ROYAL ALBERT MEMORIAL AND ROYAL ALBERT HALL
On the spur of the moment I decided to look to what was on at The Royal Albert Hall and see if I could get tickets, and yes, some were available to see Carmina Burana, plus one of my favourite orchestral pieces - Mendolson's Violin Concerto and also The William Tell Overture. The choral piece was to be performed by four choirs, some four hundred voices in all, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Wow! I booked a ticket straight away and was delighted to get a seat a a box on the Grand Tier almost in the centre facing the stage.
Thinking I might as well make a day of it I also booked on a tour of the building in the afternoon and arranged for a taxi to take me in from just outside Windsor where I was still parked up, as there was no way I could get my scooter into the city. The taxi drive duly turned up at the arranged time and we had a interesting chat on the quite long drive in. He was a lovely young Muslim guy, so as well as nattering about this and that it gave me an opportunity to ask him things about his religion which he was more than happy to answer
When the sat nav announced we had arrived he was perplexed, saying - "It says we are here but I can’t see where it should be' - but just in front of us round a bend in the road I caught a glimpse of the corner of the enormous building, not really an easy one to miss!. Safely delivered, I arranged where we would meet up later that evening after the performance and then set off to explore
Luck was with me and once again it was a gloriously sunny autumn day with people strolling in the park opposite around the splendidly restored Albert Memorial, and sitting on the steps and benches enjoying the day. I didn’t venture too far into the park, as even though it looked most tempting I was worried that my knees might not hold up if there were a lot of stairs and steps involved in the tour of the huge building opposite
The Albert Memorial itself is quite stupendous in its extravagance, and it was interesting later in the day when our tour guide told us that so much of the money earned by Prince Albert’s stunningly successful Great Exhibition - earmarked for the purchase of the land here and its development as a cultural centre - was spent by Queen Victoria on this memorial that the actual hall itself could not be completed due to lack of funds. As a result boxes on the Grand Tier floor had to be sold off, which accounted for my lucky late purchase of tickets for this evening performance. My box was owned by Conville & Caius College, and apparently when the boxes are not needed by the university they allow the Albert Hall to sell them off in aid of funds. How lucky was that for me! Apparently one of the few boxes still in private ownership was sold recently for I think a quarter of a million!
But back to my morning outside in the wonderful sunshine, as I say I think the Albert Memorial must have recently been restored. Certainly the gilding blazed bright against the ridiculously azure blue autumn sky, and together with the four huge, sparkling white marble sculptures depicting the continents and the wonderfully over the top Victorian mosaics and enamelling in garish blues and reds it made a real statement about nineteenth century Britain’s self confidence.
Then I had lunch in the cafe on the ground floor of the Royal Albert Hall, a very good and reasonably priced lunch it was, and a pleasant place to sit and eat whilst I waited for the tour to start - and what a fascinating tour. The choir was rehearsing for the evening, so if you weren’t attending the performance it would have made it doubly worth while. You get to see right up to the very top arcades which, when there are big audiences are opened to allow more people in. The Royal Albert is huge inside and has a capacity to seat up to 5272 but it was built originally for an audience of 8000, and has in fact held 9000!
You get to look into the Royal Box, and stand inside the Queen’s own private ante room with portraits of all the British Monarchs, admire the Queen's entrance foyer and staircase. Then right up the the arcades on the top floor to look down into the whole wonderful edifice.
It wasn’t too long to wait then until the hall doors opened for the evening performance, and deciding to go the whole hog, I went into the Champagne Bar of the Grand Tier, and not only had a delicious glass of champagne, which I could take through to the box with me, but I ordered another one ready for the interval!
It was a fantastic performance. The two orchestral pieces came first and Carmina Burana after the interval. I felt I was floating as I made my way out to find the taxi. Whether that was the emotions of the performance or the two excellent (and rather large) glasses of champagne I am not sure. But it was a truly memorable visit from start to finish.