Sunday, 1 July 2018

IT’S PROMS SEASON! BUT WHO WILL FILL THE BOX NEXT TO THE QUEEN’S? (feat. Did You Know?)

Royal Albert Hall, exterior.
Music lovers rejoice! It’s that time of year again – as concert hopping mélophiles pour into London in droves for Proms Season, eager to score a seat at the renowned Royal Albert Hall where they can bask in the aural nirvana of lush orchestral delights presented in the historic theatre, one question remains – who will fill the Grand Tier Box adjacent to Queen Elizabeth – whose royally reserved box sits just two away from the twelve seater currently on sale by Harlod’s Estates?

It’s been over a year since a fierce row ignited between musicians, promoters, charities and a select few wealthy permanent seat holders at the RAH over the latter’s use of outside vendors for ticket re-sale profits, skirting the venue’s – itself a charity – established return scheme for unwanted tickets.

On one side of the fence, permanent members cited the legality of the controversial practice – disseminating amongst it’s holders a pamphlet advising the use of re-sell websites Viagogo and StubHub in order to sell unwanted tickets at inflated prices and secure a larger financial return than that offered under the rigid rules of the Charity Regulatory Board, which was designed to reduce unnecessary and excessive profiteering by it’s members.

To put things into perspective, the venue, which seats 5,272 people, boasts 330 RAH members, who collectively own 1, 267 permanent seats – roughly 24% of the theatre. Last January, alerted to the emergence of the advisory pamphlet, former RAH President Richard Lyttleton called the practice “a national disgrace,” and one which risks significantly damaging the reputation of the venue. “Members of the hall’s council [trustees] own 145 seats worth conservatively £14.5m,” he added, emphasizing the present power play of the Hall's wealthy elite over its ticket holders.

RAH, interior. The Royal Albert Hall bursts at the seams during Proms season
Clearly, this information left a sour taste in the mouth of both the public and the regulatory board – and in particular with musicians slated to perform at the venue, who lambasted the small fraction of permanent seat holders engaging in the practice as having usurped charitable profits by cashing in on an unsuspecting public, making many thousands of dollars profit annually - upwards of £8-10,000 per member during a good year - money which should be invested back into the Charity to sustain the historic venue.

Since then, RAH has done an about-face, listing for sale with Harold’s Estates a twelve seater Grand Tier box, rarely seen on the market, for the exorbitant starting price of £ 3,000,000 (up from £2.5 in January 2017) – the hefty price tag said to have been selected to emphasize the Hall’s present state of affairs regarding the scandal.

Located on the same tier as the Queen’s Box – acquired by Queen Victoria at the Hall’s opening in 1871, the luxurious enclave will provide the lucky buyer with exceptional views of the main stage and auditorium. Should the Queen or other members of the Royal family pay a visit to the theatre during one of RAH’s 400 annual events, the lucky dozen will be within an earshot of the Monarch – her box sits just two away.

The purchase will not come without responsibility, however, the future owner will automatically be inducted into the Corporation of the Halls of Arts and Science – he or she will be expected to use discretion in acquiring seats to help support the site in addition to electing the council and president, and ensuring the venue has adequate and fair funding to survive.

Permanent seats at the RAH were initially sold in 1867 to raise funds to build the hall - the duties that accompanied them have likewise been ever-standing. The seats are considered private property.

As of Proms season 2018, the Grand Tier listing remains unfulfilled.

Watch below as Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly sings a rousing performance of Thomas Arne's "Rule Britania" during the 2009 Proms at Royal Albert Hall - an anthem favored by the Queen Victoria, who is said to have hummed the tune whilst in the bath:



Did You Know?


Queen Victoria laying the foundation stone at Royal Albert Hall in London
On 20th day of May, 1867, Queen Victoria would have the honor of laying down the foundation stone on a site that would grow to become that most prestigious of concert halls, the Royal Albert Hall.

Victoria, who had ceremoniously arrived to much fanfare (before a crowd of some 7,000 monarchists who had gathered under a massive marquee especially erected for her arrival), is said to have employed a golden trowel to lay the stone. As a thoughtful gesture to future generations, Her Royal Highness slipped underneath the stone a ‘time capsule’ made of glass, in which she had inserted a private inscription, and, for good measure, a quantity of both gold and silver coins.

The ceremony itself was a much fêted event for both monarch and civilian: just prior to laying the stone, Queen Victoria had been greeted not only by a very vocal and adoring crowd, but also a 21-gun salute at Hyde Park (which, along with the trumpet fanfare - performed by
HM guards - that immediately followed, echoed through the crowd). A performance of her husband’s (Prince Albert) composition “Invocation to Harmony,” led by the esteemed conductor and Italian émigré Michael Costa and a Benediction delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury were also performed for the monarch at the ceremony.

Addressing the crowd, the much admired Queen of Great Britain and the Commonwealth proclaimed the site
“Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences:”

“It is my wish that this Hall should bear his name to whom it will have owed its existence and be called The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences”
-Queen Victoria, South Kensington, London, May 20, 1867


Learn more about the laying of the stone and Victoria (and find out where in the venue you can take a peek at the stone itself) at royalalberthall.com.

Victoria is also Canada's Mother of Confederation - having been the first Monarch to occupy the British throne during the nation's 'birthday' (which is today, July 1). Presently, the North American country is a member of the Commonwealth. Learn more about Canada and it's longstanding lineage with the British monarchy here on Unraveling Musical Myths.

Bon fête, Canada!

Footnotes:

- Rose.

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