One of the world’s most iconic venues, the Royal Albert Hall building may be physically closed but it will come direct to audiences from artists’ living rooms with a programme of exclusive shows starting tomorrow.
Rufus Wainwright will launch the series and keep the venue’s spirit alive during its closure by presenting the first of what is hoped to be lots of free sessions from performers’ homes.
The specially-curated opening week will also feature celebrated tenor Alfie Boe, indie sensation Baxter Dury and Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble, as well as singer-songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson, spoken word act Toby Thompson – performing a specially reworked version of his Edinburgh Fringe show – and cellist Peter Gregson, renowned for his reinterpretations of Bach.
On Monday 13 April, Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer and vocalist Krysten Cummings will perform Hard-Fi hits alongside songs from their new collaboration, OffWorld.
The Hall will also present at-home versions of shows which have had to be cancelled, ensuring that the talent and practice that went into developing these events can be shared with the world. Following an enhanced screening of the hit British comedy-drama, Brassed Off on Wednesday 15 April, conductor Moritz Gnann will present Isata Kanneh-Mason and Eldbjørg Hemsing performing Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns (Sat 18 Apr), before Robin Ince, Dr Helen Czerski and Steve Backshall are joined by a host of special guests for Sea Shambles (Sun 17 May).
And an upcoming programme of family matinees will include classical music, opera and jazz concerts for kids presented by performers from the venue’s in-house group, Albert’s Band.
Rufus Wainwright said: “When push comes to shove, the Royal Albert Hall is my favourite venue in the UK. It is the perfect mix of both formal and fun. It is grand and intimate at the same time. Also it is where my mother Kate McGarrigle did her last concert in 2009. I am proud to be one of the first artists to give a Royal Albert Home concert from my home in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.
“I will try to be your ‘Gay Messiah’ in these difficult times, serve you some ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’, give you hopefully a ‘Peaceful Afternoon’, maybe pray a little ‘Agnus Dei’, hold you virtually ‘In My Arms’, take you to ‘Sanssouci’ in your mind, show you some ‘Pretty Things’ and make your ‘Alone Time’ uplifting, funny, hilarious, beautiful and bearable. In short, I will take you through my repertoire and my life, and preview some of my new material from my upcoming album, ‘Unfollow the Rules’, which we are now releasing on 10 July.”
Alfie Boe said: “In this difficult time for all I hope to bring some joy to everyone’s homes and raise some money to help preserve one of my favourite venues. Let’s have a good old sing-along!”
Lucy Noble, the Hall's artistic director said: “The Hall has always been a place where people come together at times of national crisis. Right now that isn’t possible, but we want to keep the venue’s spirit alive, and provide something that will cheer you, inspire you or just distract you during this difficult time.
“These events will reflect the diversity of the shows that we put on each month, allowing audiences not just to spend an evening with a favourite artist, but also to discover new favourites and try something different, whether that’s genre-hopping singer-songwriters, award-winning spoken word, or world-class classical music.”
The shows will all be streamable free of charge, but with the option to donate to the venue. The Hall, which turns 150 next year, is closed for the first time since World War Two, meaning that it has no regular income to support staff or its Grade I-listed building.
Lucy added: “When times are tough, people’s priorities understandably change, but we know that the Hall holds a unique place in the memories and hearts of millions. We are doing our best to keep entertaining the world during our closure but the building is at risk and the show cannot go on without support and donations. Now is the chance for anyone who loves this place to show their appreciation and protect the future of the Royal Albert Hall.”
For full programme details, go to www.royalalberthall.com/rahome. To donate to the Hall, visit https://www.royalalberthall.com/support. More shows will be announced soon.