Royal Albert Hall -- Guided Tour review
We don't often talk about Germany's good guys but they've had a few -- take Boris Becker for example. Everyone raves about Alexandra the Great conquering half the known world by the age of 21 but Boris Becker won Wimbledon when he was eighteen. And David Hasselhoff is sort of German and Arnold Schwarzenegger is Austrian which basically makes him German. But our favourite German in England is definitely Prince Albert -- especially if you've been watching that Victoria show on the telly.
Albert is guy that Prince Charles secretly wants to be when he grows up (he's probably got a poster of him on his bedroom wall). But unfortunately we live in very different times to Albert which makes it all but impossible for him to follow in his footsteps. Imagine if Charles suddenly announced that he was going to splurge 13 million quid on another Great Exhibition -- everyone would immediately start howling about how many more nurses we could have and how many solar-powered windmills we could build. Albert was able to tune all of that out and thanks to him we ended up with the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal Albert Hall as our reward.
Sadly he never got to see the Royal Albert Hall completed because it wasn't even started until six years after he died. It would have been finished sooner but Victoria blew all of the money on the Albert Memorial. But I'm getting ahead of myself here... you'll learn all of this on the guided tour. What I recommend you do is book a time slot on their website and then turn up thirty minutes early so you can have a sit down in their cafe. They've got a couple of proper restaurants inside but forget those -- I like the little walk-in place next to their box office desk. I like cafes where you can see the steam coming out of the machine and hear the clink and clatter of plates and platters. The tourists are always very well-dressed in here -- everybody always dresses up for the Royal Albert Hall even when it's just a ten-pound talking tour.
Our group today consists of ten middle-aged adults (it's always middle-aged adults when I've been on this tour), and the first part is basically just us getting led around the corridors stopping off at a few pictures and paintings along the way. This bit always reminds me of walking round the Enterprise in Star Trek -- do you remember those big curving corridors they had that just went round and round in a never-ending bend? Walking around the Royal Albert Hall is a bit like that. While we're being led around this curving corridor she tells us all about the building and how they funded it, how they built it, how many people have played here, how many seats they've got, how much it costs to watch something, lots of facts and figures like that, until eventually she walks us through a double door and into the empty arena...
What a sight. Some concert halls are worth visiting whether there's a show on or not. This building is better than a show. This building is the show. I get the same feeling walking in here that I had when I entered the ballroom at Buckingham Palace. She sits us down in one of the boxes and has us hunt around the balconies for the Royal Box, whilst she tries to deliver her speech over the noise of the sound checks on the stage. The last time I came here it was totally empty but they're busy setting up for a show today, and we're able to watch them carry scaffolding poles and pipes and planks around the arena. All of the lights and lasers are going off and there are deafening tests and repeated 1-2-3s that make my ears ring.
After that she takes us to the Royal Retiring Room and the big ring that runs around the top. It's situated above the balconies, above all of the seats, above absolutely everything except the roof. Most concert venues have their standing room at the front -- the Royal Albert Hall has their's at the top.
Events at Royal Albert Hall…
|Classical music in June|
|Classical music in July|
|Classical music in August|