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Concert Venues :: Usher Hall


Now Known As
Date Opened 1914
Venue Capacity 2,900
Venue URL
Venue Address Lothian Road
Edinburgh, EH1 2EA

Venue Information

The Usher Hall is a concert hall located on Lothian Road, Edinburgh, Scotland.

A landmark in the heart of Scotlands capital, for the best part of a century it has hosted some of the greatest concerts and events in the city. The building of the concert hall was funded by Andrew Usher, whisky distiller. Andrew Usher donated 100,000 to the city for the construction of a concert hall in 1896.

The design and location of the site of the new building was left to the City Fathers and although, at 70, Andrew Usher wanted the "satisfaction of seeing it completed" his death in 1898 was still sixteen years before the hall was finally built. The choice of site had caused early delays but in 1910 an architectural competition was announced, seeking "dignified but simple" proposals for the hall.

The Usher Hall was, from the first, a striking, elegant and well loved building. Its curved walls were a fairly new architectural departure and this U-plan was only made possible by early 20th century developments in reinforced concrete. Up until the turn of the century, concert halls had been long rectangular boxes. Carnegie Hall in New York, designed in 1889 was a major innovation with the galleries wrapped around the interior. The famous dome was designed to reflect the curvature of the walls, not to give a domed interior which would have been disastrous acoustically.

The interior of the hall is adorned with decorative plaster panels and gilded medallions - the work of an Edinburgh sculptor, Harry Gamley. The figures represented reflect the Halls Scottish character and honour figures in the world of music. The poets and songwriters include Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Allan Ramsay and R L Stevenson with the musical world represented by, among others, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Brahms, Grieg and Rubinstein. Harry Gamleys work also features on the outside of the building with two colossal figures representing Musical Inspiration and Achievement. Four figures by Crossland McClure depict, "Municipal Beneficence The Soul of Music" (carrying a lyre), "The Music of the Sea" (with a shell to her ear) and "The Music of the Woods" (with a bird in her hand).

On April 13th 1986 during Tony Bennett's concert, a large piece of plaster fell 130 feet from the roof into the auditorium. Only three chairs were damaged, but this memorable event was just one example of the state of disrepair into which Usher Hall was falling. Vital repairs were necessary to make the building wind-proof, watertight and safe.

In 2002 plans for the essential second phase of refurbishment came together and a Fundraiser appointed to raise the further 11 million required to make Usher Hall into a venue fit for the 21st century and beyond. Financial problems and delays, however, meant that April 2nd 2007 saw the official start of the works that will provide improved facilities and spaces, including the construction of a new glass wing on Grindlay Street. Phase II refurbishment is expected to be complete by December 2008.

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