London's Royal Festival Hall Announces Details of Acoustical Retrofit
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Evening Standard [London]
By Luke Leitch
The Royal Festival Hall in London LONDON, 26 July ó The Royal Festival Hall is one of the best-loved classical concert venues in the world ó but it has always been marred by notoriously poor acoustics.
Sir Simon Rattle once dismissed it as "the worst major concert arena in Europe." Now that is set to change as South Bank bosses today revealed details of a state-of-the-art refurbishment that promises to give the 53-year-old hall "the finest sound in London" by 2007.
The acoustic overhaul is being masterminded by renowned American "sound-doctor" Larry Kirkegaard as part of a £71 million refit of the entire building. Mr. Kirkegaard's boldest addition will be his "over-stage canopy" ó a ceiling tailor-made to bounce sound back to the audience and performers.
Background noise will be reduced with a super-quiet air conditioning system. Walls and ceilings will be resurfaced and "made more massive" to achieve longer bass reverberation.
The Royal Festival Hall is not seen as an easy place in which to play, but after Mr. Kirkegaard's alterations, musicians will be able to hear each other at work ó but not so loudly that they cannot hear themselves. He said: "The most profound differences will be on the stage and how the musicians feel. It will allow them to give their best performances. "Before, the room took all of the energy and gave nothing back."
Overseeing the refit is the South Bank Centre's chief executive, Australian Michael Lynch. He said: "It's a wonderful music venue, popular with musicians and audiences, but its acoustics for classical music leave room for improvement. The acoustic aspirations of its original designers were never fully realised. Now we have the opportunity to complete the job with the benefit of 21st-century technology."
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